Last week I went for a long walk by the ocean with a friend of mine. It was a sunny day and fairly hot in the city. But by the ocean it was cool given that a strong breeze was blowing. The sea was churning and the waves were washing onto the shore. At one point in our walk we came upon an area in which a number of herons had gathered. They were there patiently waiting for fish to be churned up in the surf and within easy reach of their quick and nimble beaks. For them the ocean was full of bounty, a bounty the waves were shaking loose for them.
I’ve always appreciated the heron. To me this bird represents patience. How else can you describe a bird whose main stance in life is one of waiting? As it stands alert and ready the heron attunes itself to the slightest move in the surrounding environment seeking clues of food sources. Being patient and alert is a precondition for its survival. On this particular day I marveled at how the herons who gathered by the noisy seashore seemed to be able to ignore the roar of the sea and focus on their task of hunting for fish in the water. What natural and focused patience they have.
As I reflected on this encounter later I saw how the heron were reminding me that I need to practice the art of focused patience. There is much work to be done in this world to make the world a better place but if I act from a place of disconnection with the ground of being then I simply add to a useless noise that is not creative. A stance of patient alertness is not inaction or passivity. No, it is very active for in this stance I allow my whole being to pay attention. Part of this paying attention is attuning to the world around me through my senses and my intuition and aligning with the rhythm of being that runs through the world. Some philosophers called this way of knowing co-natural knowing. It is a way of contemplative knowing and it forms the ground for right action in the world.
Co-natural knowing does not eliminate the need for rational knowing. On the contrary it can fuel our cognitive capacities while at the same time augmenting and grounding our thought. Patiently and alertly attending to the ground of being in our world can also provide for a deep appreciation for the diversity that coexists within our world. I think there is some truth in holding these two dimensions, unity and diversity, the one and the many, not tension but in communion.
It seems to me that in these changing times I need to develop more of the heron way of patience. With a stance of alert patience I can better discern what right action I need to take in order to contribute to the sustainability of all beings. I might even then be better able to appreciate the way all things work together for good and, like the heron, appreciate more the bounty that lives in the oceans of life.