Last Autumn I made a pact with this ailing meadow: that by the following Spring, we would both be in bloom. In the cold, grey light of October, as I absorbed the detail of the dying grasses giving way to muddy, rain-sodden footfall, I asked the meadow to bloom stronger than before, the following year. The meadow replied with a forceful sea-breeze, cruelly blowing hard raindrops into my cold, red cheeks. Initially put out, I then took the rain to hold the emotion of my side of the pact - that which I needed to open up to in order to grow; and the wind to strengthen me each day, to blow away the cobwebs, the dead grasses, and to carry the seeds of change and renewal into beautiful growth.
Six months ago I was coming through a long period of uncertainty, at a time when every day seemed to bring me some great challenge to overcome. There were days I felt a nervous anticipation as I left the calm peaceful sanctuary of my bedroom, albeit with a reluctance to face the day, to face other people, to deal with the storm I was travelling through. The days when it would have been easier to sit in my meditations, to enjoy the peace within, to be surrounded by my own familiarity. I knew then, as I know now, that being a practitioner of mindfulness and meditation means bringing it into the everyday, not just to enjoy, contemplate or experience the moment I choose to be aware of, but to approach negative situations in the same way. To be empowered by the moment itself.
Therefore, the subdued, flowerless meadow reflected a deep part of me that I was only too aware of. In one sense, this meadow looked as though it was dying; however the beautiful reality was that it - as always - is teeming with life through the insects, birds, hedgerows and other wildlife which is reciprocally nurtured by her. Underneath the dull-looking landscape, growth and repair was busy at work, new life was coming into being. The Autumn may have robbed the meadow of her old life, but the Spring would bring renewal, change, growth and beauty.
I have heard some of my clients or friends ask me how difficult it is for me to be positive, all the time. There is an interesting assumption that, in order to be mindful, we have to see only the good things, to ignore the negative stuff.If we were all to do that, then not only would we be resisting the change, but we would be stifling the beauty which arises from going within to the baron meadow. To explore the mud, the dead grasses, to clear them and plant the new seeds to enjoy the growth, to allow change and beauty to shine through. To learn to accept the hard times, deal with them, then let go.
I'm not always positive. I have days when the world seems muted, when I feel as though I am in a void of negativity. Instead of succumbing to it, though, I plough my way through, examining, weeding, digging deeper to find the growth. All negative experience can teach us so much about our relationships with ourselves, as well as others, and of the experience itself. Sometimes it may seem not so much a meadow, but more of a swamp: a soupy, gloopy mess of stuff to sort through. But even swamps have life and growth.
Yesterday I visited the meadow for the first time in a while. She was proudly resplendent in cowslips and emerging clover. Showing off her beauty, the cowslips gently waved to me in the Spring breeze, like a crowd cheering on their team. Incessant chattering from the birds in the hedgerows, coupled with the quiet buzz of curious insect life existing happily amongst the floral landscape, non-judgementally shared the moment with me. For a while I lay on my tummy as I photographed this cowslip. The ground felt warm and comforting. I felt invited and welcomed. I felt life around me, within me. The meadow seemed to be smiling with me, affirming with me that I too had grown since Autumn, that I too was teeming with opportunity for further growth, change, and that I am starting to bloom.
As the saying goes, "change is the only constant in life".
Nikki Harman is a mindfulness tutor to adults and children. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.innerspaceproject.com