Yesterday I walked down a set of stone steps to the water and sat for awhile, to be quiet and enjoy the morning. There were rustlings in the brush all around. Little flares of fear went off in my mind; I thought, someone is here, and looked around to see who and where. But there was no one else. My mind does this when I sit in meditation too, this sudden rustling, coming up with things I have to do, afraid that my sitting down to be quiet is a sign that I’ve forgotten, maybe, or given up on everything that needed to be accomplished still.

A few years ago, hiking with my aunt in the mountains of southern Tennessee, we missed a sharp turn in the trail and found ourselves on an unmarked path. Growing uneasy, we started to mark where we had been, and eventually we found our way back. I could have sworn that was a trail we were on, I said. It was, she said, it just wasn’t a human trail.

I know myself in two pieces. The human self hears the rustlings and thinks, we are not safe here. It wants to find its way back to regular time and space, never to be lost. The animal self wants to be pulled deep into wordless consciousness, to forget itself from time to time. I try to keep the two pieces together, to let the animal self calm the human self, to tell it, there really is nothing else you have to do just now.