leaves dipping softly through light and
water reflecting trees sighing gently
swans gliding mutely like quiet thoughts
in mountains resting silent and still
sun setting low, soundless
and peaceful stones standing lone and waiting
dark gathering in
in gathering dark
waiting and lone standing stones peaceful and
soundless, low setting sun
still and silent resting mountains in
thoughts quiet like mutely gliding swans
gently sighing trees reflecting water
and light through softly dipping leaves
Misu No Kokoro. I came across the term recently in a book about working with horses. A Japanese expression which means “a mind still like water”, it is an idea with several shades of meaning, and one that I find very helpful. It conveys the notion of a mind that is calm. When water is still, it reflects its surroundings with clarity. When water is disturbed, that picture is distorted and changed. You no longer see things as they are. A quiet mind enables us to more clearly see and understand; a mind that is too busy or unsettled will keep us from that kind of clarity and insight. But there is more to the image. Water always responds to any disturbance in perfect proportion to the disturbance itself. A gentle breeze causes soft ripples across the surface. A strong wind will result in bigger waves. Our minds often react to the winds of circumstance or emotion in ways that may not reflect this kind of proportion. Sometimes we overreact, sometimes we do not react strongly enough. A mind like water is ready to respond appropriately to whatever it encounters. Water also moves; it is not passive. There is a rhythm of movement and stillness. My mind can tend towards disengagement or restlessness. And then, water is formless. It can adapt to any new course or shape. Our minds need to be flexible, able to shift with the changes life brings.
I live a life that is fractured. I wear many hats. I seldom have a day that is focused on just one or two things. It’s hard to gather my thoughts into any coherent pattern. But I do want to cultivate quietness of mind. Equanimity is one of my favourite words. It speaks to me of the ability to remain anchored amidst the constant movement inherent in life. I long to be able to immerse myself in the complexity and messiness of existence while remaining grounded and able to respond with insight and understanding. More and more I recognise my need for silence and solitude. This morning I sat in my garden and spent time meditating on the love of God and the gifts He has given. I found myself challenged not only by my own wandering thoughts, but also by the noise of the neighbourhood. Dogs barking, weedeaters buzzing, builders hammering across the street, the distant hum of traffic. Quiet is not easy to find, but it is important to seek it out. I sense that without it I will not be able to make decisions or navigate this particular season of life with any kind of real wisdom. Our world pulses with a constant stream of information; it’s bewildering. It’s so important to be intentional and determined about creating spaces that are not filled with some kind of agenda.
I wrote the palindrome at the start of this blog as I was thinking about the idea of “a mind still like water”. It took discipline and effort to craft the words and make it work. But it was soothing too. It gave me a focus, a balance point in the middle of an otherwise chaotic day. I felt so much better afterwards; it settled the churning of my mind and heart. It was time well spent.