It is May – and Spring has announced its arrival here in the upper valley where I live. The trees are bursting with blossoms and yesterday evening, my daughter and I walked in the neighborhood with the special purpose of smelling the lilacs. Growing up in India, I read about lilacs in novels, but I could not have imagined the incredible scent they carry – rivaling the heavenly scent of the jasmine flowers I grew up with in South India.
When I think of jasmine, the images of freshly picked fragrant buds hand tied into little strings sold in the market comes to my mind. Adorning the braided hair of Indian women, it reminds me of weddings and special occasions and temples. Lilacs on the other hand bring to mind long leisurely walks in New England with my daughter, taking in the heavy clusters of little buds that so freely give their fragrance. Between the two, a whole world lies – ties to the old and opening to the new. Isn’t that what life is all about? This balance between the old and the new, and the potential in this moment for transformation, curiosity, openness and mystery.
I have been thinking recently of change. Listening to Joseph Goldstein’s recent talk on 10 percent happier on the last three steps of the eight-fold path brought this into the center of my attention. Of course, the season of Spring as well as having a growing child both make it impossible for change to leave my attention fully! Anjali, my 12 year old, is growing like a tall tree – shooting straight up. She takes after her Dad and the women in his family – this morning waking her up, I noticed that she might outgrow her bed at some point! Each day feels precious, each moment when I’m truly present, a moment of awe. How does one hold all of this in one’s heart?
Even as I wonder, I know the answer. One moment at a time, one breath at a time. In this way, we steady our attention and then our attention can attune deeply to change itself as it is unfolding…And as we cultivate the steadiness of mind and heart that can attune to change itself, we uncover the wisdom that comes from a direct experience of this change in our own experience.
We often have a like-dislike-relationship with change, depending on what has changed. Change itself however is impersonal and the very nature of life. Indeed as the quote goes, the only constant in life is change. And the Buddha taught us this radical practice through mindfulness, of turning towards change instead of resisting it. And even when we notice resistance, there is a learning – a direct experience of dukkha, of the suffering that comes from resistance. And this too is important – in recognizing and getting to know dukkha in this intimate way, we cultivate wisdom.
The funny part in all of this dharma (or truth) is that to truly open to wisdom, we have to let go of our agenda and timelines! All we can do is have the intention and let it guide us…As Joseph Goldstein encourages us, our intention sets the direction for our journey, and through the journey of mindfulness and wisdom, we learn to trust that our path will lead to wisdom and freedom. And we appreciate the many moments of beauty along this path.
Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your lifeWu Men
May this Spring bring you many moments of ease and beauty!
With love, S.
ps: There is still space in my Intro to Mindfulness course for BIPOC, check it out under my course offerings!