‘If I become a centre of love and kindness in this moment, then perhaps in a small but significant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness that it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others.’Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Circle of Light is based on a story from my childhood. My mother remembers how when we were a young family in the 1960s someone encouraged her to bring us up so that together we formed a circle holding hands facing outwards. This has always been an important image for me.
A few years ago a good friend helped me design and make the ring of pottery figures shown in the photo above.
We decided to make all the figures the same size. We all vary in age, height, sex, skin colour etc, but we all have the same basic needs for water, food, safety, connection and love.
Once we dip below the surface of our ldifferences we connect with a sense of common humanity.
One of the aspects of mindfulness that I find particularly inviting is the fact that today the practice is being used by children and adults of all ages and across the globe.
The figures are holding hands as a sign of connection, friendship and support. Since I was young I have always enjoyed gathering people together be it for a meal, a party, a walk or for one of the courses that I offer.
Connection is known to be one of our three core needs alongside safety and satisfaction.
‘I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give a receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.’Brene Brown
I was delighted this morning when someone told me that by belonging to Deep Breath she felt part of a community and a real sense of friendship and support despite not actually being able to meet up.
I wanted the figures facing both towards and away from each other so for this reason we decided that the figures would have no facial features. I was keen to illustrate the idea that we come together to meditate and to replenish ourselves in order that we can then turn back to our families and society with more to offer.
Mindfulness is seen by some as a self indulgent act – I absolutely dispute this. Cultivating compassion is a central part of mindfulness and true compassion is about caring for oneself and as well as for others – these acts co-exist together – they are the two sides of the same coin.
‘From the beginning there was one primary and compelling reason for attempting to bring mindfulness into mainstream society. That was to relieve suffering and catalyse greater compassion and wisdom into our lives.’Jon Kabat-Zinn
When we do not care for our own suffering and difficulties we will experience what is known as compassion fatigue and be unable to give to others.
The candle represents our meditation practice. Within our time of practice we strengthen our innate capacity to live in the present moment whilst also cultivating the qualities of the heart: love and kindness, compassion, equanimity and balance, and joy, gratitude and generosity.
When it came to choosing an icon for Deep Breath the choice was easy. Quite by accident you will notice that the shape formed beneath the holding hands is a heart. I was delighted about this as another word for mindfulness is heartfulness.
A final thought:
I have read many articles recently about how an important it is for our mental health that we take time to connect with others at this time of lockdown.
We can make the most of friendships by listening mindfully, choosing our words carefully and by being fully interested in the other person. At the same time we need to be sure to savour and receive the care being offered to us too.
When my mother receives a letter that resonates for her she revisits the words over and over again often placing the letter under her pillow or by her bed. Each time she reads the words her mood lifts and she feels again the friendship and love and she smiles.
‘Experience by experience, synapse by synapse, you’ll be growing a core in yourself that feels valued, liked and loved: a solid base for real confidence.’Rick Hanson
Rick Hanson, a highly respected neuroscientist, invites us to savour times of connection so that the experience will be encoded in our long term memory bank. Later this memory can be revisited at a later date – a double whammy you might say.
The meditation below invites you to revisit and savour your friendships once again within your practice.
‘Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truely endless’Mother Teresa