Mono no aware

Mono no aware has always resonated with me.  It is a Japanese concept referring to impermanence and the fleeting nature of beauty.  It refers to a wistfulness, inferring that the transience of life makes it all the more poignant. Sometimes referred to as “an empathy towards things”, it describes a bitter sweetness in our experience of being human.  It is traditionally illustrated by the image of cherry blossoms; the short term nature of the beautiful flowers followed by their absence.

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At different times in my life I have had a greater or a lesser sense of mono no aware.  I remember feeling invincible at times, like the rules didn’t apply to me.  On the face of it you might imagine this was a carefree and enjoyable existence and at times it was.  However on the same thread there was an unavoidable recklessness to it.  I also remember feeling for a longer while than I would like as if life hadn’t started yet, like it was possible to hit a ‘pause’ button.  This of course, is not possible and whilst I believe all our experiences make up who we are, the option of rewind and replay buttons have felt appealing at times.

Mono no aware suggests that we experience things more intensely when we are aware of their impermanence, something that I feel I have grown to appreciate (although I’ve no doubt it will only become more apparent as time goes on).  The idea that fluidity makes the colours more vivid & the landscape more beautiful. Watching my son grow and change in the knowledge that this time is so short.  Spending time with family and friends in the knowledge that the time that we all have together is fleeting, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

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That said, the notion of constant change being the one constant is sometimes hard to accept, let alone embrace.  This particularly within a culture that often seems to promote a sense of control and power, however much of an illusion this might be.  ‘Wabi-sabi’ includes acceptance and imperfection as part of a similar Japanese concept; imperfection being an essential part of beauty; acceptance being the key to human comfort.

So often for me it is separating what it is possible to change from what I might need to accept and perhaps let go of.  This has become all the more significant when thinking about my son, how he needs me to be able to facilitate change whilst remaining constant; to hold him and at the same time let him go.  It’s through my experiences with him that mono no aware seems all the more relevant; all the more important to bear in mind and not just for myself.  The hellos and goodbyes, the change from summer to autumn, an excitement about the cosy coming winter; we will never have these moments again.  I want to enjoy all the cherry blossoms before letting them go freely on the breeze.

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Show your working out

I remember spending a large portion of my early twenties looking around and marvelling at how other people seemed to be able to do things that I could only dream of doing half as well, and even then the likelihood would be that I would make an embarrassing hash of it.  A little later I started to realise that I too could have a bash at things; I got my degree, I got married, I got my first social work job, we moved from London to Brighton and we got our super charged Sprocker spaniel.

In the years that followed I completed my counselling training and started working with children and families in a more therapeutic capacity – something I had always hoped to do.  I also continued to be an adoring wife to my dear husband, moved to Dorset and in December of last year, became a mother to our beautiful little boy.

I could choose to portray this as a very straight forward journey.  In reality of course this was a journey full of twists and turns, a voyage with no map and no compass. and certainly no sat nav.  Details I have not included in my brief summary, to name a few, include; the myriad of complex decisions that had to be negotiated between my husband and I every step of the way; the continuing dialogue about how we negotiate our journey together, whilst staying true to our own individual paths, and my own excruciating uphill struggle to build and maintain even a shred of confidence in myself at times.

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This is not to say that these struggles or challenges are by any means complete, we are still very much on the journey.  I suppose what I had struggled to grasp for a long time was that the art is in the becoming, and that maybe our ‘arrival’ looks different from different perspectives, but ultimately we are still always becoming.  This is all the more powerful now being a mother; in my growth as a parent and poignantly in getting to know our son a little more day by day, who he is now and who he might become tomorrow.

Embracing every part of the journey, including its detours, its meanderings and its reconfigurations allows a certain freedom, permission to be allowed to make mistakes and to grow from them.  As someone who finds numbers a challenge, calling my blog ‘show your working out’ seems a fitting place to start, as much of a reminder to myself as anything else.  What I found paralysing in earlier years was the belief that unless I was ‘good’ at something to begin with, then I really shouldn’t go any further with it.  Embracing the process itself can make a difference between whether we feel fear or excitement, between curiosity and moving forward or whether we become something more stationary.

I am trying to write bearing in mind the bits that it might be appealing to leave out, being mindful of the potential for the glitter of gold in the muddy stream.  I am also writing whilst taking a break from my career and spending some very precious time with our baby son.  Writing from the place of a new role and a new journey to navigate.

Incidentally, as I  was finishing the notes for this post, with one hand on the laptop and one hand around our son, he climbed up from my lap, insisted on  kissing all of my face, in particular my eyes and explored each ear with unbridled love and insatiable curiosity.  May we never lose that.

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