Dispatch № 92: Sitting on a Mid-River Stone

Sitting on a stone in the middle of a river in Yamanashi Prefecture

To sit and do nothing in nature is one of wonderful. To simply exist and observe, to notice the small things happening around you, to be aware of your body as an element of the landscape.

I chose to sit on a large, flat rock in the middle of a shallow river running swiftly with clear, achingly cold water. It took a few minutes to get out to it, carefully stepping from stone to stone, sometimes having to back-track, striving always to keep my feet dry.

Normally, our brain filters out most of what our senses perceive, so that we are aware of only a tiny fraction of the incoming sensory information. This is critical. If this didn’t happen, we would be constantly and completely overwhelmed.

What’s more, we so often struggle, trying desperately to overcome distraction so that we can focus. It becomes a behavioral default to pursue that state.

But we can benefit from practicing the opposite, too. To let go of focus, to try to perceive without grasping at the perception, to become a conduit for sensory experience and let the world flow through us without judgement.

Once I got out to my rock, I got comfortable and took a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Then, settling in, I scanned my body from head to toe, becoming more aware of my body. From that point on, I turned my attention outwards, doing my best to inhabit my senses and take in everything I could, the doors of perception opened to the surrounding scene.

I saw what I could see, heard what I could hear, felt what I could feel, smelled what I could smell. I even tasted what I could taste, the cold mountain river imparting a subtle flavor to the air I breathed.

After a little while, I felt I had become almost slightly transparent. I was, for a short time, a vessel for that one tiny corner of the universe.