The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
– Li Po
One way to read Li Po’s poem is that the birds are chattering thoughts. They represent the movement within that leads to the misconception of separation without. But thoughts can soar so high, reach such elevated levels, that they vanish in the sky of mind.
The clouds are obstructions of awareness, limiting the perception of the untainted vast mind. And, with the birds, clouds too “drain away” in deep stillness.
(Yet, even when clouds are thick and heavy, even when birds flit about in their busyness, the sky itself, original mind, contains it all and remains pure and still beyond the obstructions.)
The mountain is that which is eternal, fixed, both rooted in the earth and touching the heavens. Watching this “mountain” of eternal presence long enough, in deep stillness you find that you are nowhere to be seen. You are surprised to discover that everything you reflexively called “me” was never really there in the first place, and “only the mountain remains.” The “mountain” is finally recognized as your true Self, your only self, eternal. Effortlessly, you bridge heaven and earth by your very nature. And only That remains.
You can ignore all of that, and just step into the landscape.