Misu No Kokoro



Curving gracefully

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

gracefully curving



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.


6 thoughts on “Misu No Kokoro

  1. what a wonderful palindrome – and i love the way that you played with the idea of the mirror. very evocative. i would not have the discipline to keep moving the words to make the palindrome and so it makes me wonder if it takes a stillness, an allowing the words to form themselves around each other in ways that allow them to be read bakcwards and forwards always making sense and yet a different sense depending on the direction.
    you last few posts have talked about spinning and stillness and finding the silence even when it is not quiet and it reminds me of a line i wrote in my diary the other day by John O’Donahue says ‘stress is a distorted relationship with time” i am thinking about that.


    • That is a helpful way to think about it. Will reflect on that too. I read the other day that stress is a disconnection from the earth, or something along those lines. I know that every time I spend time somewhere wild, I feel soothed and centered. I need to create more time for that!


  2. Beautiful writing – it took me right into that scene, I felt the stillness and the beauty of the scene you described and what skill that took. I must say I would like to practice the art of the palindrome some day… perhaps when I have a sick day and nothing else to do…if that every happens.


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