This week… what I know for certain is that starting down that path of determining “right or wrong” life, assures the fact that we will avoid (and definitely miss) this life.
So. My new year resolution is an invitation; the freedom to be awake and invested, in this life, in this moment… the very one I am living today.
Today, I want to invest in being present and wholehearted.
Today, I want to invest in being unafraid.
Today, I want to invest in bringing the better angels of this self to a world that needs people who care about making it a better place.
More than ever, I value being around people who live well in their own skin.
Because they live unafraid.
I’ve received emails about new year resolutions. And in reflection, I guess that I do have a resolution for the new year; I don’t want to be obsessed with asking the wrong questions.
You see, it’s not about the stuff we add to our life.
It’s not about acing the test.
It’s not about asking, whether we are living the “right or wrong life.”
This is a reminder that with any moral price tag, we easily derail. Once you label something, you dismiss it. And with the label (“wrong life”), I miss the gifts already here.
My friend Jinks taught me the treasurable Hebrew word Mashpia, derived from the word shepha, which means, “to overflow” or “to pour abundantly.” So… literally a channel or conduit. (In Kabbalistic terminology, shepha refers to one who channels Divine radiant energy.) The good news is that this doesn’t happen when I get to my “real life.” It happens now, with this life. When we embrace the reality that the dance, the abundance, the light, the tenderness, the empathy, the compassion, the wholeheartedness is already within us.
Yes and Amen…
And in making resolutions, I realize that I should have added, “no more typos”. I made a good sized one in yesterday’s Sabbath Moment. I gave the wrong date for an upcoming event.
I do miss my island garden. But I’m very grateful for the gifts the garden has given me, gifts I still carry.
I’ve been thinking about this a good bit during this season of “organizing” our new year. Or is it wondering, how many resolutions will be needed?
As I said before, new year resolutions have never been my strong suit.
So. Per usual, I didn’t get around to making any. (Although I could always dust off a list from a previous year, and work on the ones I never got around to.)
I do enjoy reading various websites designed for making the list, and plenty of folk cover the gamut for me. And there are those that make me smile big:
Keep a notepad of awesome moments.
Dance in the rain (someone not from Seattle).
Sing a song at the top of my lungs.
I do confess to being more in line with the two men I overheard talking on the ferry one day. “How’s your memory? Do you take anything for it?” “Yes, I take medication. Two gingko and this other good stuff, but I can’t remember what it’s called.”
Speaking of gardens, gratefully, I still do design an occasional one. And I love the process. And here’s what I learned early; creating a garden is not about mimicking glossy magazine photos.
Although most clients will invariably ask (showing me the photos), “Can you do this?”
“Yes,” I tell them, “but then it won’t be your garden.” So, let’s find your garden, and we’ll learn to let it grow.
The urge from garden clients is the same internal pushback we all carry with the assumption that the good life (or happy, or successful) is always somewhere other than where I am right now.
Yes. What does it mean to receive the permission (invitation) to be here now?
I see now that the garden saved me. Literally. Because it invited me to sanctify the ordinary. This day. This ordinary.
So, I am struck by the rootedness that comes with investment. Literally giving a damn. For time, energy, devotion, and care will root you. You are connected to the ordinary particularity of it all. This plot. This place. This time. This season-come hell or high water. You fight the elements and nature. You face disappointment and loss and grief. You learn to repair and hope and forgive. And you try again. And you watch. And you nurture. And you drink in the lavish repayment of investment in the form of this brief slice of heaven.
As young clergy, I found a good deal of inspiration for my homilies (and for my daily life) from my friends Calvin and Hobbes.
Calvin is talking with Hobbes one day.
Hobbes: Whatcha doing?
Calvin: Getting rich!
Calvin: Yep. I’m writing a self-help book! There’s a huge market for this stuff. First, you convince people there’s something wrong with them. That’s easy because advertising has already conditioned people to feel insecure about their weight, looks, social status, sex appeal, and so on. Next, you convince them that the problem is not their fault and that they’re victims of larger forces. That’s easy, because it’s what people believe anyway. Nobody wants to be responsible for his own situation. Finally you convince them that with your expert advice and encouragement. They can conquer their problem and be happy!
Hobbes: Ingenious. What problem will you help people solve?
Calvin: Their addiction to self-help books! My book is called, “Shut up and stop whining: How to do something with your life besides think about yourself.”
Hobbes: You should probably wait for the advance before you buy anything.
Calvin: The trouble is; If my program works, I won’t be able to write a sequel.
(Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes.)
I’m still smiling… You go Calvin…
But here’s the deal: We do live in a culture where we can’t get away from the notion that there’s just one piece of knowledge—or information or advice or prayer or instruction or divine intervention—between us and happiness.
Let’s just say that Calvin reminds us that maybe our new year resolution can be, “let us embrace the gift of the present moment.” (Yes, the gift of the sacrament of the present.)
This week, with email about our topic, I do realize that for all my grumpiness about “resolutions,” I still do carry a couple into my new year.
One. I want to never give up an emphasis on neglected trifles. This is borrowed from Angelo Pellegrini, “The neglected trifles: the garden, the cellar, the simple pleasure of the dinner hour, a scrupulous husbandry in the home, the quiet joy of modest achievement.” (The Unprejudiced Palate).
So, I love Robert Fulghum’s observation, “Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”
And two. I will (try to) give up my need to know exactly where I am going. Why not let the road of this coming year unfold in wonderful, challenging, and unexpected ways? Is control really that important?
(And now that we’re on the subject of resolutions, I would like to design packaging for CDs that does not require an hour and a weapons-grade machete to open it. Just sayin’)
One of the temptations that takes us down the path of labeling our life as “right or wrong”, is the hunger to find comfort in the label. Of course, we miss the certainty that whenever we label, we dismiss what is there.
So. We live afraid of (or run from) those parts of our life that feel “inadequate” (or wrong, or inferior… or soft).
And when we chase the label (“are we there yet?”), we miss seeing (and embracing) the enoughness in the life we have, now.
At the end of this month, I’ll be doing a workshop on embracing our soft heart: Soft Hearts from Hard Places.
Because here’s the deal: love can only spill from a heart that has been softened and in most cases broken. There is no doubt that when faced with tragedy or chaos or uncertainty or misfortune, we want to have a “handle” on it, or fix it, or even choose to wear the label of “wrong life”… and we do what we can to make it go away.
But what if? What if we are invited to live and love from our soft heart—the permission to see the world (this day) through the eyes of our heart. Now. It happens when…
…we allow ourselves to feel, fully and wholly (without a need to defend, justify or explain).
…we allow ourselves to receive love, compassion and kindness without suspicion.
…we are free to embrace an extraordinary core of strength and courage that resides inside of us, now, and let it spill to those around us.
I love this from Raïssa Maritain, “Yesterday I had a good morning. Once again when I recollect myself, I again find the same simple demands of God: gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity; nothing else is asked of me. And suddenly I saw clearly why these virtues are demanded, because through them the soul becomes inhabitable for God and for one’s neighbor in an intimate and permanent way. They make a pleasant cell of it. Hardness and pride repel, complexity disquiets. But humility and gentleness welcome, and simplicity reassures. The ‘passive’ virtues have an eminently social character.” (Raïssa Maritain was a Russian-born writer and philosopher. She married philosopher Jacques Maritain.)
Prayer for our week…
Let us . . .
Be generous in prosperity,
and thankful in adversity.
Be fair in judgment,
and guarded in our speech.
Be a lamp unto those who walk
in darkness, and a home
to the stranger.
Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light
unto the feet of the erring.
Be a breath of life to the body of
humankind, a dew to the soil of
the human heart,
and a fruit upon the tree of humility.
(Adapted from Prayers for Peace)
Photo… “Feeling blessed and at peace watching God’s gift to us this evening. So breathtaking that one forgets everything else.” Regina Siquieros (Arizona)…