Listening to the waves and the birds

Some time ago a member of our meditation group went to stay with her sister in the Channel Islands. She had just had a major operation and sought, as she said, to regain her ‘physical, emotional and spiritual strength’. ‘I am barely able to meditate at present’, she wrote, ‘but as I walk on the huge and almost deserted beaches, where the only sounds are from the waves and the birds, I repeat, “God is here. God is now. God is forever.”’

Whenever we are recovering from shock, illness, bereavement or heartbreak, we all need such a place such as King Arthur dreams of in Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur:

The island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair, with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea,
Where I may heal me of my grievous wound.

I replied that just by walking, seeing, listening, and above all being, my friend was already meditating! Once her strength fully revived she could return to the formal practice. I also pointed out that, as Buddhism teaches, we do not meditate for ourselves but for all sentient beings and so, at a time of weakness or convalescence, we should lean back on the meditations and prayers of others, allowing ourselves to be carried on their pinions, allowing Nature to do its own work of healing.

‘Meditation and the pursuit of wisdom should always issue forth in acts of compassion for others.’ These are the words of the Dalai Lama. In a subsequent e-mail my friend wrote, ‘ I go and walk by the sea and it reminds me that it is enough to listen to the waves and the birds, to watch the sea and the sky, to feel the supple strength of the saplings I hold onto as I scramble up and down the banks in the wood, to smell the damp earth and mulched leaves. It tells me that I can be still and allow things to come to me.’

4 thoughts on “Listening to the waves and the birds”

  1. Carried on the pinions of others whilst in hospital for a few days, your blogs are a source of nourishment. Among their many riches I find inspiration to explore and gain from this experience of being so dependent on others.
    As a member of your meditation group, I have come to think and feel my way into understanding more about Grace. It was such a puzzlement when taught to me as a child, with illustrations of a bird, descending on the heads of others, radiating light; or flying in through a window to deliver an invisible gift called immaculate conception, (the only sort of conception mentioned by the nuns in my convent school).
    An important source of Grace is our ordinary, every day relationships with others. When I was a child I saw Grace as a current, delivered from above like electricity, that we should all learn to plug into (how exactly, never clear) to produce extraordinary changes in the world. Now I know it as a current that flows from many sources, a golden currency of exchange between people, changing each others inner worlds, powerfully changing each others inner worlds
    We arrive in this world trailing clouds of glory, and birth is an embodiment of new love. As infants we are instinctively attuned to relate to others in a way that not only signals what we need, but also gives joy and fulfillment to those who respond to us. If, as we grow older, we find states of enforced dependency make us anxious, we can meditate on retuning the dial to recapture the gift of receiving gracefully and gratefully.
    Thank you, James for what you write, and thank you Tony for making these meditations it so freely and easily available.
    CR

  2. ‘Mindfulness’, or ‘secular Buddhism’ as its being called is sweeping the air waves this week!
    Seems to me James Roose Evans with his many writings and Meditation group is a long
    time forerunner in this field. Sound of Silence now an authentic voice opened to a digitalised
    World. Hurrah!

  3. My own form of meditation is to chant and therefore noisy so I find myself longing for silence. Difficult in a full house, with a family coming & going and in the middle of London. Thank you James for sharing your thoughts on this subject – they take me to a silent place. By the way, I was encouraged the other day by going to a preliminary meeting in Parliament for the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness! Much needed.

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