Ten thousand flowers in spring,
the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer,
snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.
~ Wu-men ~
The changing of seasons. Who can’t relate?
Here in Boston, I can feel the end of summer creeping in. The sun is going down earlier and the nights are getting longer. That cool, autumn air is starting to poke its head around the corner.
On the one hand, I love fall. Autumn in New England is simply the best. The leaves are changing, football is right around the corner, and it’s almost apple picking season.
But then summer never lasts long enough, does it? I’m sad to see it go. I’ll miss beach days and barbecues and breezy nights by the water.
And then you look back and think “Man, the year is just flying by.”
It seems like just yesterday it was New Year’s day. And now all of the sudden it’s September.
Where does the time go?
This year, as summer turns to fall, I’m thinking about a Koan by Wu-Men called “10,000 Flowers in Spring”, or “The Best Season Of Your Life”. It’s a beautiful description of the paradox of the seasons—a dilemma that is probably more pronounced in New England than just about anywhere else in the world.
In winter, we look forward to Spring.
In summer, we look forward to winter.
And then all of the sudden, another year has passed. “Where did the time go?” we find ourselves asking as we get ready for Thanksgiving.
It’s human nature. The passage of time isn’t linear. Sometimes it crawls along, and sometimes years pass in the blink of an eye.
Wu-Men says that with an unclouded mind, THIS season is the best season of your life.
This is the best season of your life
I think we can all get behind that sentiment. But like most aspects of mindfulness, it’s easy to say and difficult to practice.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I can certainly relate in my own experience.
I feel like I’ve had a great summer. I got some sun. I traveled with my fiancé. I took some photos of stars. I spent some time with my friends. I became a little less terrible at golf. It’s been a really enjoyable summer overall.
But just like everything, it’s fleeting.
I want to hold on. I’m tempted to fight it. To somehow resist the arrival of fall and deny the passage of time.
But like a good little Buddhist, I try to embrace impermanence.
THIS is the best season of my life. Heck, it’s the best moment of my life, because it’s the only moment of my life.
It’s tough to remember Wu-Men’s Koan when you’re buried under six feet of snow in the winter, or sweating your ass off on a muggy afternoon in the summer.
Again, I can only talk about my own experience. And I don’t know much, but I do know that meditation helps.
It helps me to slow down—to avoid rushing through each moment, in order to get to the next moment.
For example, every year, I look forward to football season. It’s hard not to when you’re a Patriots fan. Sometimes I find myself lost in thought in the middle of May, wondering how many days are left until training camp.
So I try to remember to slow down. To enjoy each season for what it is.
And this morning, walking through downtown Boston, I was struck by the beauty of the city in a way that I rarely am. The sun reflecting off the windows of a skyscraper. A cement truck screaming by on its way to pour some concrete. It was all a part of a beautiful whole.
It’s those little moments that help me to avoid feeling like time is slipping away.
And it sounds like a cliché, but the more time I spend meditating, the more frequent those little moments become. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.
It’s up to me
So it’s okay that summer is almost over. And while I can’t say that my mind is unclouded, I do know that it’s up to me whether or not this season will be the best season of my life.