Meditatio 6: The Beauty of Belonging
For most of the pandemic, most of us tried to avoid any real travel. Only last summer, we cancelled our travel plans, brooded over un-refunded plane tickets, lost hotel bookings, and the prospect of vacations spent at home. The situation left us feeling ‘grounded.’ It felt unfair, sad and often oppressive as we fondly recalled memories of past vacations, perhaps spent travelling abroad. As restrictions are lifted, we begin to feel freer, to move about with greater ease. We begin to contemplate throwing off our shackles and rediscovering the world at large. But what if the ‘grounded’ feeling we had before is not one we should so quickly forget and discard? What if this ‘grounded feeling’, rather than being understood as a punishment, like a child is grounded by a parent or a teacher, could be interpreted as feeling ‘rooted’? Rooted, grounded, like a great tree is rooted in its native soil? What if our ‘grounded feeling’ had slowly reacquainted us with a sense of place? A mental space we had forgotten about?
I recently read a beautiful book titled An Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan, by Andy Couturier. The book is a collection of essays which outline the humble yet very meaningful lives of ten Japanese men and women who have chosen to live a simpler existence, at a remove from their country’s fast-paced, contemporary urban culture. ‘It’s important to me to be someone who has time,’ Gufu Watanabe explains. ‘There’s a term we have in Japanese, furyu: the characters are ‘wind’ and ‘flow’. Someone with furyu has time to write haiku, or can appreciate flowers, and they have space in their emotions to look at the moon or the stars (…) Those people who don’t have furyu are not full people.’’ I cited Mr. Watanabe in my first podcast episode, but I wanted to share with you the full quote, as I find it very beautiful, and profound.
I believe that what one rediscovers through a renewed sense of place, of ‘groundedness’, is precisely what this man describes: time to write poems and appreciate flowers and find the mental space within oneself to examine the moon and the stars. I also believe that, intrinsically, what makes this contemplative time so meaningful is that it reveals our rootedness in history, both natural and human. One cannot devote oneself to studying nature and not come away with a renewed sense of awe at the small but meaningful space we occupy in the great flow of time. If we choose to understand it, this awareness that can give us strength in the face of tragedy and trauma: the poetry of nature is the poetry of history.
This awareness, this acute sense of time and place transforms us through a different form of travel, a more emotional and spiritual form, one which allows us to chart a different course. Surely, at this strange moment in time when the world is slowly opening up again, it is a special power we cannot afford to pass up...
... To hear the rest of this article, please tune in to episode 2 of my podcast here!