Sit and then sweep the garden
Thich Nhat Hahn, the well-known author on mindfulness, describes a hair raising situation. He asks us to imagine a refugee boat, filled with terrified refugees, being assailed by deadly storms. As they huddle together for survival they are suddenly aware that threatening pirate ships are now also on the horizon. Of course there is so much panic that the boat is about to sink! He continues to write, ‘but if only one or two people on the boat stay calm and centred, this might just be enough for others to follow suit so as to steady the boat and calmly figure out a way to survive’.
We humans are in stormy seas facing what frequently seems like an uncertain future. The added danger is that we contribute to the panic and with our collective fear fuel the storm instead of navigating it. All through lockdown I have been reminded of the beautiful Zen practice to sit and sweep the garden. This is the invitation to daily ensure that our first priority each morning is to still our minds and hearts. In this way we begin to observe ourselves and then others with softer and kinder eyes. We then go out to sweep the garden. It doesn’t matter how big or small the garden is. We may even find ourselves sweeping the garden of the world! As Thich Naht Hahn points out ‘tend to one’s own heart first and the rest will follow’.
Yes, there is a lot of panic and suffering about but instead of adding to the fear and insecurity let us try to be still and mindfully present to it. And then contemplate a way to mindfully respond.
At Temenos we continue to remind ourselves day by day to stay steady, not to be overcome by uncertainty and fear but also to take precautions and stay safe. In the meanwhile I thank all of you for your continuing mindful and heart-warming prayers, encouragement and practical assistance without which we would not have kept afloat.
Thank you to those of you who have been supporting our restaurant and Temenos. It has been a slow start but our staff our very grateful for their shared shifts. Some of them have been cramped up for weeks with their families in a room or two.
Bless you all. May your wisdom and faith and compassion deepen during these extraordinary and challenging times.