Photo/Text © 2011 Sean M. Madden. All Rights Reserved.
I took the above photograph with my iPhone on Sunday evening. Mufidah and I were both working, sitting on the couch with our respective laptops, when we noticed an eerie eclipse-like light cast upon the creamy white walls of the building opposite. We hurried outside, looking around for the optimal lookout from which to see the horizon. That place was the west-facing benches between Lewes Castle, just a few doors down from our flat, and Castle Banks, the steep, short road leading down to the Elephant & Castle pub.
Another couple who were likewise in pursuit of the best vantage point jogged up the hill and joined us, and, together, we shared those final glorious moments gazing upon this sunset.
From 2004 to 2005, I lived alone in a casita on Mt. Atalaya in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I was studying Eastern philosophy and classics for my second master's degree at St. John's College, my first, the Western version of the same, having been earned a year before in Annapolis, Maryland. Most evenings that I wasn't in class I'd climb further up the mountain to a place I called Sunset Rock — to watch the sun set across the Rio Grande Valley, a sprawling expanse far below — and I would meditate while watching the ever-shifting skies. These skies would remind me that nothing stands still nor is replicable. Every moment is fresh, a new beginning, the start of a new cycle.
And this takes me back to The Book of Changes, or the I Ching, and in particular Hexagram 50, the inspiration for my previous post.
This hexagram, symbolized by a cauldron or empty vessel (as discussed in that previous post), advises one to let go of the old and tired, and to create something new which serves all of society, to "transform the raw into the beneficial". But in this forging ahead, it also counsels the noble person to serve with the greatest humility, to be as empty as the vessel itself.
Zhouyi points to the writing of words worthy of being cast into bronze, to the serving of others, and to the creating of a vessel which unites all our concerns. In addition to my strengthened commitment to my own writing, this might very well also point to my Mindful Living Guide work, my working with students and one-to-one clients to guide and mentor them with regard to their writing and living mindfully. Yet, I know myself, and Hexagram 50 suggests as much, that this work must grow. Some of my long-term students have recognized this need to take my work and expand it beyond its present form, that which has provided for my daily bread and inspired and nourished me in countless crucial ways these past few years.
And over this past year I have been doing exactly that, expanding the horizons of the work I do in the Mindful Living Guide realm in fresh, new ways, as well as over the past month or two reaching out far more proactively to folk inhabiting shores distant from my local stomping grounds here in the South East of England. But a definite shift is in the works, a discarding of some old ways of doing things which no longer serve, with a simultaneous move beyond the tending to a relative few scattered seeds to the raising of a full-fledged crop.
That task, the casting of new seeds and a new cycle, is the work of the present moment. How exactly it will play out no one knows, least of all myself. But that is the endeavor at hand. And autumn — with its seasonal reminders for us to slow down, to take stock, and to reconsider and regather our resources — is an auspicious time to complete, or draw down, one cycle so as to embark upon a new, perhaps more ambitious, more thunderous one.