I have just returned from a relaxing and reflective time away at a Buddhist retreat centre in Sussex called Rivendell. The centre took its name from J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Whilst I was there I decided to reread the book. It described Rivendell – the house of Elrond and the magical realm of the elves. I took pleasure in the words as they aptly described my experience of the retreat centre.
“That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all’. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”
During my time at Rivendell I walked in the beautiful gardens and surrounding woods, feeling the moist, damp foliage under my feet. The trees and hedgerows were alive with birdsong. I also took a rare delight in resting on my bed in the afternoon.
I stayed in a rather warm and cosy shepherds hut located in the gardens and it was during these afternoon periods I would often see from the small window by my bed all the local birds in the trees and hear their various birdsongs serenading me.
After several days, there was one particular bird that I looked forward to seeing. A small robin would come and sit on a branch by my window and I would delight in seeing its magnificent orange breast as it hopped from branch to branch. As I lay looking at the robin, I felt a sense of wonder and mystery in the ordinary beauty of this moment. Tears came and I felt my heart surrender to the tender glimpse of life before me. This meeting with the robin felt like a calling to pause, connect and come home to myself once again.
It is easy to be lost in the world, lost in our work and lost in our relationships. We can forget who we are and what is really of value and meaning to us.
Sometimes these small ordinary moments such as the encounter with the robin go unseen or unacknowledged in our desire for life to offer us something bigger and more exciting; but if we are willing to honour these simple moments then just maybe the ordinary will come alive.
Make the Ordinary come Alive
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
‘That Parent’s Tao Te Ching’ – William Martin