Self-Balanced in front of change

The first snow fell yesterday. A strong stormy wind blows this morning, scattering the leaves which begin now to fall in earnest. Shorter days. The changing outside weather impresses itself on our inner life, challenging our “routines”  and confusing  the body. It reminds us of rhythms and patterns in a world that loves predictability, and of things passing through when we foolishly give permanence to our mind states:

O to be self-balanced for contingencies, to confront night, storms, hunger,
ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do

Walt Whitman, Me Imperturbe

If I can take the dark with open eyes
And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange
(For love itself may need a time of sleep),
And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change,
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow,
Love will endure – if I can let you go.

May Sarton, Autumn Sonnets

Reflecting on time as the clocks “go back” 2

We must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what’s going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves. This is what the Zen people do. They give a great deal of time to doing whatever they need to do. That’s what we have to learn when it comes to meditation. We have to give it time . . . The best way to [do it] is: Stop.

Thomas Merton

Reflecting on time as the clocks “go back” 1

I have been driven by that sense of push my whole life, without even realizing it. But if life is indeed beginningless, this means that my past has, in fact, been infinite. The future will be too. So if there is no big rush to get somewhere. I am mistaken in my compulsion. I can take my time, and take more care, to make sure to go where I want to go. What a thrill! A bit of release, a taste of freedom, no more involuntary pressure — so this is beginningless.

Robert Thurman, Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well

How to be steady underneath the waves of life

To be mindful means that we notice the sound or the smell come into consciousness, and then, instead of pushing the sense impression away or holding on to it, we’re aware of how the mind reacts. We stay centred and notice that the impression and the feeling that arises comes, and then goes. We can actually watch and feel the mind’s inclination to lunge out towards something that’s pleasant, whereas before it would simply lunge out, grasp and then proliferate about it. With mindfulness we can notice the movement of the mind arise and then, when we don’t engage with it, we see it falling away, ceasing. We see that it comes and goes in a wave pattern, and we begin to experience a steadiness underneath the waves. So in this respect mindfulness has two qualities. Firstly, it is dispassionate; it has no particular ambition, it’s neither rejecting or ashamed of anything, nor is it fascinated by anything. Secondly, it notices that things arise and cease.

Ajahn Sucitto, Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension

Not trying to freeze time

The essence of our experience is change. Change is incessant. Moment by moment life flows by and it is never the same. Perpetual alteration is the essence of the perceptual universe. A thought springs up in your head and half a second later, it is gone. In comes another one, and that is gone too. A sound strikes your ears and then silence. Open your eyes and the world pours in, blink and it is gone. People come into your life and they leave again. Friends go, relatives die. Your fortunes go up and they go down. Sometimes you win and just as often you lose. It is incessant: change, change, change. No two moments ever the same.

There is not a thing wrong with this…It only sounds bleak when you view it from the level of ordinary mental perspective, the very level at which the treadmill mechanism operates. Down under that level lies another whole perspective, a completely different way to look at the universe. It is a level of functioning where the mind does not try to freeze time, where we do not grasp onto our experience as it flows by, where we do not try to block things out and ignore them.

Bhante Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English