Sheltering the Heart

A recent walk took us past dozens of picnic tables leaning against each other — upright on their sides — to wait out winter.

When I lean physically, I have the sense of being off balance. Mentally it’s much the same:

  • When I lean back mentally (dwell on the past), I’m not fully present.
  • When I lean forward mentally (dwell on the future), I’m not fully present.
  • When I lean into center — now — I’m in the present moment.

In Chinese calligraphy the word mindfulness is expressed by two characters: The top character (a shelter) represents the word now; below that is the character for heart. The literal translation means bringing the heart into the present.


Does your heart reside in the shelter of now?

© Laurie Buchanan

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Credit: The Chinese symbol for mindfulness used in this post was created by Japanese-born calligrapher and writer Kazuaki Tanahashi.

79 thoughts on “Sheltering the Heart

  1. So very true.Laurie.The chinese letters will serve as a good visual cue.I enjoy a magazine titled”Mindful”.
    phone no-1-855-492-1675. Someone from this group might be interested.
    One has to be always aware andreally practice this till this science becomes an atrform within oneself.

  2. What a beautiful text, Laurie. You got me thinking. I am trying to stay in the present but it’s sometimes a bit difficult, my mind takes me to the past and then I often dwell on the mistakes I’ve made, or in the future and then I wonder what will happen if I do this or if I do that. Then I miss wonderful things that are happening in this moment. So I’m trying to stay here and now, without those distractions. (I am really sorry for my bad English, it’s not my mother tongue).

  3. Laurie, it doesn’t benefit me to rehash the past over and over, it doesn’t change a thing, with the exception of learning from mistakes made. I do visit the future on occasion to visualize where and how I would like to be someday. But the Present holds so much for me, I am afraid to take my eyes off of it for more than a minute lest it get away from me! Beautiful analogy.

  4. Your question has called for a mind/heart correction today. Leaning backward or forward too far precedes a fall.

    I like how you illustrated the problem/solution with the picnic tables and Chinese calligraphy. Once again, you have captured the essence of mindful living. Thank you for the encouragement to stay centered.

  5. I hope it does, at least I ask my heart to be in the shelter of now! But when I looked at the photo, I thought about us leaning on each other for shelter.

  6. I am a great believer in mindfulness and try to use it on a day to day basis but I find it hard . Since living in Wales I have found a wonderful Pranic Breathing teacher …that keeps me in the present but when I get hone I’m doolally again . My Husband says ‘You pay good money to breath and it don’t do you a jot of good ‘ Men what do they know lol

  7. What a fabulous, succinct post, Laurie. Interestingly, I had just commented on another friends’ blog this morning about the beauty of being “in the moment.” It’s such a simple concept, yet one that is lost on so many of us as we’re distracted by social media, television, news — all those distractions of the past and future — instead of stopping and just BEING. I’m guilty of it, too. Such a terrific reminder.

  8. I tend to be a little like a tall fir tree Laurie. I can lean in all directions a fair distance without falling over but none of these are stationary. In small or large circles I keep coming back to center and now. So I suppose the roof over my house is the sky – this is where my heart resides under the now.

  9. I’m sure you noticed, Laurie, that the top brush stroke of the Chinese calligraphy and the angle of the picnic tables bear a resemblance to each other.

    You asked if my heart resides in the center of now. Having just returned from five days with grandchildren, I can answer, “Yes, I know this feeling, this place.” I don’t always know it, of course, but as I turn to an essay with a deadline, I hope to write it from my center to the world. Your post, as always, pulls me toward that center. Thank you.

  10. Hi Laurie

    I like the Buddhist idea of “big mind”, so that one is centred in the present, and extensive through space and time (aware and not overly focussed upon either the future or the past).

    In this fashion one has the greatest amount of time both in terms of awareness of things coming and to choose the most appropriate actions in the present, and awareness of things past with time to learn the lessons present in those experiences, and always mindful of what is here and now.

    So yes – most certainly centred in the now, and not to the exclusion of either the future or the past or any other aspect of the context of being.

    Certainly there is pathology in either longing for futures without taking appropriate actions in the present, or in dwelling in the past without bringing forth the lessons from that past into the present.

    Certainly one must be present to one’s own needs, and not to the exclusion of the needs of others.

    Centred and expansive (in all dimensions on can conceive or appreciate)!

    • Ted — CENTERED and EXPANSIVE. Yes! I love what you said: “Most certainly centred in the now, and not to the exclusion of either the future or the past or any other aspect of the context of being.” Thank you for sharing the Buddhist idea of Big Mind here 🙂

  11. Thanks Laurie. It makes perfect sense although I hadn’t thought about it that way. I read a post this morning about the cognitive enhancement resulting from Mindfulness and now your post. Trying to live the present…a moment at a time. Have a lovely week.

  12. Laurie, my Blue Brain has loved being Orange and in the moment with our Thanksgiving holiday family celebration and promoting “Purr-fect Pals” A Kid, A Cat & Diabetes”. My yoga practice encourages me to stay in the moment and also the knowledge that I will be 70 years of age in February. Enjoying every moment at this stage of my personal and professional is a joyful blessing!

  13. Gosh… there’s a difficult question! I worry quite a lot as I get older. Does that mean I’m dwelling too much on the future? On a possible future. Perhaps not always a realistic one…

  14. Laurie — I’m afraid my heart is pulled in many directions: out west to my daughter in San Francisco, to eternity where my sister now lives, to the present where my darling granddaughter and my step-daughter keep me company, to the future where I hope to find some romantic love, to the past where I wish I had loved them all better . . .

  15. My heart is certainly in the now as I have too much emotional investment to even think I should be bogged down with nostalgia, and I am a rather nostalgic person at that. I certainly do agree that the leaning either way can never lead to a soulful revelation. Lovely post Laurie!

  16. presently working on emails and replies after 7 days off the computer – I am so relaxed and not leaning at all – Liangong also works on my balance as I repair the damage to my body after last years fall…

    these words are a wonder full present

  17. Love this. I guess the upshot of this is that your heart is protected in the moment–even when it feels like it is not. Going into the future and the past are often our fears fleeing from the moment.

  18. my Latin motto for decades: memento mori, carpe diem et gaudeamus igitur! = remember you’ll die, live this very day and therefore, enjoy it to the fullest! 🙂 you may know Ronsard’s lines:“Take my advice and live now, do not wait until tomorrow! Pick up the roses of life this very day… time goes on, my Lady, alas! – not time, but we go away…” 🙂 (Pierre de Ronsard)
    * * *
    I love Chinese characters, too… 🙂

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