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The physiotherapist Jacob removing the plaster from a young man's hand.

Tending and Attention

No matter what inner difficulty or outer suffering we may experience, in tending to the darkness with compassion we will discover this same unstoppable life force.

Jack Kornfield (1996)


The etymology of tend shows a sense of pushing oneself, making an effort, stretching to achieve something; when this is coupled with the amplifying preposition at- we are reminded that attending Fisherman mending his net at sunset. A page on the cognate word attention and the way it is involved in meditation. is not a passive or quiescent state, but rather requires all our skills and concentration - as shown here on the face of the physiotherapist. However, there is a further truth beneath this surface, when we attend closely to what is happening around us, as opposed to what is happening Man sitting meditating on bench. A page on the way that memories and plans distract us from the present. in our heads, we often encounter a remarkable affection Rays of light streaming in between trees. There is an echo of these ideas in Leonard Cohen's song - the crack through which the light gets in. within ourselves; an affection for our surroundings, and for its creatures. While compassion may let us tend others, it might also be that by tending others we discover compassion within us.

The quote is from Soul Food: Stories to Nourish the Spirit + the Heart, published by HarperCollins. Here Jack Kornfield and Christiana Feldman tell stories which richly illustrate this idea of a compassion to be found within us. I am not sure myself about ‘life forces’, but the idea that, as we attend and in particular tend, we discover within ourselves compassion, seems to be an experience found amongst people everywhere.

The image shows Jacob, a physiotherapist at the Leprosy Mission Hospital in Naini, Uttar Pradesh, cutting the plaster cast from a young man’s finger - part of the reconstruction needed following the damage caused by the disease.

Above hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 28th December 2019

Murphy on duty to this site