Words of WonderWhen-the-shoe-fits-Thomas-Merton

Ch’ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.

No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
“For” and “against” are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.

by Thomas Merton


A perhaps slightly abstract poem that came to mind as I was preparing for an exploration of mindfulness and creativity, speaking about that often quite elusive space of being fully in the moment doing something you love, and the dissolving of the doing and the doer that can happen there.

I noticed with curiosity that this poem was written by the American Catholic monk Thomas Merton; it appears in his book ‘The Way of Chuang Tzu‘ (1965), which is his take on Chuang Tzu’s lessons of Taoism. Of course, Thomas Merton was very interested in other faiths (particularly Eastern religions) and in interfaith dialogue, although that was unusual in his time. It raises interesting questions about translations and interpretations, more about that for example here

Letting the words just drop into my heart rather than trying to make sense of them in my head, they invite me to relax my habitual trying-hard approach, a surrendering to the process rather than too much focus on the desired outcome. They open the possibility of ease… it reminds me of playing ping pong with a friend on Holy Isle who was great at it, and his smiling prompts for ‘easy trying’ which made such a difference to the quality of my play. And it readily translates to the rest of life too, including to meditation practice and creating something that wasn’t there before… I wonder what’s all possible if we found ourselves more often in the ‘right and easy way’! What would you like to practice doing in this way?


PS if you’d like to explore together that place where mindfulness and creativity meet, there’s a weekend in the beautiful Salisbury Centre in Edinburgh coming up at the end of August 2022, more info here

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash