My father loved all things natural. This love was three things for him: an openness to perceiving the wondrousness of it, an intellectual curiosity that wanted to understand, and a belief in the essential goodness of what he called God’s creation. When I was on my own spiritual quest, my understanding of this love of his was skewed by what I rejected as his constant mind activity, telling us endlessly about what he saw or heard, as well as by my disaffection from his Christian beliefs. As a result, I wasn’t able to share fully his love with him.
Because I reacted so strongly to these two aspects, I also couldn’t appreciate the third one: his amazing openness and readiness to see the wonder of the world that surrounds us. It wasn’t that he wanted to be spiritual and aware, or that he was practicing mindfulness. For him, it was simply how he was.
What has always been part of my way of being is the deep need for, and movement into, silence. This came with a protective defensiveness against a world that seemed often too noisy, too chaotic, too suffering for me to be really open to it. So openness to the wonder of the world came much later in my spiritual unfolding.
As I reflect on my father’s spiritual gift to me, his openness to wonder, I am also struck by how we all naturally embody different aspects of Being. Some of us are naturally open and appreciative, some drawn to silence, or service, some are naturally inquisitive about Truth. These are the gifts that help us along on our path. In addition, though, we may feel we need to practice those aspects that don't come so naturally. Many spiritual traditions encourage such an approach.
Even better, though, is to discover these expressions of Being in ourselves, as abilities that are part of us. They may not have been there to start with, but as we merge into Being, they will come alive in us as part of our spiritual deepening. My father’s little seahorse spoke to me of this: a natural readiness in my father that has opened up in me over time. We can appreciate the natural gifts in ourselves and others without having to worry about what’s ‘not developed enough yet’. It will come, sooner or later. Our paths are all wondrously different, perfect for us in this lifetime.