Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. – A.A. Milne, The House on Pooh Corner
When you first encounter someone or something, there is that fleeting instant of pure awareness – just before you identify it – before your mind starts naming, labeling, and knowing, before it thinks…”oh it’s honey…or, oh it’s a dog, or, oh it’s an owl. This moment of pure awareness is “mindfulness.” It’s the moment of in between. In between the direct experience of the object and the mind’s evaluation of it. It’s important to tune in to these moments of not knowing, these moments of the in between
THE clutter of our lives binds us to the precious simplicity that surrounds us and within us. Too often we become possessed and imprisoned by the chains of our own accumulations. We live in fear of their loss; we evolve complex strategies to protect ourselves from failure and deprivation. This burden inhibits our ability to walk with lightness of heart. The noise created through our own busyness deafens us to the wonder of silence.
Modern culture has wrongly learned to equate simplicity with deprivation, silence with absence, and strives to fill our lives and minds with objects, information, and distraction. We have become uncomfortable with quietude. Caught in the web of this complexity, we grow increasingly poor in spirit.
We do not need to retreat to the nearest monastery, renouncing all of our possessions and engagements, in order to discover the wonder of silence and spaciousness. Indeed, confusion and preoccupation can be companion of the ascetic as well as the commuter. We do not need to withdraw from the world in order to discover true simplicity of heart. Dramatic gestures are not called for. “If one is to do good,” says William Blake, “good must be done in minute particulars. General good is the plea of the hypocrite, the flatterer, and the scoundrel.” Simplicity is related to not how much we have but to how much we hold on to. This simplicity is without pretension. It is like the water that simply runs downhill. In Zen, it is called our true nature.
Simplicity and renunciation are acts of compassion; for ourselves, for the world around us. Gandhi once stated, “There is enough in this world for everyone’.s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Simplicity in our lifestyle expresses a care and compassion for the world. Simplicity in our hearts, letting go of opinions and craving, is an act of compassion for ourselves. When we let go of yearning for the future, preoccupation with the past, and strategies to protect the present, there is nowhere left to go but where we are. To connect with the present moment is to begin to appreciate the beauty of true simplicity.
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.
Beannacht (New Year Blessing)
By John O’Donohue
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
Darker days are just as much a part of life as are the days graced with sunshine. When we refer to a “beautiful day” we are often describing a day that is sunny, clear, and without a cloud in sight to mar a sky that is a brilliantly perfect blue.
We find ourselves bouncing along, light in spirit, free from worries, and enjoying the moment. That is, until the clouds begin to form. The sky may turn grey, and a fog may roll in. Puffs of white take on whimsical, darker shades, and our beautiful day disappears along with the sunshine… or so it seems.
A clear blue sky often inspires in us good cheer, bringing on a lighter, more carefree day. We may find ourselves spending time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, and basking in the warmth of the sun. Yet should clouds appear to wash the sky with shadows, we may let this change of weather decrease our energy and enthusiasm, pulling us into our own cloudy funk.
Darker days are just as much a part of life as are the days graced with sunshine. They show us a different perspective of our world, while helping us appreciate the moments of illumination that inevitably follow. A rainy day with clouds helps to clear the air, washing away stagnation. Still, it’s hard not to feel gloomy or think that the day has been ruined when there are clouds hanging over us. Yet if you can remember that these shades of grey won’t last forever, and that hidden behind the clouds is the blue sky, you will find that the beauty of your day is merely playing a game of peek-a-boo with you. Like the mishaps and interruptions that occasionally block the brilliance that is our own lives from shining through, clouds eventually clear away so we can open up to a brighter horizon.
The next time you wake up to a cloudy day, remember that these shades of grey in life are there just for the moment. And that no matter how hard the rain falls or how chilly the fog is, the clouds will go away, the sun will break through, and you will be able to see the sky that has always and forever been a beautiful and brilliant blue.
Walking and enjoy
Where am I going? I'm going
out, out for a walk. I don't
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines. Beyond where
computers circumvent emotion,
where somebody shorted specs
for rivets for airframes on
today's flights. I'm taking off
on my own two feet. I'm going
to clear my head, to watch
mares'-tails instead of TV,
to listen to trees and silence,
to see if I can still breathe.
I'm going to be alone with
myself, to feel how it feels
to embrace what my feet
tell my head, what wind says
in my good ear. I mean to let
myself be embraced, to let go
feeling so centripetally old.
Do I know where I'm going?
I don't. How long or far
I have no idea. No map. I
said I was going to take
a walk. When I'll be back
I'm not going to say.