The bigness of the world is redemption. Despair compresses you into a small space, and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground. To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest. Being able to travel both ways matters, and sometimes the way back into the heart of the question begins by going outward and beyond. This is the expansiveness that sometimes comes literally in a landscape or that tugs you out of yourself in a story.
Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.
Galway Kinnell, Saint Francis and the Sow
When you have an unpleasant feeling, don’t grab hold of it and turn it over and over.
Instead, leave it alone so it can flow.
The wave of emotion will naturally recede on its own
as long as you don’t feed it by dwelling on it.
To get food unstuck from a frying pan, just pour water in the pan and wait.
After a while the food loosens on its own.
Don’t struggle to heal your wounds.
Just pour time into your heart and wait.
When your wounds are ready, they will heal on their own.
Haemin Sunim, The Things You can see Only when You Slow Down
No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
Wendell Berry, Sabbaths – 1993, I
This poem is not first and foremost about aging and dying. It’s about generosity, one of the most life-giving of all virtues. Generosity does not require material abundance. When I think back on the many people who have been so generous toward me, I never think of money or “things.” Instead, I think of the way they gave me their presence, their confidence, their affirmation, support, and blessing — all gifts of “self” that any of us can give.
And where does generosity come from? Perhaps from another life-giving virtue, the one called gratitude. When I take the time to breathe in my life and breathe out my gratitude for the gifts I’ve been given, only one question arises: “How can I keep these gifts alive?”
I know only one answer: “Become a giver yourself, pass your gifts along, and do it extravagantly!” As Wendell Berry says, “Every day you have less reason/not to give yourself away.”
Parker Palmer, Breathe In My Life, Breathe Out My Gratitude
St Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra, Co. Cork.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day
We can make our minds so like still water
that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images,
and so live for a moment with a clearer,
perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight
During meditation, we should not develop a mind which accumulates and holds on to things, but instead we develop a mind which is willing to let go of things, to let go of burdens. Outside of meditation we have to carry the burden of our many duties, like so many heavy suitcases, but within the period of meditation so much baggage is unnecessary. So, in meditation see how much baggage you can unload. Think of these things as burdens, heavy weights pressing upon you. I like to begin at the very simple stage of giving up the baggage of past and future.
Abandoning the past means not even thinking about your work, your family, your commitments, your responsibilities, your history, the good or bad times you had as a child…, you abandon all past experiences by showing no interest in them at all. As for the future, the anticipations, fears, plans, and expectations let all of that go too. This future is known to the wise as uncertain, unknown and so unpredictable. It is often complete stupidity to anticipate the future, and always a great waste of your time to think of the future in meditation.
When you have abandoned all past and all future, it is as if you have come alive. You are here, you are mindful. This is the first stage of the meditation, just this mindfulness sustained only in the present.
Ajahn Brahm, Sustained Attention on the Present Moment