Blossoming through a broken place

An online mindfulness meditation retreat attended earlier this month was an event that came at a good time of the year and brought with it renewed space for reflection, kindness and connection. Practicing meditation in a group can be one of the most enriching experiences. The Retreat was organised by the Passaddhi Meditation Centre, https://www.passaddhi.com/, and taught by Marjó Oosterhof, Meditation Teacher. Something from this experience I would like to share about here.

An exercise, we, as a group, were invited to do in our own physical space was to do mindful walking meditation and notice three aspects of the walk that brought joy to each of us. Off I went on my walk. The sun was shining outside and its light pierced through any leftover thoughts that were there internally before beginning the walk.

In mindfulness meditation, whatever comes to the attention of the meditator, is part of the landscape of awareness: no need to add or take away anything. The practice can bring up some pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral parts of life, and it is worth taking the risk to let all of it in. And this time, being asked to notice things that brought joy, was something like being invited to dip into the jar of honey, for those who love honey.

Walking by a line of trees along the road, the first thing coming to the attention was that they looked so young; the same trees, dry and brown, and that had no leaves on them just two months before. Such a transformation! Then, the mind found an explanation for what was seen, and it said quietly: “It is spring, after all”.

Being close to the trees felt like a privilege. So, the next natural step was to come even closer to them. They seemed quiet and grounded, enjoying the peace around, and as if nothing was able to move them. The tree closest to me was just like the others, the same type and hight, yet, something was different about it. On one of its branches, a twig looked almost ready to fall. Half split from its branch at a lower angle, it gave the impression that it was broken but still hanging in there, yet, a bud was blossoming from it, like from all the other twigs on the tree. Quite confusing. Moving in closer, I could see that the broken place had already healed and the twig was now securely attached to the branch although it did not look like it from a distance. Then I “twigged” that it was healed enough for the life energy to travel from the roots of the tree, to its branches, to the twig and into the bud. It felt joyful to see how life found its way in.

Can a twig that had been previously broken become securely attached to its tree again? This one did. Nature has such a quiet way of practicing being alive! Had I not moved in closer, the truth of the twig would not have been seen. And, who knows, how many other twigs share the same story? Who knows how many minds are tempted to judge things as they seem, only to discover that there is something else hiding behind the surface? Or, could it be that it is in human nature not to give up on hope for life even when the reality appears to be broken at the surface?

“Under a cherry tree, there are no strangers”. (Kobayashi Issa, Japanese poet)

Lighting up your candle this Christmas

Approaching Christmas time this year running around, walking, strolling, driving, flying or just staying at home, whatever route you choose to take to arrive, is a journey in itself. This Christmas is different for most people who have been touched by the changes of 2020.

Not knowing can be as painful as knowing something that feels painful. But the not knowing how life will turn out has the surprise element added to it.

I wonder if a rose bud feels any pain in the process of opening into a rose. Does it ask itself when and how it should open? What would happen to it if it opens?

Unlike the rosebud, many of us think a lot about opening up in new and uncertain circumstances. Maybe some questions asked deep inside the mind are:

Would it be safe? Will I be protected? What would happen to me and my family? What would people think of me?

This is also the beauty of an inner creative space. A space where personal and collective choices become essential.

If you feel that this year much or some of the experiences, people or things you hoped to have in your life have been taken away from you, then it is natural to also feel grief, sadness and loss.

Yet, looking around, there are many people who seem happy and content. At least in those moments of showing themselves, they were enjoying a loving partner, satisfaying work, the support of their family, a comfortable home environment, or just appreciating nature by taking in the sight of the green grass and the birds’ joy to be alive. Is joy as contagious as sadness is?

The shaking up of our inner and outer worlds this year has led to more inequality and gaps in the outer systems and the supports needed for those most in need of care and attention. And the shaking up reaches places deep inside, too. Maybe, you too, feel deprived of something, it does not have to be material things, it may be around missing a relationship, a place, or being unable to be with those close to you. And what is it like for you when you meet or see somebody who has what you would like? Rather than getting annoyed or envious, or allowing anger to grow in your mind and heart, why not consider something different?

When you experience some of the above, it may help to let other perspectives in, to widen the narrow or dark spaces where the mind can get caught up in for too long sometimes. Meditation surely helps to widen those spaces.

Mudita is a practice originating in the Buddhist meditation tradition. A Sanskrit word meaning joy, particularly sympathetic joy or the pleasure derived from delighting in the good fortune and well-being of others. Cultivating the feeling of altruistic joy through the practice of Mudita not only helps you to experience a more peaceful state of mind, but may also transfer to whoever or whatever you come in contact with during the festive season.

Feeling happy for those who are still enjoying the blessings of material abundance, high spirits, good health, family or loving relationships may be a place to start lighting up some joy in your heart.

Create your own miracle. Light up a candle inside yourself this Christmas and be curious about what happens!

Merry Christmas everyone!