Go easy

River Barrow Towpath

Went walking  this week below the lovely village of Leighlinbridge, along the towpath of the River Barrow among trees and slow, easy-flowing,  water.  Here nature moves at a different pace and my thoughts turned to speed and purpose and the way,  even from early morning,  our minds – under the effect of a high pressure lifestyle –  move towards compulsive activity. This is frequently linked to getting something done,  an achievement, a future, or other people’s approval. Walking slowly in nature helps us tune into a different awareness,  noting how we are, which often gets lost when we continually focus on who we are and how we are doing.

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
   but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Mary Oliver, When I am Among the Trees

photo kevin higgins : licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

Not giving up on ourselves

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The idea of developing courage doesn’t seem to trigger people’s inadequacies. I think they know they have some courage. The problem is they think they’re supposed to be courageous in facing the outside world, whereas what is so profoundly transformative is the courage to look at yourself. It’s the courage to not give up on yourself, even though you do see your aggression, jealousy, meanness, and so on. And it turns out that in facing these things, we develop not self-denigration but compassion for our shared humanity.

Pema Chodron

photo Derek Harper


A meeting place

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We need to prepare a meeting place, an awareness that can meet what arises without contracting.  The basis of this is training in mindfulness: staying with contact without formulating a self and a reaction. This means that for a moment you can not know how things should be, or what to do. If you allow yourself this mindful uncertainty, that opens the essential space for a response rather than a reaction to arise. So when the feeling and the impression or ‘meaning’ come up, just wait right there. Don’t work from previous models. Don’t blink. Don’t try to change it. Don’t make a ‘me’ out of it. Then hold your awareness where it subsides. And with skill in that, the world of ‘me and it’ changes by itself.

Ajahn Sucitto, Is there an End?

photo steve evans from Citizen of the World

Starting over, again and again

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That we go numb along the way is to be expected. Even the bravest among us, who give their lives to care for others, go numb with fatigue, when the heart can take in no more, when we need time to digest all we meet. Overloaded and overwhelmed, we start to pull back from the world, so we can internalize what the world keeps giving us. Perhaps the noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return: to open our hearts once they’ve closed, to open our souls once they’ve shied away, to soften our minds once they’ve been hardened by the storms of our day.

Mark Nepo, Hearing the Cries of the World

photo Daniel Francisco madrigal Moller