Living metaphor

“There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hand.”

~ Thoreau

ann e. michael photo

Socked in by far too many snowstorms,* I’m running out of reading material (haven’t been able to get to the library!). I did get a gift book from a friend and a book in the mail recently, however; blessed relief! As often happens when reading quite different books at the same time, I notice ways they overlap or complement one another.

The gift from a friend is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are, a poetic companion to his 1990 book on mindfulness as healing, Full Catastrophe Living. Kabat-Zinn uses Thoreau’s “bloom of the present moment” as a section head and metaphor for mindfulness practice, and it serves exceedingly well in that capacity. This is not a text to read in one sitting or to move through rapidly–or even chronologically. It offers space for the mind, space for reflection and, indeed, for the kind of ’emptiness’ that waits patiently, observing the present moment. Not the ghastly, desperate emptiness of numbness or depression, but the Zen vessel of the now.

Vessel. Space. Bloom. Each of these metaphorical, analogous, a way of indicating connections between or likenesses to or relationships with. The richness of language and the incredible stickiness of its concepts form the basis of Lakoff and Johnson’s seminal 1980 examination of how human beings use language–specifically metaphor–in the book Metaphors We Live By. A significant section of the first 4 chapters appears here, if you want a taste of how the authors set out their investigation; but I recommend the entire book, the 2003 edition of which contains an insightful afterward by the authors that incorporates some material on neurology and other things not available to them in the 1970s.


* From the Express-Times of Easton: “The Lehigh Valley has gotten 66.7 inches of snow so far this season. Meteorologists agree this storm might not push the snowfall totals to break the seasonal record of 75.2 inches from 1993-94, but there’s still a chance to top the total this winter in the first couple weeks of March, they said.”

7 comments on “Living metaphor

  1. I had a post here, but it appears to be lost in the cloud. I’m ANNOYED.


  2. moishmoish says:

    wow ann, your living metaphor lost in the cloud, what a powerful metaphor


  3. NOTE: I managed to cobble together this post, somewhat abbreviated from its original form, after the host software mysteriously atomized my first version without saving it to drafts. Hmm. Reasons I am skeptical of trusting technology.


  4. KM Huber says:

    Oh, is there ever a story in this post but regardless, I am glad it appeared long enough for me to read. I mention this because the first time it was in the “cloud” as you say; just a few moments ago, I clinked on my subscription link and the post appeared, disappeared, and re-appeared. Now we see and then, sometimes, we don’t. I find this fascinating. Is there is a poem in it, do you suppose?

    Not too long ago, I was “listening” to Wherever You Go There You Are, for as you say it is quite poetic. I have the 10th anniversary edition on CD read by the author. Time and again, I have found the work helps me bring Zen into my every day so I am in “the bloom of the present,” observing rather than attaching. Metaphors to Live By is a work I have not thought of in years, and thank you for reminding me of it, for I enjoyed it then and look forward to reading the new material.

    Enjoyed the post and its play with technology. Thanks, Ann.


    • Weird that this particular post has been so evanescent (weird, and analogous to its content). Actually I have more to say on metaphor but no time at present…too busy trying to live in the present moment! I know you are one of Kabat-Zinn’s readers, Karen. I need the occasional reminder to go back to reading Kabat-Zinn, Alan Watts, Pema Chodron and Suzuki.

      I will also try to bear in mind the possibility of poetry in this and other everyday occurrences.



  5. […] space, which I contemplated in 2013 at about this time of year (in this post). And I think of Jon Kabat-Zinn and other writers–often classed as spiritual self-help authors but whose writings need not be […]


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