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.
In the traditional calendar of the Church this week is the last week of the year, and this evening, as light fades, the New Year begins. This older calendar probably measures time closer to the natural seasons and the rhythm of nature, even though this year, on a beautiful late autumn day like today, winter seems quite far away.
As in many other areas of life, we have a choice as to how to see and use our time. One understanding of time at this period of the year suggests that that there is not enough of it, that we need to hurry up now, that there is a lot to be done to prepare for the holiday celebrations. Today the shops were full with people, as the Christmas shopping festival makes its demands on our use of time. On the other hand, the traditonal church calendar and the way of nature suggests that this is a period to slow down, reflect and restore.
One way or the other we have to find a way to punctuate time and place value on how we use it. Like many I know, I struggle constantly to find a way to nurture my inner life while at the same time juggling time pressure in the face of the various demands of work life. It is easy to commit ourselves to this culture’s insistence on product and action until it exhausts us and we forget why we even do them in the first place. We tell ourselves that things are too hectic and that we need rest. We say that we will do better tomorrow and we do not.
One way of staying grounded in the face of our busy lives is the familiarity of routine. Routine connects us to one essential thing, our place in the universe. Morning and evening, season by season, year after year we watch the sun rise and set, beginnings and endings follow on one another inevitably. To establish a routine of meditation allows us resist the demands of more pressing events. The hard fact is that nobody really has time for meditation. The time has to be made. There will always be more something more pressing to do, something more important than the apparantly wasted time of mediation. Our focus is not on how to feel right for meditation, or whether we are too busy or whether we can meditate correctly but to just show up and meditate. Period. How else can we work out the real meaning of time? If it is just for rushing and work, what will we do when work is done? What is the point of leading a useful, successful life, if we do not live a meaningful one?
Today is a good day to cultivate the practice of being grateful, noticing what is good in our lives rather than noticing what is wrong. This practice helps us to wake up to all the gifts around us each day, as well as connecting us to a stream of basic goodness inside ourselves and in others. What little things could we be grateful for today?
“Practicing gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding. Being relieved of the endless wants and worries of your life’s drama, even temporarily, is liberating. Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development. The understanding you gain from practicing gratitude frees you from being lost or identified with either the negative or the positive aspects of life, letting you simply meet life in each moment as it rises.”
The widespread pain of fibromyalgia is hard to treat, but a small clinical study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics shows that meditation may deliver lasting benefits. 39 women with fibromyalgia attended the 8 week MBSR Programme, focusing on deepening mind-body awareness and cultivating acceptance of parts of their condition that they were unable to control. At the end of the Course – and at a three-year follow-up – the women in the Mindfulness group coped better with pain than those whose classes included relaxation training and exercise.
The MBSR Programme included elements on managing stressful situations, which National Fibromyalgia Association senior medical adviser Patrick Wood M.D. considers important. “Fibromyalgia pain is often triggered by some sort of stressor” he says, “so learning to handle stress better can make a big difference in terms of symptom experience”
“A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”