Nothing to lean on

The moment that Teijitsu, 18th century abbess of Hakujuan,  near Eiheiji, Japan, learned to let go.

She saw that all phenomena arose, abided, and fell away. She saw that even knowing this  arose, abided, and fell away. Then she knew there was nothing more than this, no ground, nothing to lean on, stronger than the cane she held.  Nothing to lean upon at all, and no one leaning…  And she opened the clenched fist in her mind and let go, and fell, into the midst of everything.

Sallie Tisdale, The Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 years of Buddhist Wisdom 

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall patiently,  to trust our heaviness
Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.

Rilke, Book of Hours, II, 16


6 thoughts on “Nothing to lean on

  1. Thank you for posting the words I needed to read today. During the last five years I’ve experienced tremendous loss, including 10 extended family members (two in the last four weeks) and my best friend of 45 years, less than a year ago. I feel like I’m falling without a net. Thank you for reminding me I will survive… And one day, I’ll fly.

    1. Dear Laura, I am glad if the words, although challenging, are of some help. It is never easy to let go and not have a ground to stand on, and losses bring that learning home, but sometimes it is hard to stay open in the face of them. I loved the phrase “opened the clenched fist in her mind” As you say, someday we might learn to do that. In the meanwhile it is good to be reminded.

  2. Reblogged this on Out of My Mind and commented:
    When I need them most, words that comfort and inspire me appear. Is it coincidence? Is it magic? I believe it’s my decision to live in faith and God’s tender acknowledgement of my love and trust.

  3. Thank you, Karl. Yes, “opened the clenched fist of her mind” resonated with me, too. It’s a powerful image, beautifully expressed and one I’ll carry with me. I’ve visited your blog since reading this piece and I’ve enjoyed your posts tremendously. “…More balance, less stress, better living, greater health” What more could one ask for? All the best to you. Laura

  4. Thank you for your reply regarding this wonderful poem. I have not yet been able to locate the passage other published sources. I first saw this piece tacked on a bulletin board at a retreat center also without attribution and in reading your blog respondants,, see that it was re-blogged, most likely unattributed.
    Please give Sara Tisdale her well deserved recognition.

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