7:02am: I have just had two hours of silence – in and out of dozing – not achieving anything, not even trying…aware of God’s presence and my “being here,” watching my thoughts come and go and not trying for anything. The world is waking up around me now – cars going by…impetus for moving. I wonder what effect these hours will have on my day: such a rare (non-)happening! Non-action feels so full. What can be learned from such a practice? I hope to learn…
Today is Friday, an absolutely glorious summer day so far. I would like nothing more than to join the team of those working outside, making ready to greet our weekend guests later this afternoon. But I have been grounded. I was also supposed to be cooking this weekend for the retreat group but I have been relieved also from that work. I thought I would be able-bodied by now after flirting with a cold all week, doing everything one is expected to do in order to avoid what can be devastating to one’s schedule, not to mention the egoic need for usefulness! So now, I yield since I cannot speak (laryngitis), can hardly swallow (sore throat) and have the energy of a three-toed sloth! This is a strange viral onslaught, unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I am not happy it has chosen me.
There are lessons here. I know I did everything possible to avoid this situation, so why do I feel a need to make amends for my inability to help? There is no value in lament here so I will finish this sentence, sit on my mat and remember that I need to practice becoming not a perfect human doing, but rather a somewhat imperfect (as most, if not all of us, are) human being. And I will give thanks for the folks who are out there doing the work.
Yesterday I had a deep and meaningful conversation with a very wise person about doing and being. The long and the short of it was that we spend most of our lives trying to figure out the best ways of doing our lives while sometimes totally missing the value of simply (I use that word advisedly) being. I guess it would be fair to say “being present” to/in our lives as a way to more easily get at what we meant.
This morning, not having any particularly significant revelations so far in my morning reading or thinking, I sat for a bit feeling the sun go in and out through the dissipating cloud cover. As I sat waiting, I decided at least to go to the page on my computer where I write my blog. (If I ever think I am in control of my life I have only to turn on my computer most days.) The message that appeared on my screen was: YOU ARE NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET. I am beyond being frustrated with that message so decided to do the only thing I know how to do in that case. I turned off the power. And then I sat – doing nothing.
In the moments between OFF and ON again, when the computer was finally compliant, I did nothing but I did feel the sun gathering force for the day. And it was enough. I hope to remember that space of being as I go about my Saturday tasks and prepare to enter into what is for me and for many the most sacred week of the year.
People often ask me these days if I am retired. I’m no longer shocked at the question, especially since I am now 70 years old (an amazing statistic that still surprises me sometimes!). I have been blessed thus far with good health and am grateful for meaningful and creative work that continues to present itself.
This morning I was reminded in two of the lectionary readings of this blessing. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is talking about faith and says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Psalm 100 follows this theme, opening with a call to “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness; come before God with joyful song!”
On Saturday, I spent the day with over a hundred Sisters of St. Joseph – a few younger and many older than myself. Many of these women are retired from active ministry but virtually all of them continue to understand the truth that we are God’s handiwork. This, then, becomes for all of us the most important “work,” calling us daily to love as God has loved us. It is about our being rather than about our doing. For some of us that is a difficult lesson but once learned, it makes all the difference. It is my hope to have totally accepted that reality when all I have left for others is love.
Today’s lectionary recounting of Paul’s speech to the people of Athens is, for me, the most meaningful text in the Bible book of The Acts of the Apostles. There are many stirring speeches and miraculous deeds in this important record of early Christianity but this inspired oration holds a truth that the world would be wise to consider now. If I were trying to express the deepest truth of a faith worthy of all humanity (to everyone else who professes to believe in a divine being, a “first cause,” not tied to a religion but larger than that, not gender specific, although necessarily personified at times as he, she, or it but also beyond that), I believe I could find no better expression than these words of Paul.
Consider it, read it aloud (replacing the masculine pronoun “he” if it serves you better), and see if you can imagine a world coming together around such a declaration. It might take some letting go of “lesser gods” – or not, if they are compatible with this characterization of a supreme being. It might take some welcome of primitive cultures. We might come to appreciate the diversity of ways to name God, or G-d. Who knows what might happen if we allow ourselves the total freedom to “let go and let God” as we consider the possible unity resulting from consideration of Paul’s inspired text?
The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather, it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’ (ACTS 17)
A Deep Breath of Life, affirmation, Alan Cohen, assessment, being, doing, highests self, holy, humility, intention, magnificence, Peace, perfect, purpose, self-effacement, The Sophia Center for Spirituality, truth
I had a conversation yesterday with a woman who has difficulty seeing herself as others see her, i.e. holy. We spent some time with the difference between “holy” and “perfect” and I was reminded of the definition of humility as truth rather than self-effacement. Tangentially, there is the relative importance of doing vs. being to consider in our assessment of our success as humans.
I smiled this morning when I read Alan Cohen’s thought for the day (A Deep Breath of Life) that ended with an intention and an affirmation – a perfect afterthought from yesterday. He wrote: Let me remember who I really am, that I may be at peace with myself and my purpose. And then (the part that actually made me chuckle): Today I choose to be my highest self and live my magnificence.
May it be so!
Well, the storm that promised my “play date” in Latham took a breath yesterday and allowed me to travel home in safety. Overnight, in a second wave, what we had expected finally arrived so that schools are closed and the directive is for all of us to stay home today. Still looking for light (see yesterday’s post), I turned to a new book by Alan Cohen, A Deep Breath of Life, subtitled Daily Inspiration for Heart-Centered Living. I wasn’t disappointed as the selection for today began with a man looking for a lost key under a streetlamp. When a helpful friend asked if he knew where he was standing when he lost the key, the man indicated a tree 30 feet away. “Then why are you looking here?” the friend asked. “Because there is more light over here,” the man answered.
Cohen is suggesting that we tend to look to easy answers for things rather than confronting our deeper issues. He says, “Enlightenment is an inside job. Doing more in the outer world will not result in more peace; only being more will get us what we want. Peace is attained by letting go of everything that distracts us from it.” The thought for the day in bold letters at the bottom of the page is the simple sentence that I was looking for as a guide for this snow-covered day.
In quiet I look within and discover the light I am.