To Find Something, Don't Look For It

Robin Wall Kimmerer

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Awakin FeatureBetween takeoff and landing, we are each in suspended animation, a pause between chapters of our lives. When we stare out the window into the sun’s glare, the landscape is only a flat projection with mountain ranges reduced to wrinkles in the continental skin. Oblivious to our passage overhead, other stories are unfolding beneath us. Blackberries ripen in the August sun; a woman packs a suitcase and hesitates at her doorway; a letter is opened and the most surprising photograph slides from between the pages. But we are moving too fast and we are too far away; all the stories escape us, except our own.

We poor myopic humans, with neither the raptor’s gift of long-distance acuity, nor the talents of a housefly for panoramic vision. However, with our big brains, we are at least aware of the limits of our vision. With a degree of humility rare in our species, we acknowledge there is much we can’t see, and so contrive remarkable ways to observe the world. Infrared satellite imagery, optical telescopes, and the Hubble space telescope bring vastness within our visual sphere. Electron microscopes let us wander the remote universe of our own cells. 

But at the middle scale, that of the unaided eye, our senses seem to be strangely dulled. With sophisticated technology, we strive to see what is beyond us, but are often blind to the myriad sparkling facets that lie so close at hand. We think we’re seeing when we’ve only scratched the surface. Our acuity at this middle scale seems diminished, not by any failing of the eyes, but by the willingness of the mind. Has the power of our devices led us to distrust our unaided eyes? Or have we become dismissive of what takes no technology but only time and patience to perceive? Attentiveness alone can rival the most powerful magnifying lens.

A Cheyenne elder of my acquaintance once told me that the best way to find something is not to go looking for it. This is a hard concept for a scientist. But he said to watch out of the corner of your eye, open to possibility, and what you seek will be revealed. The revelation of suddenly seeing what I was blind to only moments before is a sublime experience for me. I can revisit those moments and still feel the surge of expansion. The boundaries between my world and the world of another being get pushed back with sudden clarity an experience both humbling and joyful.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist and a poet. Excerpts above are from her book: Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that the best way to find something is not to go looking for it? Can you share a personal story of a time you had the sublime experience of a revelation by being open to possibility? What helps you stay open to possibility?

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15 Previous Reflections:

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    On May 29, 2020 Usha Shetty wrote:
    I loved the every bit of it.

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    On May 24, 2020 Pia wrote:
    Such a beautiful passage. I remember watching an interview between Oprah and Lady Gaga where Lady Gaga said to get answers to questions she would just pray to God for the answer to be revealed, for God to show her how she is meant to serve. I am very much at a cross road now where I am looking for answers as to how I am meant to serve and find purpose outside of home. My first instinct is to make lists and talk to people but this reading has reminded me that I may find what I'm looking for by not searching and being open to messages that may show up. Thank you for some clarity.

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    On May 22, 2020 Jane wrote:
    Love this piece and every comment with it. On a mundane level when I can't think of a word or a name and I 'wrack my brains" fretting and frothing - when I let it go and stop chasing it, it usually comes to me easily. I also like Alan Watts' quote from "The Wisdom of Insecurity : A Message for an Age of Anxiety" ''The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.''

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    On May 21, 2020 Gururaj wrote:
    Becoming aware , suddenly, that I am aware , is also a shift or widening of sorts in perception.

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    On May 20, 2020 Kay wrote:
    Wonderful article! I have at times practice this and what I hope to find comes to me at its own time.

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    On May 19, 2020 Dauntlessoul wrote:
    My open to possibility mantra: We always make the best choice, or we'd have made a different choice. We are where we want to be. We always get what we want. At times we don't understand what we get, or why we want it. We want, deeply, anticipation in the present. The gift, desire, opens itself.

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    On May 19, 2020 Anilkumar Pandit wrote:
    Indeed looking for something is by itself narrowing our vision, and looking for it through external sensors is tunneling it further.
    Granted that this approach does provide an in-depth understanding, but its like going into a mine looking for coal or diamond, but at the cost of missing the entire earth.
    However for personal breakthrough, we need to go far beyond the seen and the un-seen, to the un-seeable! Developing ourselves far beyond the faculty of mere seeing to merge and feel the unison.

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    On May 19, 2020 Shyam Gupta wrote:
    Many times, when weare looking for a solution to a difficult problem, itout of eludes us no matter how hartd we try. But having kept the problem aside, suddenly , out of nowhere, the solution emerges.
    Our overcharged mind,has limited scope to accomplish, but a quiet and a still mind can acheive unimaginable results.We can find newer meaning when we cede control of our mind to our higher self.
    I can remeber SN Goenka, ji's audio , telling us to stop looking for bliss during Vipasaana meditation, Just concentrate on the breath, observe the senasations and if the practice is strong enough, bliss wil be there.

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    On May 19, 2020 Mr Satish Kanabar wrote:
    They say that the best way to gain something is to lose it. I think very often when we are undertaking a task, we can get busy thinking of the past or what we want to gain from the action, ie about the result and thus the future. Rarely are we focussed entirely in the task at hand and thus not able to give it 100% effort and thus miss out on the enjoyment the task can actually provide but also the best result we could have.

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    On May 15, 2020 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    I deeply resonate with the basic message of this thought provoking passage authored by Robin Wall Kimmerer: " To find something, don't look for it." In Indian philosophy, there is a concept of the Third Eye. That eye reveals the glory and awe of the vastness of the universe. We get a glimpse of it when let go of the limited capacity of our worldly eyes . Worldly eyes sadly create boundaries that separate us from the oneness of life. When we let our inner spiritual eyes open, the truth is revealed. Our inner world expands and welcomesthe guests coming from nowhere. Unconditional love, open-heartedness and open-mindedness open the doors for the unnamed guests to come. I have had glimpses of such experiences more in my childhood than in my adulthood. I am very fond of spending time with nature. When I was a child I used to sit under a tree that I had planted in my back yard. Sitting under the tree doing nothing and expecting nothing to show up, I used to get glimpses of the ... [View Full Comment] I deeply resonate with the basic message of this thought provoking passage authored by Robin Wall Kimmerer: " To find something, don't look for it." In Indian philosophy, there is a concept of the Third Eye. That eye reveals the glory and awe of the vastness of the universe. We get a glimpse of it when let go of the limited capacity of our worldly eyes . Worldly eyes sadly create boundaries that separate us from the oneness of life. When we let our inner spiritual eyes open, the truth is revealed. Our inner world expands and welcomesthe guests coming from nowhere. Unconditional love, open-heartedness and open-mindedness open the doors for the unnamed guests to come.
    I have had glimpses of such experiences more in my childhood than in my adulthood. I am very fond of spending time with nature. When I was a child I used to sit under a tree that I had planted in my back yard. Sitting under the tree doing nothing and expecting nothing to show up, I used to get glimpses of the beauty unfolding enriching my inner life. When I walk mindfully in nature or do sitting Mindfulness Meditation I get such glimpses that create feelings of wonder and awe.
    Reading about such mystical experiencesis one thing. For experiencing the mystery of life I need to keep my mind and heart unoccupied and open to receive blessings coming from the unknown space. This openness helps me to the possibilityof receiving such gifts. There is a wise saying in Sanskrit."Tad dure tad antike". What you think is far, is right close you." Do not look for it outside. It is dwelling inside of you.
    Namaste!
    JagdishP Dave'[Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Sheila | Post Your Reply
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    On May 15, 2020 David Doane wrote:
    Sometimes we are so busy seeking, striving, chasing, or whatever that even our own story escapes us. Thoreau said when you stop chasing the butterfly it will come and sit on your shoulder. Many times I have struggled in writing something, and it's when I take a break that a better way of expressing occurs to me. I hear of people who stop seeking the right partner, and then find one (sometimes the one they're already with). Seek and you shall find; I think seek means be open, not goal obsessed. 'Looking for' is a putting on blinders, which help in some seeking and get in the way of some finding. As for having the sublime experience of a revelation by being open to possibility -- is there another way? An example, my being open to Eastern thinking opened a new world for me and I continue to have sublime experiences of revelations about life. What helps me stay open to possibility is my knowing that possibility is alive and exciting and is the ground of discovery and wisdom... [View Full Comment] Sometimes we are so busy seeking, striving, chasing, or whatever that even our own story escapes us. Thoreau said when you stop chasing the butterfly it will come and sit on your shoulder. Many times I have struggled in writing something, and it's when I take a break that a better way of expressing occurs to me. I hear of people who stop seeking the right partner, and then find one (sometimes the one they're already with). Seek and you shall find; I think seek means be open, not goal obsessed. 'Looking for' is a putting on blinders, which help in some seeking and get in the way of some finding. As for having the sublime experience of a revelation by being open to possibility -- is there another way? An example, my being open to Eastern thinking opened a new world for me and I continue to have sublime experiences of revelations about life. What helps me stay open to possibility is my knowing that possibility is alive and exciting and is the ground of discovery and wisdom.[Hide Full Comment]

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