Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


a tree, a pencil, an hour ~

Meditation is hard for me. I’m not good at sitting still. I’m not particularly good at walking mindfully. What I do best is be in nature. Want someone to watch birds with? I’m your girl. Sit and watch a mountain breathe? Sounds great. But sit on my butt on a cushion/ a chair/ a zafu? Hmmm…

So I have to trick my monkey mind :). I’m a firm believer in what Thich Nhat Hanh says about washing the dishes: just wash the dishes. Don’t anticipate dessert, he admonishes — just wash the dishes. It’s the same with being still: just be still. Focus.

So when I go places, if I can, I draw. Badly, but I still draw :). This weekend, I sat in a white rocker on a turn-of-the-century (1886 :)) balcony and drew. With a pencil. In a new art journal.  The first drawing, still unfinished. And I was still. Sure, my hand moved — my thumb, the measure of which divided my page into fourths, and the larger tree into thirds, fluttered above the page like a pale moth. But my monkey mind settled, drawn into the drawing…focused on the cross-hatching that isn’t at all like coniferous needles, and the scribblings that aren’t quite leaves :).

This is one of my favourite meditations: being outside, watching a tree dance with light and shadow, or a mountain play canvas to the painting of sunlight across its slopes. I can sit still for an hour in front of Mt. Hood, for instance, and I have the bad art to prove it :). Like I can sit on the deck, and follow a bird through the trees, on to a feeder, then back into the tree above. The heart of focus: staying the mind on an object outside itself. Letting go.

The art may not be good, but the stillness is ~



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Cloudwatcher

    A lovely idea Britton – in fact I think I have been doing an alternative to the “formal” seated meditation for some time now without realising it. I enjoy watching the sky and clouds, getting totally absorbing their shapes, colours and movement and variety.

    • brittongildersleeve

      Sometimes when I watch the birds gathering on the feeders, moments after I’ve refilled them, I can almost feel myself expanding, the way meditation does when I remember to practice! :) And here in Oklahoma, clouds are one of the most beautiful of meditations!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jane Cronin

    In nature there is no dysfunction! We just have to show up and let it take us.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment lottie

    Thank you. I have the same challenges. I also like the camera lens, because it creates a tunnel with nothing at the end, but focus.

    • brittongildersleeve

      I used to be a photographer, Lottie. GREAT metaphor :)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment patti

    Britton, did you know that my presentation at my first ever TCWP SI was on nature journaling? ;) I had the entire group (25 or so) out on the lawn on campus, drawing and writing for an hour. Then we shared. It was magic. That year, I did a nature journaling project with my 5th graders. More magic. I love your reminder of how meditative this is. I think I shall start again tomorrow. I have a few blank notebooks to fill….
    xoxo,
    P

    • brittongildersleeve

      P, I forget the things I’ve learned so many times! And have to ‘re-learn’ them, it seems. And this is one I knew as a child, then again as I grew. But have to re-discover periodically. I would have LOVED to been in your workshop! I bet it was kickass!!

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