The Old Man in the Park

Dear Gaye,

This morning’s post is not so much a response to yours as a simple story of an experience I had this morning, although it does link in with our recent thread on receiving messages from what goes on around us.

I’m writing this from the busy metropolis that is Hong Kong where I’m scheduled to speak at a seminar later in the week. I’ve been here before, but it’s always something of a shock to come to a place so full of hustle and bustle when one is used to living in the countryside. I enjoy the contrast, in smallish doses!

This morning I was up and out early walking the streets, when I came upon a small park in the middle of the city: a few trees and some benches, with a handful of birds hopping about collecting their breakfast.

On one of the benches sat an old man, his ring of white hair surrounding a bald head and beneath it a face lined with the experience and wisdom of many summers. As I stood drinking in the early breeze I watched him going through a series of physical movements, slowly, deliberately (Qi Gong). First he swung his right arm out and back, repeating the movement for perhaps 30 seconds. Then the left arm. He then massaged various points on his face. He repeated this routine for some time until eventually he bowed his head in prayer.

Two things struck me as I wandered back to the comforts of my hotel. The first was that I would not have seen this beautiful sight if I had not been up and about early (it was barely 5.00a.m.) which reminded me that unlooked-for opportunities are around every corner, but that we only happen upon them when we give ourselves the chance to. Had I been tucked up in bed, or watching TV, or simply working on my laptop, I would have missed the messages of my morning walk.

The second was that peace, so often portrayed as something passive, is something to be actively practiced, especially in today’s world where everything seems to happen faster and faster and there seem to be barely enough hours in the day. I believe peace is is an essential part of wealth, because without it we have no foundation, no real sense of belonging here. Without it we cannot open up to what you called The Spirit of Breath in your last post. The Breath of Life.

How do we find peace in ourselves? For me, it is in the daily practice of the Spirit Level Technique: a combination of ancient teachings and modern day science that I have learned, adapted and practice each and every day. For this old man it was to find a relatively quiet corner within a busy city and follow his own particular routine.

What we do is perhaps not as important as the doing of it. Peace, like any other sensation, is to be explored, fingered, touched, tasted, heard, smelled and seen so that it becomes a part of our daily lives. And the more we practice the doing of it, the easier it becomes to feel it in our lives.

A third message was brought to me from seeing this old man sitting on a bench in a park in Hong Kong, which is this: no matter what our surroundings, we can find and feel peace when we choose to do so. Here was an old man sitting surrounded by high-rise buildings. The fumes of cars and the dust of the city swirled around him. Yet here he was, his head bowed in prayer, giving thanks for the breaking of a new day.

Let’s leave him there, as I did, with a smile of gratitude of our own. And let’s make the decision to make finding peace just as active a part of our lives as finding new incomes streams, improving our physical health, or sharing a smile with a loved one.

With love and best wishes,


Posted on October 21, 2011, in Be The Change, Finding Peace, Natural Wealth and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Richard,
    I am a nurse in Eugene, Oregon, who worked with Gaye at Good Samaritan
    in Corvallis, Oregon. She has been a wonderful inspiration to me along my path. I find your story about the lovely, old man sitting on a park bench in busy, noisy Hong Kong, thought provoking to say the least. It is amazing, how we mortals are able to find a place and time, in the midst of noise and confusion, to connect to that light within all of us. I found that light, after reading, Thomas Mertons Seven Story Mountain, many years ago. Since that first recognition, I find I am able to find that quiet, in what most people find as noisey and bothersome of places. Thomas has walked with me for many many years. My daughter Debra, has just arrived in Barriquilla, Colombia, South America, to serve with the Peace Corp as a teacher and has found in all the noise and clamor of the city, the ability to reach within, find her light and peace. She wrote to me today to say, mom I know thomas had seven stories to climb, but I think I have more like 8-9 to do, getting used to less is more, with both her heart and soul. I truly enjoy you and Gaye.

    With much respect…Sue O’Murphy

  2. Dear Sue,
    Thanks so much for your kind words. I haven’t read Seven Story Mountain, but it will go on my list of books to read this Christmas! Yes, I think one of the great gifts we can give to ourselves and each other is to learn to find the tranquility and light within us wherever we might be. There are always challenges, ups and downs, but when we have somewhere that gives us a real foundation of peace those challenges (like the mountains your daughter mentions) become easier to climb. Florence Scovell Shinn puts it this way: “I look with wonder at that which is before me”. Wise words.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: