Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.
PEACE IS EVERY STEP by Thich Nhat-Hanh.
April is a month that brings so much beauty, wonder and change. The flowers start to bloom, the air feels fresh, the days get longer. Migrating birds return to their Northern habitats, mushrooms sprout on the damp floor of the cool forests, rivers and streams flow with abundance from the Spring thaw and frequent rainfall. It is the amazing season of cleansing and renewal, splendor and transformation. And for meditation practitioners, it can be a powerful reminder of the essence of life itself: the nature of impermanence.
One of the characteristics of this time of year is the constant fluctuation and unpredictability of the rapidly changing climate. One day it is restless and windy, the next is serene and sunny, another day passes and it is pouring rain, and the next day it feels like a Winter chill in the air. So much turbulence, followed by calm, followed again by unsettling, and a return again to gentle breezes and warm sunshine. Ah, Spring: The only constant is change itself. And on the beautiful days we may find ourselves grasping, wishing it will stay like this all year long. And on the rougher, more turbulent days we may be caught in the grip of resistance, longing for the blue skies and bird songs of the days between.
All of this change that typifies April underscores the ways in which as humans we often find ourselves challenged by acceptance. We want what feels good to last forever and what feels uncomfortable to magically disappear. And if we pay attention to all of this grasping and resistance, it can be seen for what it really is: A cycle of struggling, unwilling to just be here now, in full appreciation of the experience itself.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts meditation offers the practitioner is the space to work with the mind and its resistance to change. As we become more familiar through practice with our attachments to desire, material objects, and various forms of escape, we begin to cultivate an awareness of the illusion of these things. And we begin opening up to the insight that everything, all feelings, experiences, and objects rise and fall and come to pass. Nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts forever. What we really have is here, in the preciousness of this present moment, even if there is difficulty or pain.
Meditation can be a refuge from the noise in our heads, from the incessant storyline that tells us what we need, how to act, what to do, what others think of us. But it can also be a kind of tool to work with the dynamic nature of life itself. It can allow for the mind to cultivate a kind of clarity of perception that no other human activity seems to offer. And this clarity can help the practitioner embrace the essence of impermanence with a gracefulness and lightness. This is a true blessing of practice.
Jack Kornfield, one of the great meditation teachers who has written dozens of books about the ways meditation can help people work with different struggles, says simply that being here now is the key to seeing the abundance of our lives. “We have only now, only this single eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night.” Kornfield offers a wonderful meditation on equanimity focused on cultivating a balanced state of mind to help see that all things arise and pass. You can find the meditation here: http://www.jackkornfield.com/meditation-equanimity/ It is a simple instruction but offers so much if we simply open our hearts to the practice.
April 28th 2015, written by Gabriel Woodhouse for bodono.
Gabriel Woodhouse is one of the teachers at Three Jewels which offers free meditation classes every weekday morning and on Friday evenings. Three Jewels functions as a Meditation, Yoga, Dharma, and Outreach Center for the community. More info at: http://threejewels.org/