Our hands imbibe like roots,
so I place them on what is beautiful in this world.
And I fold them in prayer, and they
draw from the heavens
by St Francis of Assisi
interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky
A few days ago I was sitting and practicing with a sadness I felt around how life has changed due to the pandemic. As I sat, my attention settled into a more fundamental part of myself. I found I could rest back into appreciating the wonder and beauty of our world, which is always there no matter what goings on are going on.
I feel that this is what St. Francis is showing us in the first two lines in this poem from the book Love Poems from God. For me an image comes of hands being placed with care and gratitude on the bark of a tree, a loaf of bread, the cheek of a child, a beautiful object, a beloved pet. The palms of the hands are so sentient. I do feel how they can absorb and also give. I think that in a way St. Francis is also using hands as a metaphor for attention. In our mindfulness training we learn that what we place our attention onto has the power to change our mind/heart. So, in worrying times, let’s place it on what is beautiful. For me this feels like sustenance and renews my faith in life.
And then, what happens when we place our palms together? What is imbibed then? St. Francis says this can draw ‘from the heavens, light’. My meditation practice can feel like this (on a good day!), like a kind of prayer. Like a way to connect with love and compassion, which are at work each day and night both within me (albeit in a modest way and frequently masked by extensive displays of human imperfection!) and in the world. This is not to gloss over the suffering which we may be painfully aware of individually and collectively, and it’s not about living in la-la-land unaware of how much malintent and stupidity humans are capable of. For me, it’s about consciously uniting ourselves with our pre-existing capacity for goodness anyway – creativity, compassion, joy, selflessness, integrity it’s all here. It’s about seeing this all around us. It is there in the small details of our lives and in the big stories of our life-times. It is here in this moment. It is everywhere.
PS. If you would like to do a course devoted to practicing with the intention of remembering the Wonder of the Everyday you might want to consider this which begins in early January. You are also warmly invited to a free taster session for this course on Friday 10th December 2021 at 7pm here.