The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
wherever you go... being awake
Of the couple of thousand on my shelves, my 'desert island' book, I think, would have to be Wherever You Go, There You Are. In its simplicity, it unpacks the core teachings of Zen mindfulness practice (Kabat-Zinn was responsible for the upsurge of interest in mindfulness the last 20-odd years). Jon K-Z woke me up, and I never tire of the teachings in this book, which lives by my bed.
In my exile on my desert island (and sometimes the notion is not unappealing!), I think I'd need the reminder that my peace of mind would do best if I remember that it's not what happens (or, indeed, doesn't) that matters, but how I deal with it.
The book brings me back to what is – just this present moment, as it is, clear of my assumptions, opinions, desires and aversions – the key to happiness, really. Happiness is not, after all, something we 'get' from the outer world, but a state of presence – a mind that is clear and accepting and fully present with how things are, non-judgementally.
I think I used to believe that was a rather crap and inferior state of mere contentment, and who would want that when they could have real passion, extreme experience, knowing they were really alive by the dramatic edge on which they could choose to live?
I write that and chuckle, recognising the girl in me who continued being that girl for way past girlhood. And, of course, she is still also there. But I no longer make the mistake, I see, of identifying happiness with drama and excitement. (Must be getting old, or growing up at last, then...)
So these days I can differentiate my fear of falling into a life of 'quiet desperation' (it wasn't actually Pink Floyd who wrote that, but Thoreau, of Walden Pond fame) that I used to think was the dull mud of 'contentment', from the very deep joy that can come from knowing I am exactly where I should be right here right now, that I can determine my own future with my response to how things are right now, and that there is nowhere to get to, nothing to achieve, except to learn – and it's a continuous practice, moment-by-moment – to be awake and aware in this moment, the only one I'll ever have...
Thank you, J K-Z – your book, sent to the 35-year-old me, as a gift from America by someone I only met once, really has turned my life around.
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