I stand in awe of the flexibility of leaves. They unfurl their tender green without the rigid encumbrance of bones. Yet from the outset, they have the strength to dance in wind, to carry rain, to live in vulnerability and openness beyond fear. They’re flexible in color too, as they shift their bright hues through the course of seasons. They offer no resistance to the changes—even in letting go, when each does a dance as individual as our own, on its floating or fluttering path to ground, ready for the eternal adventure of integration with soil. I’m inspired by their life beyond mind, reminding me that in many forms of aliveness, mind is not necessary at all. Thinking is often as extraneous as bones.
To be without mind is to be without expectations as well. It’s humbling that in regards to expectations, we can only aspire to be as intelligent as leaves. I try to release my own expectations, but inevitably I fail. It is the best that I can do instead to FALE—to keep Flexibility And Low Expectations. That acronym was coined by a friend of mine in pandemic times; and to FALE has been especially necessary as we’ve been humbled by the ability of a mindless virus to infect every plan, to affect every aspect of what we once took for granted. To FALE is to succeed, in that regard. To keep flexibility and low expectations—to better take on the quality of leaves—is not only an ethereal aspect of wisdom beyond mind. It’s an essential, gritty coping strategy for every chaotic day. It’s as essential with bad expectations as good ones, for trouble can fall apart as quickly as love. Things often turn out better than our anxieties expect them to be.
I see the strength from which the leaves come: trunk, branches, root, ground, water, molten center of earth, sunlight, starlight, gravity, weightlessness. They’re infused by infinity, connected to absolutely everything—and in that way I realize we do achieve equality with leaves. We can measure up to the grace of the brilliant maple leaf that has no qualms about living its brilliance fully, then letting go with equal grace.
In that inspiration, that equality, pools the groundwater of gratitude. Once more we can draw from that limitless well, draw it up through our roots, recognize that we’re each just another humble leaf, so humble and simple that we can’t often see or feel our own interconnectedness, until we become quiet and mindless again, to let it rise through our senses into presence of spirit. For that I’m grateful, and flexible, and reminding myself not to expect more than that. Gratitude is never extraneous, nor an encumbrance. Gratitude is never an empty well.