The sannyasi (a Hindu holy man) had reached the outskirts of the village and settled down under a tree for the night when a villager came running up to him and said, “The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!”
“What stone?” asked the sannyasi.
“Last night the Lord Shiva appeared to me in a dream,” said the villager, “And told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I should find a sannyasi who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.”
The sannyasi rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. “He probably meant this one,” he said, as he handed the stone over to the villager. “I found it on a forest path some days ago. You can certainly have it.”
The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond, probably the largest diamond in the whole world, for it was as large as a person’s head.
He took the diamond and walked away. All night he tossed about in bed, unable to sleep. The next day at the crack of dawn, he woke the sannyasi and said, “Now, please, please give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily.”
The diamond is a metaphor for the one more thing.
Of never enough. Something we may not have (or even know), but are certain we are not sufficient without it. You know, the encounter or accoutrement or experience that will give us the sensation that we have arrived. You know, where were should be. We refer to these yearnings as “attachments” — people or things that we are convinced we require, in order to be content.
When we believe we are not enough, our energy (our spirit) is consumed by striving or stewing or fretting. We are not at home in our skin. And in our “blindness” (or myopic vision), we do not recognize the value of any true diamond we hold in our hands now (in this life, regardless of how temporary or messy or ordinary).
Attachments are another way of saying that we “lose” our self to stuff or distractions or anxiety. As a result…
we buy things (with money or with emotional capital) we don’t need,
with what we don’t have,
to impress people we don’t like.
We’re kidding ourselves if we say that it is easy to avoid this kind of projection or attachment, and silly to deny that we can.
I was asked this week about my “ministry,” and I fell into the trap of mentally weighing and measuring. Do I really make a difference? And if so, in what way? Why is it so easy to assume that life’s value is appraised or calculated on a scale of 1 to 10?
Is it possible to live our day — to embrace our day — without measuring? Meaning, without the need to justify or defend, to what is usually an unseen audience.
Here’s the deal: This week,
I spoke from my heart.
I listened with my heart.
I gave my heart freely…
Can I let that be enough?
It’s all about appreciation and gratitude, I heard one preacher say. True enough, I say (in my mind). It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? So, why is there is a part of us that continues to ask, “What are the steps?” “What is the secret to contentment or sanctuary or pausing?”
And why do we want to apply these steps as if our life is paint by number? Is it that we are undone by the possibility that appreciation or embracing the day can be co-mingled with yearning and longing and craving and even letdowns, and that buried in all of this, is the diamond of the present moment. Or, as a 17th century priest put it, “the sacrament of the present moment.”
In The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done… you are fierce with reality.”
Florida was 85 when she wrote those words.
Parker Palmer talks about reading them and thinking, “I knew she was speaking directly to me.”
Palmer goes on, “At age 43, I was succeeding and failing as a husband and a father on a daily basis, had done battle with the evils of racism as a community organizer while ignoring the cocoon of white privilege that protected me from them, was alternately laid low and energized by the rejections I received in route to becoming a writer, and had drowned and then surfaced from my first deep-sea dive into clinical depression. I was, in short, a reasonably normal person: a complex and conflicted soul who yearned to be whole. I wanted a life of personal fulfillment that served others well — a life of love of self and others — and I knew that getting there would require me to be ‘fierce with reality.’ But I devoutly wished for an easier path than the one Scott-Maxwell recommends! At age 43, I didn’t have the courage required to ‘truly possess all [I had] been and done.’”
Scott-Maxwell got it right: there are no short cuts to wholeness.
Palmer continues, “The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we’ve shown ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, ‘I am all of the above.’ If we can’t embrace the whole of who we are — embrace it with transformative love — we’ll imprison the creative energies hidden in our own shadows and flee from the world’s complex mix of shadow and light.”
We are no longer afraid.
Let us be this alive…
I’ve had a good week. I like writing that sentence. I reread it (you know, just to make sure). Something in my spirit that still can’t trust good weeks. Lord help me.
(Okay… I didn’t fall down. Or get stitches in my head. Yes, I admit, that does set the bar pretty low.)
Wednesday with a group from Kaiser Healthcare in Seattle (hospice, home health, palliative, oncology and more). We talked about the power of self-care and the way that Rest and Renewal spills into our work and into our relationships. Thursday at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin with Army Community Service (Volunteer Corp), thanking the volunteers and reminding them that there is no such thing as “just” a volunteer. The weekend with a group at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI about resting in the power of enough. And, in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, to be “awakened ever so slightly.”
Yes. There is sufficiency in enough. And from that grounded place, we can be fierce with reality. Florida Scott-Maxwell would be proud.
This week was a good reminder to me… We need one another more than ever.
I’ll be in D.C. tomorrow. So, I miss my garden. The tulips are exquisite, I hear. Here in La Crosse, the brand-new foliage on the deciduous trees an effervescent olive green. It is chilly here, but hope is in the air.
Question for your week…
What is the diamond of the present moment you currently hold?
Quotes for your week…
PLEASE walk on the grass. Sign in a Toronto Park
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Albert Einstein
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening
into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?
And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: “Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming.”
Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.
Prayer cannot bring water to parched land, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city, but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart and rebuild a weakened will.
In this spirit, let us pray:
For health and healing,
for labor and rest,
for the ever-renewed beauty of earth and sky,
for thoughts of truth and justice which stir us from our ease and move us to acts of goodness,
and for the contemplation of life which fills us with hope that what is good and lovely cannot perish.
The New Union Prayer Book