Most people can read a book with words but not one without words, and they can play a lyre with strings but not one without strings. How can they derive tranquil pleasure from a book or a lyre, when they exercise their intelligence only on the material, but not on the spiritual, aspect of things?
Sitting by a teapoy in a room bathed with pure breezes and moonbeams, one can read the mind of Heaven in every thing. Walking along a running brook in the clouded mountain, one can observe the mysteries of the Tao in every moment.
The more childish and unworldly a person’s disposition is, the more happiness he gets from such simple things as air, water, sun, earth-mould, sand, leaves, bread, butter, honey, or the still more primeval sensation of a certain delicious drowsiness in his own limbs. This is what I mean by my recurrent image of the ichthyosaurus. What I am trying to indicate by “the ichthyosaurus-sensation” is nothing less than this simple primeval happiness in the immediate experience of being alive. To blink at that mysterious god, the sun; to stare at that equivocal goddess, the moon; to watch the incredible shapes of the clouds, as they pile up above the horizon; to observe, in early afternoon, a certain yellowish light upon a brick wall; to note a certain dark-blue wave of colour, as it sinks down upon the roofs of a city after sunset; to catch the ink-black silhouettes of bare branches against a November sky, just before the windows are lamp-lit in a roadside village; to feel the ploughed-up earth under your feet, and a cold wet wind upon your face; to sit over a fire of wood or of red coals, thinking the long thoughts of vague race-memories–all these things, belonging to a world of psychic-physical sensations that go back to the beginnings of consciousness, are the stuff of which the secret of life is made.
After the ground has been swept, dust-clouds roll over it. When one begins to act, obstacles arise. After the pool has been dug, the moon shines on it. When one makes one’s mind void, illumination is begotten.
A man can apprehend Truth at another’s intimation, but he will stray from it. Hence that is not so enlightening as apprehending it completely by himself. And he can secure a pleasure from an extraneous source, but he will lose it. Therefore that is less secure than an ecstasy from within.
There is a happiness called pure happiness, and it is enjoyed by him who has neither too much nor too little. Though he is not recognised by the world and possesses neither position nor wealth, yet he enjoys his peace of mind and leisure hours. He lives in a house which is sufficient to protect him from wind and rain. He wears cotton cloth, and enjoys simple vegetable food. He reads books quietly, and enjoys poetry. To follow the teaching of the Sages is his delight, to see and feel the beauty of Nature his joy. Friends he has also who share with him this pure and simple pleasure in life.
Mountains and forests are scenes of wonder. Once they are frequented by people, they are debased into market-places. Calligraphy and paintings are things of beauty. Once they are craved by people, they are degraded into merchandise.
From The Serpent and the Wave: A Guide to Movement Meditation (1995), by Jalaja Bonheim.
To rebalance ourselves, we must consciously search out empty places. Spend some time in the desert or by the ocean. Lie down on a hillside and gaze into the sky, or into the infinity of a starlit night. Create an empty, uncluttered, yet beautiful space in your home–a room with white walls, a simple seat, and perhaps a flower, or a candle. Dare to spend more time alone, granting yourself moments of nothingness–of sitting quietly, breathing, just being. Such spaces of simplicity and non-doing are healing medicine. In the same way, the most healing movements are empty ones, free of intention and purpose. Like the wind, like the falling of snowflakes, they simply are. We need open spaces inside us. We should take care not to obliterate such spaces, for they are like the stained glass windows in a cathedral, letting in the sunlight.
Worldly renown is naught but a breath of wind, which now comes hence and now comes thence, and changes name because it changes quarter. What more fame shalt thou have, if thou strippest old flesh from thee, than if thou hadst died ere thou hadst left the pap and the chink, before a thousand years have passed?–which is a shorter space compared to the eternal than a movement of the eyelids to the circle that is slowest turned in Heaven.
From The Thoughts of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonius , by Marcus Aurelius Antonius. (Written circa 170 CE; translated by George Long in 1862).
Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the co-operating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web.