The new year has arrived:
inscribing on a spotless page
the passing days.
Life unfolding – all is new
I ponder the meaning of renewal, of beginning afresh. How much of the past to bring into the present, the future, and how much to leave behind?
Last year passed in a blur of activity, of therapy clients, monthly workshops, meditation groups, spiritual mentoring, funeral work and a host of other activities, all interesting, all fulfilling… all exhausting. A delicious irony – that I teach mindfulness meditation and yet failed to notice how rapidly my life was spiralling into over-activity.
The final month of 2013 was spent in a time of retreat and reflection, pondering how to return my life to balance.
And so, the word that would exemplify my life in 2014 emerged from the silence – a word that has almost lost its meaning, let alone any degree of currency, in our busy world. That word is “simplicity”.
It doesn’t simply extend to cutting back on the multitude of activities in order to generate enough free time to contemplate, to paint, to write music; to exchange one form of busyness for another. It is a qualitative transformation, as well as a quantitative one. I am still exploring the texture of this idea, of how it necessitates an even greater relinquishment of busy thoughts and plans, and an exploration of how simplicity might join with mindfulness to return life to the timeless quality of presence it requires.
Wandering into the garden, I pick zucchini, still bearing their bright yellow flowers. Gathering produce is always a delightful activity; but it is the foraging for edible weeds that brings into focus the qualities I seek.
There is an old saying that a weed is simply a plant growing in the wrong place. This is particularly true of certain herbs which are grown for salad in other parts of the world yet considered a nuisance here. Plantain, wild rocket (rucola), chickweed, purslane, clover, dandelion and sow thistle are just a few of the highly nutritious “weeds” that we overlook or, worse, poison in our gardens. We look at so much of life through the lens of culture and received wisdom with the result that we sometimes fail truly to see what is in front of us.
Weed foraging obliges us to look at the humble, everyday plants that we scorn and see them imbued with the dignity they deserve. It is thus with a life of mindful simplicity.
What is it that feeds us and provides soulful nourishment, for ourselves and for others? How do we find the sacred in the everyday, and allow it to enrich our lives? The answers are different for each of us, but the way of discovery lies in the doing – in paying mindful attention, in sifting through the simple, humble things that are the stuff of which life is truly made; learning what to use and what to leave, and in what measure.
This will be my practice for the new year and, having passed through its Janus gates, may we all continue our journeys of enquiry and growth; and may we recognise the beauty of simplicity and the ensouled life – this is my wish for us all.