Mohini was a regal white tiger. In the 1960s and 70s, she lived at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Most of those years she lived in the old lion house–a twelve-by-twelve-foot cage with iron bars and a cement floor. Mohini spent her days pacing restlessly back and forth in her cramped quarters, while zoo visitors watched, pointing in awe.
Eventually, biologists and staff worked to move Mohini from such an artificial and cramped environment, to a habitat more natural and suitable for her. Mohini’s new home covered several acres with hills, trees, a pond and a variety of vegetation. With excitement and anticipation, they released Mohini into her new and spacious environment.
What occurred next, no one expected.
Instead of frolicking in the newfound freedom, Mohini immediately sought refuge in a corner of the compound, where she lived for the remainder of her life. Mohini paced and paced in that corner until, in the end, it made an area twelve-by-twelve-foot, now worn bare of grass.
From the time I was a young boy, my mother told me that the sky was the limit. I could dream or be anything. So why wouldn’t Mohini have treasured her gift?
After I read Mohini’s story I had an immediate response, which included a litany of how we too easily live life so small. But it’s not that simple, is it? Because over the years, I haven’t always seen the “cages” (real or imagined) around me, and I’ve had a grocery list of “guidance” sermonized at me.
“Do you know what your problem is?”
“Well of course, can’t you see?!? All you need to do is…”
Let’s start with what is real: We can live stuck. No surprise there really.
When I travel and talk with people, I hear it frequently. “We feel stuck.” Or, “we need a change.” I do know this: it doesn’t help to have well-intentioned (or worse, self-righteous) people add to the weight of our trance, only to be more driven by “I have to do more to be okay” or “I am somehow incomplete.” These “mantras” only reinforce the belief that our life is elsewhere and otherwise, and assuredly, not possible where it is now.
And I’ll ‘fess up. I easily see this “stuckness” in those around me. But in myself? Not so much.
We stay glued to a past narrative, or believe that our trauma is bigger than we are.
We may want to love other people without holding back,
We may want to feel authentic,
We may want to breathe in the beauty around us,
We may want to dance and sing.
And yet… each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.
In other words, we do stay stuck; imprisoned in ourselves.
As if there’s a script that includes: “don’t, shouldn’t, can’t be done, what are you thinking? you know that won’t work don’t you?”
Lord have mercy…
And we end up just like Mohini, pacing in the corner of our domain.
Here’s the deal: it’s not the external boundaries that make a difference; it’s the internal ones.
This is where we go a bit off the rail. You see, believing our boundaries are external, we seek an external solution–say a whole new environment with hills and a pond and such.
Perhaps the solution is an invitation. Try this…
If I assume my identity is confined to a cage; I will carry that identity with me wherever I go.
However, when I learn that my identity is deeper–more profound and remarkable–and that I am loved and cherished regardless of any cage; then, the iron bars begin to disappear.
“I was neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change. I resented them, and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Then one day someone said to me, “Don’t change. I love you just as you are.” Those words were music to my ears: “Don’t change, Don’t change. Don’t change . . . I love you as you are.” I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed!” Anthony de Mello
So where to begin? Maybe, all it takes is one step over the imaginary line of the cage in the corner.
You see, in “captivity”, we forget…
The gift of Gratitude; the power of embracing the sacred in the present.
The gift of Curiosity; exploration and creativity and wonder and awe.
The gift of Connection; finding and reinforcement from those close to us.
No one of us is on this journey alone. And the geese helped me with this one. And I let them know this morning, as no one is left behind in their community.
To know that our cages–even the ones of iron and steel–are self-imposed, is a start. To recognize our capacity. And to live from strength and not limitation.
Perhaps one of the biggest tragedies in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns. Entangled in some kind of trance–scripts about unworthiness or marginalization or shame or powerlessness or inadequacy–self-judgment and anxiety become the very cage. We spend our days in restlessness and dissatisfaction. And like Mohini, we grow incapable of accessing the freedom and peace that are our birthright.
The Olympics have come to a close. I’m grateful to have seen so many heartfelt and courageous performances during these games.
And the make you smile real big story; 70,000 rubber ducks are poured into the Chicago River at the start of the 16th annual Chicago Ducky Derby, raising $300,000 for Special Olympics Illinois. Donors sponsored ducks for $5 each.
Last night a lightning storm here. Very unusual for this neck of the woods. But the show was mesmerizing.
Quote for your week…
When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life. Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen
SABBATH MOMENT DAILY DOSE
Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, Thanks for your always inspiring emails. I took this photo as I commuted from Seattle to Bainbridge to teach a creativity class in Poulsbo in the Fall of 2016. I’d been teaching in Seattle but felt called to offer a class in Poulsbo. The bonus was that my mom was in a nursing facility in Poulsbo for her dementia so I was able to visit with her after the class each week for 12 weeks. When I look at the photo now, I think of what a special time that was each week with my mom, who died 6 months later. I also think how small the city looked and how apt that seemed, as everything paled in size in comparison to the loss of my mom. Best,” Kate Gavigan… Thank you Kate… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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In the mailbag…
–Terry, I had to sit a day with Fred Craddock’s curtain story before I could write. I was a VISTA volunteer in rural Florida in the mid-70s. One day one of my coworkers, who was black and had grown up in town, asked me to lunch at a cafe I’d been to several times. As I started to go in the front door she said, “Oh no, we can’t use that door.” She led me around the corner and down an alley to the back black door. The “curtain” was a plywood wall that from the front seemed like the back wall of the cafe. There were no windows in the back/black section. The menus and prices were the same. Food got passed back through a small cut out in the plywood. It was eye opening for this young Yankee woman. I’d like to think that the cafe owner one day faced the same moral decision as Buck. I’d like to hope we’re all as self-aware as Buck when it comes to taking down our curtains. Thanks so much for Sabbath Moment and for all the connections it makes within, between and beyond. Barb
POEMS AND PRAYERS
There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force, which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves. –Thomas Merton
Slow me down, Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations
— of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
Wilferd Arlan Peterson
It Happens All the Time in Heaven
It happens all the time in Heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth —
That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are
And women and women
Who give each other
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly
Holding their lover’s hand,
With tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more