I was recently asked why we have Enso as our symbol for The Mindful Life.
Enso is very associated with Zen and can mean simply a circle, or infinity, or a moment in time when the mind is free enough to create. It's a symbol that's been with our enterprise since the beginning. It reminds me of the 'freedom possibility' of the mind, but also that in our continuous participation in compassionate action we create a momentum, a virtuous circle of practice.
In the case of our focus on Carers we remind ourselves that we too are prepared to do our own part to enhance life. After I painted this Enso I was interested in how much it reminded me of the Milky Way. It wasn’t solid: the spaces on the canvas where the paint did not settle were like stars to me. In that small painting I felt all of space.
The space that offers perspective is healing to us; sometimes we have to travel very far from ourselves to gain a sense of perspective on our lives and our challenges. Sometimes we just have to sit where we are and let perspective come to us. Mindfulness can be like that.
Carers do wonderful and hard jobs for those they are committed to. The Mindful Life is committed to resourcing Carers in that endeavour. The programme we have designed is a perspective-opening activity. In one day we can help Carers to put the brakes on, to learn some tools that can create the sensation of calm and space in an otherwise crowded life. On that day we put Carers first. And we sustain that support with our 1-2-4 follow-up talks. We know that being able to access that sense of calm and space inside ourselves needs practice. If we can’t adjust our circumstances to make them more beneficial, we have to work to change our thinking about our circumstances. Mindfulness is essentially creating a more friendly environment in your own head. In other words, your mind becomes a nurturing home for the life that you and your body are leading.
When you paint an Enso, ideally you have only one focus. It's an experience of flow, a relationship between your arm, your hand, the brush and the paper. Paint flows. There is no time for worrying “Am I getting it right?”. Its the sort of intimacy that comes with committing yourself to just doing something. Intimacy may seem like a strange word to use at this point, but intimacy is at the heart of caring, just as it is at the centre of mindfulness: it is trying to become familiar with the everyday of our existence in such a way that we can allow it to actually teach us something.
Many years ago I took my mother to the doctor for an examination. She was by then in her 80s and the doctor asked if he could listen to her chest. I stood up to help her remove her clothing. Standing there, in an unguarded moment, her head moved down to allow me to help her pull off her jumper and there was her small white back. There was my hand, there was her soft skin rarely uncovered and there were the bones of her shoulder blades. I remember catching my breath and feeling my throat constrict in tenderness. It was all Enso. Many years before she dressed and undressed me. My skin and my bones were under her hands. The circle continues. Caring is intimate, gritty, rewarding, tiring, emotional tragic and funny. These are things worth supporting.