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.’