This week, we are asking, “What makes you come alive?”
Our invitation to pause, to notice, to pay attention, to savor and take delight. And we take that into our work and our play and our rest.
Let us use Mary Oliver’s invitation, “What did you notice? What did you hear? When did you admire? What astonished you? What would you like to see again? What was most tender? What was most wonderful? What did you think was happening?” (Questions in her poem, Gratitude)
This I do know; we get derailed (stuck) when we see this as an assignment, or test, rather than an invitation and gift. And when we see our life through the lens of the “test”, it’s easy to feel we come up short.
Zen master Suzuki Roshi writes, enlightenment is expressed by being just where you are.
A woman tells Roshi that she finds it difficult to mix Zen practice with the demands of being a full-time mother, employee, friend, volunteer, etc… “I’m trying to climb this ladder of enlightenment. But for every step upward I slip backward two steps.”
He tells her, “Forget the ladder. When you are awake, everything is already right here on the ground.”
And I would add, Holy Ground. Holy because I embrace the gift of vulnerability and tenderness. And the gift of sufficiency.
Speaking of coming alive, last week we talked about sanctuary and the heart and I shared this: “In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal? What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, ‘How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?’
When I ask, ‘How are you?’ that is really what I want to know. I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment.
So. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous or aching. Tell me your heart is sad or grateful, torn or hopeful.” Omid Safi, The Disease of Being Busy
(And I realized I didn’t mention the author and give credit where credit is due… Omid Safi is a teacher in the Sufi tradition of Radical Love. He is a professor at Duke University specializing in Islamic spirituality and contemporary thought. Omid has published extensively on the foundational sources of Islam and Sufism. His Memories of Muhammad is a biography of the Prophet Muhammad. Thank you, Omid.)
Let’s take this from Maya Angelou into our week… “My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman.)
What makes you come alive?
This is a different and much better paradigm than “what makes my life resume worthy?”
And I admit that it has always been one I have wrestled with (especially when I was younger).
The paradigm was about becoming “somebody” (which is always elsewhere and otherwise–unable to embrace the gift of this Terry, today) and not recognizing (or unable to recognize) the simple and extraordinary gifts of taking delight in this day, in this moment. And not recognizing the simple and extraordinary gift of spilling that delight (light) to the world around me.
I’m glad now to say it is the reason I write Sabbath Moment. I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness; a space to come alive, a space to take delight, a space where we are refueled to spill light.
So… Let us come alive today, in the sacrament of the present, and the gifts of grace bestowed… (this blessing is worth reading out-loud)…
May the strength of the wind and
the light of the sun,
The softness of the rain
and the mystery of the moon
Reach you and fill you.
May beauty delight you
and happiness uplift you,
May wonder fulfill you
and love surround you.
May your step be steady
and your arm be strong.
May your heart be peaceful
and your word be true.
May you seek to learn,
may you learn to live,
May you live to love,
and may you love ~ always.
Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of my Father’s death. Very good memories. Rest in peace Dad.
And today I walked (can I say frolicked?) because the sun is shining. And will be all week in fact, here in Western Washington. My Oh My.
A small art gallery near Lake Galway in Ireland holds an exhibition with local art. A poet of no small renown drops by to view it. As he finishes his perusing, a local farmer arrives. Once a year, the farmer visits the gallery. He lives on the shores of Loch Corrib. The gallery owner introduces the men.
The poet gladly revisits the exhibition with the farmer, pointing out intricacies and hidden symbolism. The farmer listens carefully. When finished, the farmer says, “Thank you. That was interesting, and you showed me things I would have never noticed. You have a wonderful eye. It is a great gift. I envy your gift, I don’t have that gift myself. But I do have Teannalach.”
“What is Teannalach?” The poet asks.
“I live beside the lake,” the farmer tells him. “And you always hear the ripple of the waters and the sound of wind on the water; everyone hears. However, on certain summer days when the lake is absolutely still and everything is silent, I can hear how the elements and the surface of the lake make magic music together.”
A week or so later, the farmer’s neighbor comes in the gallery. The owner asks about the word Teannalach. “Oh yes, they have that word up there. I’ve never seen it written down, so it’s hard to say what it means. I suppose it means awareness, but in truth it is about seven layers deeper.”
(This story adapted from John O’Donohue’s book, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace)
This week we’ve been talking about the gift and influence of being glad to be alive. Okay, even knee deep in delight.
And yes, even when life goes catawampus.
That even in times of sorrow or adversity or discontent, this life can become fertile ground for mystery, delight, touch, tenderness, vulnerability, gladness and generosity of spirit.
Alive, we touch this day, places and encounters where our humanity blossoms, and our light spills.
And yes, Teannalach is real. An affirmation that the ordinary is indeed the hiding place for the holy.
And from Bishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy, let’s take this into our day… “Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardships and heartbreaks. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”
“What the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman)
Okay, I get it, but what if?
What if I don’t feel glad to be alive?
What if the weight from life’s struggles deadens any gladness?
I do understand that. But let’s begin here: Life is not only about what has been lost or what we assume is missing. Life is about the music and the light that resides and endures. Which means that we have a choice, to say how the story ends. Because when I’m at the mercy of the story—or the script—I demand to make sense of it all. Or rail against it. Or play a victim.
As if I’m helpless. “Sorry, I’d love to savor my life, or be glad, or make a choice to care, or take a risk, or make a difference, but I don’t have what it takes.”
But here’s the deal: coming alive is not something we need to obtain, as if it is outside of who we are now. As if we need to find it, or muster up the willpower.
Yes, when I’m weary in my spirit, I confess that I click my ruby heels, hoping to be transported to a gentler and saner OZ. And in the past, I’ve talked about wrestling with depression, which only exacerbates this notion that we need to make sense of everything before we are able to “come alive”, assuming that the job is to find answers or solutions.
This did my heart good this week: “We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of pure joy.” Thank you, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama (from The Book of Joy).
So, here’s our paradigm shift this week: When we focus only on what we feel is missing, or are sure we don’t yet possess (scarcity), we are unable to access what we have (sufficiency).
And when I see only scarcity, I miss the fact that every single one of us has been gifted with creativity, abundance, heart, love, passion, gentleness, helpfulness, caring, kindness, tenderness, restoration and a shoulder to lean on. This is the paradigm of internal sufficiency. This is the paradigm of the permission to come alive.
Oh yes. And sufficiency lets us embrace the permission to be here now.
The sacrament of the present moment, even in the fragile and the broken.
So. Today, where can I pause, see, savor? And say, thank you? Here’s a new word for our week; Fika. Fika is an everyday Swedish tradition, about sitting down and having a coffee while spending time with someone else. Plain and simple, a moment to slow down, and appreciate the goodness and beauty of living.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, this week let us Fika.
Prayer for our week…
O Come into the quiet,
and enter into rest.
A banquet is prepared for you,
A full and wholeness blessed.
Come drink the wine of being,
And let the rivers flow,
Awakening the glory,
Of heaven in your soul.
Photo… “Good morning Terry, I loved today’s post. I’m recently retired and wondering where and how to put my services to the greater good. Your reference to Mary Oliver’s Gratitude reminded me. Also, to not view this as an assignment. Thank You. I’m attaching a photo I recently took from Emerald Isle, NC. A week spent there with dear friends helped me to become grounded and in awe of God’s presence once again. Be well and continue your message.” Donna Jenkins…