Aging, Leadership, Mindfulness, Nature

Circle of Life

As we see many circular patterns in the architecture of our lives the more we realize we are drawn to forms conveying round, soft-curving lines of connection.  At first glance these symbols appear to be nothing more than circles; yet, the shape refers to the beginning, middle and end of all things – the circle of life and the interconnectedness all around us. During a recent mountain hike I was attracted to a circular image upon the earth of pinyon pine needles.  It was crafted by the nature resembling a brush stroke of an Enso – a Japanese word for circle.  Gifting it to my mother, and she placed it on a painted canvas and indeed it looked like a Japanese paintbrush Enso.  In the instances where we are captivated by symbols and shapes in everyday life, we may not initially realize the information that is present. By understanding the significance as to what a circle stands for, we find comfort in the wholeness and cyclical nature of its form.  In Zen Buddhism monks and nuns meditate many months with extreme discipline and then brushstroke with one solid stroke a circle.  The circle is not designed to be perfect; yet, rather a perfect reflection of the painter’s state of mind.  This Enso is something remarkably simple and beautiful – emptiness within fullness.

This experience stuck with me and on another trip wanting to commune with nature to commemorate my 50th Birthday as I checked into a cabin in Idyllwild.  Immediately upon entering my cabin a large circular window delightfully appeared.  The window framed a serene magical forest densely carpeted in leaves among stately trees.  Again I was reminded in that moment to find my inner Enso.  Encapsulating the circular window was a square frame and suddenly there was a duality of thought.  The sphere is limitless and formless and so are we.  Everything in the cosmos moves in continuums, our entire universe shifts and forms circuitously. A circle stands for the completion of many of our cycles and transitions.  It symbolizes the natural order and progression to keep living.  Our lives are not linear, and growth is never straight.
In Robert Fulghum’s book on rituals, “From Beginning to End” he states that between our first inhale at birth and the last exhale at death are a series of little deaths and revivals.  We grow up, go off to school, marry, have children, experience personal health issues and those of our loved ones; yet, one thing remains constant, all of our exits may become entrances and our entrances become exits.  Fulghum notes, “whatever the name, however large or small the act, the urge to reassemble the fragments of our lives into a whole is the same.” In our Western culture we are rushing to keep things whole by filling something, doing something, making something, fixing something or saying something.  The concept of the Enso circle reminds one to live allowing for this open embracement towards the Zen Buddhist teaching “form is empty, and emptiness is form.”

These lessons of the circle were immensely helpful to embrace a birthday with positive takeaways. I had reached a milestone birthday more as an entrance into a dynamic new cycle and less as a step that was done over a finish line. Irrespective of the lesson, if we want to move towards long-lasting health and healing, we must view our vitality as a circle that never ends.  Sit still and listen to what an Enso means to you upon your wellness journey.


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