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  • Writer's pictureRev. Clare Southall

The Green Tara with the Broken Foot: Mindfulness as Spiritual Practice

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

I had been to my local Buddhist Centre for a lunchtime meditation session and afterwards visited their shop to inquire whether they could find me a statue of a Green Tara (associated with fearlessness, spontaneous helpfulness and compassion) for my altar at home. They said they could order me one and a few weeks later I received a message that she had arrived but that she had a crack in her foot which they had repaired. It would therefore be fine to pay a reduced price, or in fact to choose a different Tara. I didn’t hesitate – the Green Tara with the broken foot was the one for me, and I would happily pay the full price! Why? Because if I have learned only one thing in the last few years with my off and on relationship with mindfulness meditation, it is that the joy is in the imperfection. The Japanese have words for this namely, wabi-sabi:

"Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

In truth for a number of years I struggled with my ‘practice’. I thought I had to be perfect at it, which I chose to mean sit still, have an empty mind, don't be distracted and keep this up for 20 minutes at a time to get the real benefit from it. When I couldn’t do that consistently I gave up, well almost…I knew in my heart it was worth persevering and today I include mindfulness in my daily routine as part of a wider and deeper spiritual practice. I am a recently ordained Interfaith Minister and my ministry is in essence to be a open-hearted companion, fully present to my own life and that of others around me, to be alongside and offer support, encouragement, compassion, generosity and good humour as we all travel through the full catastrophe of living. I don't find it easy to live up to this, but I know it is made easier with a grounded and embodied daily practice.

As a parent carer (with my husband) for our autistic teenager, and also increasingly for my ninety one year old dad, the every day ups and downs during lockdown have been especially challenging so my practice is to become more intimate with many aspects of my Self, the exhausted, the unreasonable and the irritable parts as well as the kind, compassionate, joyful and soulful parts. These days I combine the more traditional mindfulness ‘sitting’ practice with some Hindu chanting, sacred reading and spending time outdoors, mindfully connecting with nature. For me this helps with making the connection between heart, mind and soul and connects me to the world beyond myself. As in the quotation above it is not permanent, not finished, not perfect but right now it is what works for me.

So if you doubt whether your practice is good enough, or whether you will ever be able to do it correctly, just notice that, and let it go. The Japanese have another beautiful word in this context – the art of kintsugi, to join with gold. Not only can we embrace the flaws and the imperfection, we can paint gold into the cracks as well!

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