When we moved into our house last autumn there was the remnants of a swallows nest in the porch over the door. And shortly after the first swallows were seen back in Ireland this year, two of them started rebuilding the nest and getting it ready for use once again. We look up at them and are heartened. They know how to get from somewhere far away all the way back here. They are faithful to a place and constant in their determination. And that clarity seems to us to be something desirable. We frequently lose our way and – more often than we would like to admit – change our mind and our mood, sometimes from hour to hour. For most of us, finding the correct path seems quite hard. We do not get it right unerringly year after year. We are a mix, we stumble, make mistakes and often have to change direction. Life is, in many ways, a long trek, and we all have periods when we are not sure who we are or where we are going, or even where we have come from. There are no maps, no clear GPS directions. And furthermore, there is no-one with a crystal ball who can show us the future or guide our current choices or give us the best answers to the mysteries which confront us.
So firstly, we have to be gentle with ourselves as ones who frequently get lost. But we also have to be clear on how much certainty and control we can get on our journey. The notion that we can ever find a full sense of security, a firm hold on where we are going may not, in fact, be as important as letting go and being found, of having something that holds us. It may be the case that trust in the present moment, rather than full knowledge, is the way we travel here. Even if it feels shaky, here and now is always the steadiest place to start, not our ideas about how we are doing. We can have an awareness of whatever is happening, including the sense of being lost, and that awareness is our place of refuge. It give us a sense of groundedness which is a necessary counterbalance to the constant sense of movement which is associated with time. Gradually it becomes a spacious home inside ourselves, even as we travel along – a place of inner peace, that the changing mind states on our journey cannot trouble.
My real dwelling
Has no pillars
And no roof either
So rain cannot soak it
And wind cannot blow it down.
Ikkyu, 1394 – 1481, Japanese Zen Buddhist monk and poet