Friday, August 20, 2010

At two with nature

I’ve signed up for a daily ‘Peace Quote’ from a group called Living Compassion.  Every evening at around 8pm, a quote about meditation, mindfulness or peace drops into my in-box.
Tonight’s quote:
Barn's burned down, now I can see the moon. - Masahide

Usually I slide my Peace Quotes over into a little folder and save them. Tonight, with a flash of irritation, I immediately hit ‘delete.’

A few seconds later I paused.  I thought of the quote again – ‘barn’s burned down, now I can see the moon.’ What did it mean? Why did I delete it?

Well, I thought the meaning was fairly obvious. The guy was saying that everything material, everything he thought he needed and had built around him – had gone, and now he could...what?  Hear the birds singing in the trees?  Feel the breeze on his face?  See the flippin’ moon?

I started noting and naming my emotions.  ‘I feel angry.  I feel frustrated.’ Then it became clear, I felt pissed off and guilty. My barn had burnt down; my health had gone, fallen away around me leaving me exposed to the world.  There is no job, no husband, no child - just me. 

And, can I see the moon?  Do I pay extra attention to the kookaburra in the tree outside my window? No. I just feel angry and sad at what I’ve lost – and guilty that I can’t report that I’m a ‘better person’ because of it.

I sense that as a sick person I am somehow meant to find delight in the birds, or the way the sun makes dappled patterns on the wall.  I feel an enormous obligation  to report that, ‘I’m not well...but I appreciate the littlest things so much more because of this!’  I feel pressure to have ‘learnt’ from my situation.

And that’s why I felt frustration and anger at the quote.  I am not here to be inspiring to well people. I am here, for the moment, to be angry and sad that I am sick. Tonight, I cannot see the moon. I am, like Woody Allen, ‘At two with nature.’

Me being 'at two' with nature in a mountain 
village near the Thai/Burma border.

(The photo below shows the huts where I was staying.)


  1. Hi Emma,

    My barns have burnt down recently, too. Feels like many barns, not one. All this summer, like one continuous fire. I think I'm learning from it all, awakening slowly - but inspiring to others, who knows really?

    No one's life should be about an obligation to inspire others - not mine, yours, or anyone. I have heard from many people struggling with chronic illnesses or physical disabilities this sense that you write about - family members, friends - you're not alone in your frustration.

    Being who you are, as best as you can, moment by moment, should be inspiration enough. Everything else is extra, people chasing for dramatic stories that will feed their hopes.

    May you be "at two with nature" completely and fully, until something else arises.


  2. Thanks Nathan!

    It's fascinating to me that you've also heard from others will illness and/or disability about the need to feel like they are inspiring to others. I would think this would especially be the case for people with obvious disability - for example, people in a wheelchair. ('he climbed Mt Everest in a wheelchair, with two sherpas strapped to his back...if he could do that, YOU can do anything!')


    Sorry to hear you've lost your barn as well, sending metta your way. :) Em


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