I like to look up.
I think this is something that runs in my family because it was my sister who first introduced me to taking photographs of trees by leaning on the trunk and looking straight up, making a picture from a squirrel’s point of view (or perhaps the viewpoint of a dog who has just chased the squirrel up the tree).
It’s extraordinary how different something can be when looked at from another angle, how all your preconceptions can be knocked sideways. Size, scale, and your own relationship to where you are all suddenly seem very altered.
Then there’s the wide angle, or the macro close-up. You can take the long view, stand back and see how everything fits into the larger landscape, or you can get in close and immerse yourself in something so intimately that everything else fades into oblivion and is lost to sight and mind.
Almost as a matter of course these days I look at my feelings from different perspectives, sometimes backing off and seeing how they fit into the larger scheme of things, and sometimes observing them, fondly and face-to-face, trying at the same time to be detached and not to pass judgement.
Sometimes I sit for a while, just watch the the flow of things, watch the ripples…..and sometimes I look deeper, and try to see beneath the surface.
Quite a few posts that I’ve read recently have been about goals; how to choose them, set them, organise them; how and when to review them, and how to learn from them. Dianne McKinnon recently posted a delightful update on her Wildly Improbable Goals for 2012, and it got me thinking.
These are the leaves of the handkerchief tree.
I had always wondered at the name, but on Sunday as I looked at it the leaves all seemed like prayer flags.
I was thinking of all the people who have lost their lives this year, and of their families and friends. People who have died tragically, in violence, and some by their own hands. Not just at Sandy Hook, though this was what made me stop and stand there in silence, holding them in my heart.
A month ago I collected these leaves from where they had fallen. I dried them and kept them in a box, thinking I would string them into garlands for decorations at Christmas. Now, when I do this next weekend, I will think of them once again as prayer flags. As I hang them, and every time I see them, I will remember.
Life is full of paradoxes. I’ve often noticed that when I’m working on something new or trying to solve a problem, the first attempt is quite often the best – or at the very least, has things about it that are better than all my subsequent efforts. This can be very annoying, because it feels like I’m going backwards rather than forwards, and that I’m not learning anything from all my efforts.
But I’m beginning to understand why this is so, or at least I think I am. It’s to do with doing, and non-doing.
I’m reading a book by Jon Kabat-Zin called Wherever You Go, there You Are, a book filled with such luminous, startling truth that every now and then I find myself putting it down and just staring into space, awash with the realisation of the obvious that somehow eludes me most of the time. I quote:
‘The joy of non-doing is that nothing else needs to happen for this moment to be complete. The wisdom in it, and the equanimity that comes out of it, lie in knowing that something else surely will.
It reeks of paradox. The only way you can do anything of value is to have the effort come out of non-doing and to let go of caring whether it will be of use or not.’
I’ve always known this to be true, but I’ll probably never stop needing reminders. I need to relax into more and more moments of ‘non-doing’ every day – because I know that paradoxically, more will come out of this than if I drive my actions by concentrated thought – or by caring too much about the outcome. So why not relax a little more, play a little more, stay still in the happiness of the moment a bit more often, secure in knowing that this is just simply what I most need to do?
I’m off right now, to do just that…….