The same stream of life that runs
through my veins night and day runs
through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and
breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle
of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world
of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages
dancing in my blood this moment.
by Rabindranath Tagore
I came across this rich celebration of interbeing from the Bengali poet Tagore today as I was looking for something in my pile of scribbled and printed poems, and was struck again by its rhythm and flow and the sense of belonging it gives me. I love the emotive description of that stream of life: ‘dancing in rhythmic measures’, shooting with joy, breaking into ‘tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers’. What an amazing world to be part of, when looking in this way…
It reminded me of my explorations of Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects, where – after deeply experiencing gratitude and suffering, and before going forth into action – she leads us into Seeing with New Eyes. These ‘new eyes’ perceive a world in which everything is interdependent, where I’m not disconnected from the suffering that’s happening elsewhere, and where the power and inspiration of others can fuel my own. In the Engaged Mindfulness weekend we investigate her work, and every time I’m touched by the power of realising this aliveness and deep connection.
It also resonated with Paul Gilbert’s concept of the flow of life that I am exploring with a group in Edinburgh this weekend, as part of the Level 2 Compassion material. He emphasises the connection between this body I live in and that of my ancestors, stretching back to the beginning of life on earth through the process of evolution – and the feeling it leaves me with is similar to what I experience in these words from Tagore: an awe-inspiring depth of connectedness that cuts through my usual story of being this little separate self with my private joys and challenges.
The third connection I felt in reading the poem, was with the work of Thich Nhat Hanh – particularly in his concept of interbeing (eloquently explained here). I recently revisited Thich Nhat Hanh’s work, and was freshly moved by this abundant and prolific source of inspiration… The media has called him “the Father of Mindfulness” and while that perhaps is a bit of a grand term for a quality that is innate in every one of us, I can see why this is said about him.
And reflecting now, I’m struck by the connections between this Bangali poet born in 1861, the American scholar and eco-activist, the British ‘compassion professor’ and the Vietnamese Buddhist monk – all pointing in the same direction: you are more infinitely connected than you realise, and if you do realise, your ‘limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life’ and you may find a source of pride ‘from the life-throb of ages, dancing in your blood this moment’. How completely amazing!