The Broken Bough

New Moon over Dublin. 2014.

New Moon over Dublin. 2014.

I passed the first flowering branch of Spring, white with desire.

A desire to have it for myself. Fragrant and fragile and so alive after these months of relentless grey.

I could not name this tree, nor what blossomed.

And just as quickly, I let it go — this desire; I was unable to touch the tree and take from it. There was no abundance there, and yet all the abundance of the coming year.

A few days later, another great wind came in the night and in the morning the streets were littered with debris. Again I passed by the flowering tree, this time forgetful of it.

But it did not forget me; there on the ground lay an enormous flowering bough of the tree, broken by the storm, leaving me free to take its beauty lest it now go to waste.


The Broken Bough. Fairivew, Dublin, 2014.


I more more mindful of the New Moon than usual — this supreme time of reflection and intention, of sowing dreams and waiting for some kind of manifestation to unfold.

I find that the cycle of desire and the cycle of the Moon often unfold as in the tale of the broken bough; when we desire, when we let go of that desire, when we forget. We come full circle only to discover that we have not been forgotten.

In a time of great transition and uncertainty it is all too easy to hold onto desire, to grasp and to take, even when there is not enough to go around, even when there is nothing there.

And then — the flowering of something we cannot name.

Sogyal Rinpoche illustrated this better than I can:

“Pick up a coin. Imagine that it represents the object at which you are grasping. Hold it tightly clutched in your first and extend your arm, with the palm of your hand facing the ground. Now, if you let go or relax your grip, you will lose what you are clinging to. That’s why you hold on.

But there’s another possibility: you can let go and yet keep hold of it! With your arm still outstretched, turn your hand over so it faces the sky. Release your hand and the coin still rests on your open palm. You let go and the coin is still yours, even with all this space around it. So there is a way in which we can accept impermanence and still relish life, at one and the same time, without grasping.

Life reveals again and again that letting go is the path to real freedom. Through weathering changes we can learn how to develop a gentle but unshakable composure. Our self-confidence grows greater until goodness and compassion begin naturally to radiate out from us, bringing joy to others. That fundamental goodness, which is in every one of us, is what survives death. The whole of our life is a teaching how to uncover that strong goodness, and a training toward realizing it. Difficulties and obstacles, if properly understood and used, can often turn out to be unexpected sources of strength.

With continued contemplation and practice in letting go, we come to uncover in ourselves “something” we cannot name or describe or even conceptualize, “something” we begin to realize lies behind all the changes and deaths of the physical world. As this happens we catch repeated and glowing glimpses of the vast implications behind the truth of impermanence. It is as if all our lives we have been flying in an airplane through dark clouds and turbulence, when suddenly the plane soars above these into the clear, boundless sky. Inspired and exhilarated by this emergence into a new dimension of freedom, we come to uncover a depth of peace, joy, and confidence in ourselves that fills us with wonder, and gradually breeds in us a certainty that there is in us “something” that nothing destroys, that nothing alters, and that cannot die. We become aware in ourselves of a calm and sky-like presence. We experience a personal, utterly non-conceptual revelation of what we are, why we are here, and how we should act. It is an experience of a new life, a new birth…almost, you could say, a resurrection.”

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying


What are you holding onto? What have you seen unfold when you release your desire?

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