Earlier I am storming. My mind is whirling. Body tense. I feel angry!
First thought: head to the cinema, I keep meaning to go see something, now is my chance.
Second thought: call a friend. Rant, rage, moan etc
Third thought: Go through to do list.
Fourth thought: Go to the park for a walk. It’s still light!
This is my latest post…
So in the end I spend about 40mins on the computer – for some reason distracting myself with things that can wait rather then head out for that walk. But finally I head out. It’s dark when I go – early evening on the Friday before Christmas in December. I’m snuggled and warm, so very snuggled.
But as I walk I can’t shift the mood. My body feels pumped. My limbs feel hard, my muscles tense. My thoughts are storming and repetitive. I can’t let the thoughts go.
I walk past cylists coming home. I feel separate to them, on guard.
I stick on the path where there is light and head to the Pagoda and then head off the road to walk along the grass, light either side of me on the paths, but enjoying walking along the grass and submerged in the darkness: an apt place for where I am! Although I am partially softened by the beauty of the lights twinkling from Albert and Chelsea bridge – Albert in particular I have a soft spot for – he always manages to lift my spirits if I am in a somewhat dour mood. Then I am walking up the steps of the Pagoda and find myself walking around in circles chanting Om Mani Padme Hum.
I think of the great master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche who pierces my heart and who said wrote that this chant Om Mani Padme Hum is enough, it is so powerful, so simple, so pure. We really don’t need another. And I think how I don’t really get that because I want more, I want a more complicated chant and I touch into the dissatisfaction with anything perceived as too easy. And somewhere in me I get the loss of that and how we twirl about in our own suffering as a result. Ignoring the simple things that can make such profound differences. This is where faith and pure devotion help. Most of the time I lack these. And so I circle and I think of the Buddhists who make this a daily practice and I think of the monk who comes here for his practice, and to offer thanks. I saw him the other day walking towards the park, his eyes softly focused. That smile on his face. A lightness of spirit that remains unchanged over the years.
And I walk around thinking I will walk around 3 times, but in the end I find myself walking around more. The pull of the circle keeping me there. The chanting comes and goes as my attention is erratic; these thoughts are persuasively distracting. Nothing is shifting. So I walk around and around the Pagoda in the dark, surrounded by the twinkling lights of London and I look at the thoughts and the judgements and the whole mess of the state I am in, and start trying to work with them by asking questions: what’s this all about? What’s the pain here? What’s the familiarity here? What can I own here? And the answers that come provide some relief, some relaxation. Then I walk down the steps and see a tree that looks like a good one for leaning against and as I walk towards it, I notice another tree further along, hidden by the dark and I walk towards it. Maybe the trees will help.
When I reach it, I look for a spot where I can lean in and rest against it.
First attempt not so comfy. Second attempt: better.
The effect is almost immediate.
My body starts relaxing. My thoughts soften and settle. Space emerges. So that rather then storming around in the world as I have been, suddenly I can sit back and check out the scene around me.
So I lean against the tree and watch the cycylists heading home, their blinking lights flashing on and off, as they pedal by. Some with their hands in their pockets, some leaning forward, their hands on the handlebar. Everyone looks relaxed: it is a beautiful evening. Slowly I start feeling a part of the world. As opposed to lost in my own thoughts, my own experience. Cut off and void from this planet we all live on. However momentarily that might be.
And I feel the tree in my body. I feel the treeness as my yoga teacher Godfrey says about things, things just expressing their isness and here the tree, somewhere it is in me: the trunk is my spine, my arms the branches. And as I walk away from the tree, for a moment I feel like a walking tree. Us humans: how we wander without any connection to the roots that connect us all. I then turn and face the trunk and press my forehead against it: you tell me when I leave the thought comes as I listen to a woman calling her dog behind me.
Then when I am not thinking about it I find myself walking away from the tree, and I go and sit on the grass looking at the tree. Then falling back onto the ground, I lie stretched out on the ground, looking up at this incredible tree. The branches are brain like, all the synpases and pathways and twigs and health and parts that are falling into disrepair. I lie and I look and watch the tree and see stars twinkling through the branches and this makes me smile. London has magic in it yet.
I lie there looking at the tree till I feel a chill in my body from the coldness of the earth and so I get up and head home. At first walking on the pavement and then on the grass, on the mud feeling the sinews and movement and shapedness of the earth beneath my feet. My body feels different: softer. I can feel my belly which feels soft and relaxed and I feel the rises and dips of the ground. More alive and interesting then the pavement. My feet reminded of a time when they walked this earth shoeless and wild, with mud wedged between skin and nail and a broadening and a lengthening of foot and toes as natural as the breath I take each moment, here and now, there and here.
My mind is still soft, more space, but as I get closer to home more thoughts come of what to do, of need to dos and I feel my body harden a little in response.
We have an amazing resource in nature. It’s a wonder we don’t use it more. Because well its cheaper then therapists and more effective then drugs and alcohol and even sex. Nature is always there. Waiting patiently with elegance and poise and a spirit far more eternal and healing then I make room for in my day to day life.
And yet now it is now and I sit here and I type away feeling softer. And this is me #throwingthenetopen on a practice that works for me: going to nature.
Maybe I’ll see you one day, leaning against a tree.
The heavens smiling for sure,