Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I was crashing through the underbrush of the internet yesterday when I came upon a video of Ajahn Chah, a Buddhist monk from Thailand who studied in the Forest Tradition. One of the things he spoke of in the video was harmony with nature, which struck me as being especially apropos as we begin to reach the heart of winter here in the Midwest.

As someone who hates cold, wet, icy, and otherwise unpleasant weather conditions... winter can feel a bit difficult sometimes. It tests my patience and tries my mood. It saps my color and ratchets up the tension in my shoulders and neck. This is particularly true now as my body attempts to reacclimate to temperatures a good twenty to thirty degrees below my winter experience of the last four years.

Chah's message about nature led me to thinking about the expectations I place upon myself and the resulting tension, disappointment, and/or anger I feel when I have "fallen short." This week, I noticed this pattern seems to become heightened in the winter... my lethargy increases, and my frustration at myself mounts because I am not doing enough.

But winter is all about slowing down. When we look to nature for a clue as to how to respond to the elements around us, we see increased sleep, a slower pace, and a greater sense of patience as life curls up around itself and calmly waits for the cold to pass.

Rather than fight my tiredness or rage against my body's failure to keep up with the tempo of summer, perhaps it is wiser to listen to the messages of my joints and head: Lie down. Be still. Stop rushing. Let go. Practice acceptance.

Rather than steep myself in guilt and berate the cravings of my stomach, perhaps it would be more useful to listen to the message from my gut: Eat more vegetables. Drink warm fluids. Don't underfeed yourself. Practice mindful eating.

And, rather than labeling myself a "bad mother," "terrible housewife," or "lazy, old good-for-nuthin," maybe I should take a lesson from the life around me: Prioritize the things that really need to get done. Focus on people, not things. Slow down and be patient; this too shall pass.

Mind you, I'm not suggesting I heard Ajahn Chah's message and decided it meant I could be sleepy, fat, and lazy. But I do think there is honesty in all three because each is anchored in a natural reaction to the order of things and the world around me in this moment. Each is an authentic response to life. And so, in moderation and with mindful awareness, each contains the possibility of a true expression of my Buddha nature within the context of winter.

Sleepy. Fat. Lazy.
Restful. Hearty. Calm.

May you embrace the lessons of the season. May you find harmony with the natural world and enjoy peace.

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