Without time

I have written elsewhere of the days when, as a young boy slowly recovering from a long illness, I lay for hours on a tattered quilt under the trees in the old orchard at the back of our house, Just being as one with the endless blue vault of the sky, with the little black ants walking carefully along the edge of the quilt, the big bumblebees in the apple trees, the distant drone of an aircraft passing high overhead…

Andō quotes from Stonehouse’s Poems for Zen Monks:

Below high cliffs
I live in a quiet place
beyond the reach of time
my mind and the world are one
the crescent moon in the window
the dying fire in the stove
I pity the sleeping man
his butterfly dream so real.

The memory of that remembered place on the Sussex coast is not a thing I return to, and yet the condition is where I find increasingly myself again during practice, or at least it is a gift that comes during particularly graced times of practice. Like the medieval Chinese hermit poet Stonehouse, this stillness is intensely real and present. The last two lines of Stonehouse’s poem refer to Chuang-Tzu’s dream of being a butterfly; as he points out, this is not a dream. Nor, in my case, is it a memory.

I am grateful, extraordinarily grateful, that I spent that long year’s convalescence at home just when I should have been starting school. Just as I had no reason or context for those timeless times on the old quilt in the orchard, I have none for where I come to find myself now. Practice is not even a way there. I think it is no more than a clearing of the way to where I already am.

1 thought on “Without time

  1. Pingback: Without Time | Silent Assemblies

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