A Restricted Life

The ultimate in sheds!

I’ve been thinking how very fortunate I was to be able to spend time alone on retreat in that wonderful setting in the mountains. Unremitting sunshine, peace and plenty. What a charmed life! It is all too easy to lose sight of the gifts that fall before us. So this is just a pause to express gratitude and to realize that I’ve already mostly forgotten those long sunny days and those dark clear nights. And all that came and went in the constantly changing inner landscape. But it doesn’t take much to cast back and remember….

Small things can take on a life of their own, when alone in the mountains. There was the obsessing about and looking for the lost stainless steel half cup measure. There I was digging through all the kitchen drawers, several times. Opening up all the food containers to see if it had been left there. Turning over the compost bin, going through the bags of rubbish. On and on. And I never did find it. Nor did I find my glasses! Then there were haunting sounds. What was that? A bear! The wind in the trees? Or something, someone perhaps, much more sinister. Imaginings can grow and grow until ones little heart is thumping with fear – when out in the woods alone on a still night.

So knowing ones mind to have certain capacities; for example to go way over the top on small things, to have the ability to enter into wild imaginings and generally to while away hours of daylight is to be freed. And that might sound like a rather odd thing to say. Perhaps knowing the extremes of ones thoughts and emotions helps one get a perspective on them. Thoughts pass and often there is a chuckle in there too! Who for example would have thought I’d imagine I was damaging my brain with my eye drops? Or that the headache was a sure sign of a brain tumor! Really!

We might laugh but it is no laughing matter for those who are, for one reason or another, caught up in such thoughts and really believe them to be true in an absolute way. And have no means of gaining a perspective or even know that they have lost it. Those for example whose senses are impaired, who are physically or mentally restricted or are in some other way vulnerable. Living in restricted circumstances can cause the imagined to become real, and then be acted upon.

This is a simple thing to see, and a good thing to know. After all are we all not living in restricted circumstances?

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6 thoughts on “A Restricted Life”

  1. This and the wee leaving poem are lovely and thought provoking – and lovely photos. It made me reflect on what I want to feel myself, what I want others to think I feel and what I really feel. And what I think others might feel but what I want them to present to the world – or to me at any rate. The sadness behind the clown’s smile.
    Being “ok”.
    Just “ok!!!
    We like each other to be more than ok. We like each other to be “good” or fantastic. We struggle with sad or lonely or frightened. But they are all part of our reality so in a way, ok is part of good or sad. They are all aspects of reality. The delight at mountain scenery and sunshine, and the fear of the imagined, and sometimes real, horrors. Hanging on to that wholeness is so important and for me is a great balancing force. Being able to do that is a great gift. Not having that capacity must be terrifying and perhaps belies the last sentence of this short reading which I have been waiting for an opportunity to share:

    I used to think that happiness was a random event that happened to people at moments when everything was going well for them, like falling in love, visiting a beautiful place, a healthy baby or coming home after a long absence. Happiness I thought, was not only random but fairly rare and certainly not be counted on. When a friend asked me “Are you happy” I thought it (privately) a foolish question. I was even a bit annoyed by it. My annoyance I realised, was due to the implication that I ought to be happy, and if I wasn’t there must be something wrong with me. But what, after all, was there to feel happy about in a world full of terror, poverty and uncertainty – except in those unusual moments when personal delight overcame the gloom that was, possibly, more appropriate?

    Are happy people simply blocking out the world’s misery. Are they deluding themselves about the precariousness of their own reasons for happiness?

    In the end I discovered a different way of thinking about happiness. It took a long time of gradually learning to allow myself to be open to reality as a whole: neither the good nor the bad alone but the inevitable interwoven nature of them both. The joy of a child’s laugh and the terrible vulnerability of children; the horror of war and the height of heroism in it; the pain of illness and the courage and compassion it evokes; the delight of love and the precariousness of it. There is grief hurting in every joy, humiliation behind every achievement and, above all, endings waiting for every beginning. Never-the-less there is hope surging beyond every failure, compassion and imagination to tackle every disaster. When a trees fall, insects and fungi flourish and new seedlings grow to take up the space. In the ruins of bombed cities, the rubble turns purple with blazing fireweed.

    Nothing lasts, neither evil nor good, but to realise this is not settle for a resigned detachment. On the contrary, it means that what is good and strong and beautiful must be passionately cherished, loved and praised, wondered at, just because it is fragile and passing. It will pass, whether it be a wild flower or a great temple or a mountain of a human life, but that makes it all the more wonderful. A plastic rose, however red, does not give the message of love as does the rose that will fade and die – the ephemeral quality is partly what moves us. The tiny grief implicit in the beauty makes it more precious.

    Conversely, the knowledge that what is evil has an end gives the courage to fight against it, to try to give goodness and beauty a little longer, to create more space for joy to grow. And if death is the end, at least of the kind of life we know, then we want to cherish and protect that life and give it every chance to discover yet more unexpected loveliness.

    So I’ve discovered that happiness is not the absence of the pain of the grief, one’s own of other people’s. It is not even, or not only, that flooding in of delight at something wonderful. Happiness is about knowing that this delight is part of reality, but that beyond and enwrapping the delight is compassion, which is the essential nature of reality. Happiness is being able to touch, at least a little, that reality at the heart of the world where nothing is everlasting but everything is precious. Only saints are in touch with that reality on a permanent basis – indeed I wonder if even saints manage it all the time. But anyone can chose to know that it is so.

  2. They look like fantastic buildings. You are indeed lucky to be able to find such isolation. Oh, bar one wee intrusion, not intended, for a little guidance and help, thank you. Noodle, the mum-in-law sends her thanks.

    I have been lucky with my life as I have been able to find retreat within my own domain. I am sure that the lack of physical attributes to life can also be a distraction, probably for the want of them.
    We can all find a sort of retreat within ourselves. It is the time we are alone with just our thoughts. There is another stage where you can limit thoughts to that of the life that is around you. Watching a bee visit the flowers on a verge of a busy road can be enough (sorry, no pun intended). To watch this small industrious insect inspect every flower with vigor and enthusiasm can invoke a trance like state. This is when I find the echo in my mind. The only thing in my life right then is the bee, the only noise I can hear is its’ wings beating and vibrating against the petals as it searches for the goal.

    It is so easy to get back to nature, just sit still in a copse and you will soon see the multitude of lives that surround you. One thing I really want to do is horse riding in the country. To be able to walk up to a roe deer without scaring it must be fantastic.

    In our life, we too should inspect every offering, not to dismiss it but to admire it.

    With my new role as a councillor, there has been another angle to view life at and what that collective needs. I am sure that I will come across some things that I would not choose to see or hear about, there will be folk who need help, more in finding a sense of compassion, a love of other living folk and the rights of nature to be there for when we need to step out. I have already seen folk who would rather silence in their garden that backs onto a playground than hear children actually play in that playground. It seems a shame.


  3. PA, I bet you thought I was staying in those sheds… Nope, they really are just sheds, wood shed, tool shed and generator shed. Glad you liked the post.

  4. Well as you know Nic I copied your comment into a post of it’s own. This is just to acknowledge your original comment and to say thanks again. Sad, afraid, lonely etc. etc. all of those feelings and emotions and more. And right in deep, “what is there”. A little koan for you.

  5. Hum, where did my first response to your comment go? Enough to say Keith that I am always glad to hear of you life and works, and your mum and I am always glad to answer you emails and from anybody else too for that matter. Although right now I am rather pushed, one way and another…..19th July

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