A circle is both an image and metaphor of wholeness and bondedness. The more we see circular patterns in the architecture of our lives, the more we realize that 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 surrounding us.
During a recent hike, I was attracted to a circle of pinyon pine needles. Crafted by nature, it resembled a brush stroke of “enso,” the Japanese word for circle. I gifted it to my mother who placed it on a painted canvas, and indeed, it looked like a Japanese brushed enso. In Zen Buddhism, monks and nuns meditate many months with extreme discipline and then draw a circle in one solid stroke. The circle is not designed to be perfect, but rather a perfect reflection of the painter’s state of mind. This enso is remarkably simple and beautiful, symbolizing emptiness within fullness.
Finding an enso in nature wasn’t a one-time stroke of luck for me. To commemorate my 50th birthday, I retreated to a cabin in Idyllwild and upon entering was greeted by a large circular window. The window framed a serene magical forest densely carpeted in leaves among the stately trees. Once again, I was reminded to find my inner enso in that moment. I again realized our lives are not linear, and growth is never straight. For me, this circle stood for the completion of many cycles and transitions. It symbolized the natural order and progression of life.
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 and experience health issues; 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 symbolism of the enso circle reminds us to live freely in each moment as each is a part of the larger circle of life. These lessons of the circle helped me embrace a milestone birthday and gifted me with positive takeaways. I see my 50th year more as an entrance into a dynamic new cycle and less as a step over a finish line.
If we want to move towards long-lasting health and healing, we must view our vitality as a never-ending circle. As you reflect on the circle of life, sit still and listen to what an enso means to you.
Jennifer Di Francesco is a wellness explorer and desert adventurist and can be reached at www.coachellabellaboho.com.