One late summer day, Frank Nash set off walking down the winding grassy-dirt lane which led to the forest that occupied the back acres of his hobby farm. A longtime practitioner of meditation, he was holding his zafu (meditation cushion) in his right hand; a canteen, in his left. At the edge of the deciduous forest, he stopped and took a swig of water from the canteen, readjusted his ball cap, and then zigzagged his way through the woods. Dry leaves crunched underfoot; a squirrel paused briefly from its darting moves, and then scurried up a tree. When Frank came to a clearing, which was sunlit with speckled shadows of leaves, he set down his zafu on a soft patch of grass. A moment later, off came his work boots, revealing his thick woolen socks. With a well-practiced move, Frank bent down and folded his sixty-two-years-of-age frame upon the cushion. Hands cupped together near his lap, he then closed his eyes, slowed his breathing, and entered the silence.
“Whatcha doin’?” came a soft voice an hour later. It was Jeffry, a young neighbour boy from an adjacent farm. He was standing off to the side of a tree stump that was directly ahead of Frank.
“I thought that might be you,” said Frank, as he opened his eyes to the young boy. “I’m was whittling,” he said.
“But you don’t even have a pocketknife!” exclaimed Jeffry. “You can borrow mine if you want,” he said, with a pat of the right pocket of his jeans.
“Thanks,” said Frank, with a smile, “but for this kind of whittling, I don’t need one.”
“Huh?” said Jeffry. “What kind of whittlin’ is that?”
Frank beckoned the boy to come sit near him, which Jeffry did. “We’ll it’s kind of like sculpting. Do you know much about that?”
“Uh, uh,” said Jeffry.
“Well, the really great sculptors know what’s hidden within the piece of marble before they ever touch it with a chisel and hammer. They know that they’re just releasing the statue that’s waiting inside.”
“Wow, that’s kind of neat! That’s the kind of whittlin’ you do?”
“Yup,” said Frank, “the only difference is that I work on the person.” He offered the canteen to Ralph, who took a drink. “When I meditate, I’m actually just whittling away the parts of “me” that are the costume. I let the story of me fall away, like shavings from a piece of wood, and just “be.”
“Are you looking for something special inside, like the sculptors?”
“Yup,” said Frank.
“Do I have that special somethin’ inside me, too?”
“You sure do,” said Frank, “everybody does. When I meditate, I go within to find my real Self–the I Am. When I do, I stay in peace and commune with my Maker.”
“Ohh,” said Jeffry, with a nod of his head, “that’s definitely a different type of whittling. When I whittle, the regular way, I make little boats and take them down to float them in the creek.”
“Well, that’s a pretty neat way to whittle, too,” said Frank. A few minutes later, Frank and Jeffry were tramping back up the lane, enjoying conversation that flowed easily from the subjects of frogs to airplanes to rhubarb pie. Jeffry thought that one day it might be neat to try whittling without a knife; and he knew his mom would definitely like it “’cause she always worries that I might cut myself with my Buck knife.” As they were about to diverge, Frank said that he’d love to see one of Jeffry’s whittled boats someday.
“I’ll bring one for you tomorrow,” Jeffry called; and with a wave of the hand, they went their apparently separate ways.
Note: This article was inspired by the term “whittling away” in a book entitled The Gift of Grace, Awakening To Its Presence, by Paul Brunton. It, as well as another of Paul Brunton’s books entitled Jesus, Krishna, And The Way of Awakening have added to my developing spiritual understanding.
Dare to dream (and care for one another).
With heartfelt regards,
Copyright © – 2021 – R. Arthur Russell
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