In an episode of The West Wing, CJ Craig (White House new chief of staff) is wired, tense and distracted. Danny (her love interest) shows up, middle of the workday, at her White House office, “to take her for a walk.” She consents (but not without a fight, you know, so much “to do”). On the walk, she fidgets and asks, “So, what was so important, taking this walk.”
He says, “Just to see.”
“Well,” she tells him, “this is not the day for it.”
It made me laugh out loud. Sure, I want to live this moment, to be mindful of the sacred, to savor and take delight… but this is not the day for it. As if there is a special day for it?
Yesterday I spent time—on Zoom—talking with a group about my book, This Is The Life. I told them the CJ story, and one of my choice mutterings, “I’m in favor of living in the present, just not this one.”
In our western mindset, living in the present becomes a staged event. Staged to be “spiritual.” As if this is something we must orchestrate. Or arrange. No wonder we sit stewing in the juices of our self-consciousness. “Am I present? What am I doing right or wrong?” All the while, missing the point.
As long as the present moment needs to be staged in order to be enough, we live from scarcity, not sufficiency. We have forgotten the gift of enough. So, it’s Sankofa time. Sankofa (in the Akan language of Ghana), associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
And my favorite Sankofa story is about a certain African tribe. When a woman in the tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness to pray and listen until she hears the song of the child she bears. This tribe recognizes that every soul has its own vibration, expressing its unique flavor and purpose. Then the mother to be teaches the song to the other members of the tribe.
The tribe sings the song to the child at birth.
They sing when the child becomes an adolescent, when the adult is married, and at the time of parting and death.
But there is one other occasion when the villagers sing this song. If at any time during his (or her) life, the person causes suffering to another member of the tribe, they gather in a circle and set him in the center. They sing the song, to remind him not of the wrong done, but of his own beauty and potential. When a child loses the way, it is love and not punishment that brings the lost one home.
I cannot tell you your song (the reminder of your sufficiency). But I can tell you this: you have one.
Count on it.
And if you sit still, you may hear it.
It is the song that reminds us we are beautiful, when we feel ugly.
It is the song that reminds us of the story that keeps our hope alive.
In the desert of New Mexico, in a beautiful home with huge doors open to the outside, Native American musician Ronald Roybal talks with a gathered group of pastors. As he talks, he plays hauntingly beautiful music. He tells them about how missionaries came to his people and how his people received the story of Jesus, absorbing the story into their understanding. He tells the group that Native Americans believe that God gives every creature a dance. The eagle has an eagle dance, the bear a bear dance, the scorpion a scorpion dance, and so forth. However, over the years, we human beings had forgotten our dance. So, we dance the dance of other animals, because we do not know our own. Jesus, however, knew our “human” dance and came to teach us the dance again.
I cannot tell you your song. But I can tell you this: you have one.
Count on it.
It is the song that tells us we are whole, when we feel broken.
It is the song that gives us the power to dance, even when we feel shattered.
There are times when we lose our song. Or it gets buried. Or we get numbed. Or, we say emphatically, “This is not the day for it.”
And it’s never easy to admit, because we don’t want to appear weak.
I can tell you that it is easy to be undone, to feel deficient or inept, to want to be rescued, to feel overwhelmed. Or if all else fails, it is easy to want someone to tell me what to believe or what to pray.
I know that when I lose track of my song, I’m not myself. And I don’t like it. So, I say, the hell with it, and do my best to shut down.
But here’s the deal: When I see only scarcity, I miss the fact that every single one of us has been gifted with abundance. With creativity, heart, love, passion, gentleness, helpfulness, caring, kindness, tenderness, restoration and a shoulder to lean on (for crying or for dancing, depending on the mood at the time). This is the paradigm of Sufficiency.
It’s paradigm shift time. I will give myself wholeheartedly to this day. Without making it a test or beauty pageant.
A Hasidic Rabbi was interrupted by one of his followers while he was tending his garden, “What would you do, rabbi,” the student asked, “if you knew the messiah was coming today?” Stroking his beard and pursing his lips, the rabbi replied, “Well, I would continue to water my garden.”
Before we wish for another life, let us feel this life.
Before we give in to “if only”, let us hear this moment.
Before we trade in this life, for the life we should have, let us taste this life.
Today. Listen for your song. If you don’t hear it, no worries, it’s still there. In the meantime, scroll down and listen to Carrie Newcomer sing The Music Will Play On. That’s a good start.
The sheep were in another pasture today. I missed them. And I wondered if I missed the memo and it was supposed to be a Zoom meeting. Oh well. I’ll tell them the story about everyone having a song next week.
Quote for our week…
Here must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful. Howard Thurman
Please join me for the NEW Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
My new book is here. Order today. The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment (Franciscan Media).
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Your book and emails are very helpful! I could use some sheep to talk to. Thank you. Peggy
–The pandemic has allowed me to withdraw without the guilt I usually heap on myself. My calendar is empty. I sit on my deck and listen to the river run by. I enjoy the flowers in my garden box. I’m knitting a blanket for my sister. It was supposed to be for her to take for chemotherapy treatments but she didn’t need them! Now I pray prayers of thanks whenever I pick up my knitting. Deb
–Continue to enjoy your meditations. And I talked to sheep and other animals as well. Once I was at Gorman heritage Farm in the last couple of years. Which is a working education farm. And I didn’t see that there was a man grooming the horse on the far side of the horse from me, and I said to the horse “hey there sweetie”. And the man looked around the horse and said hello. I thought of trying to explain that I was talking to the horse but then thought that might make it worse. Fortunately he was a younger man and I am an older woman so probably he didn’t think I was hitting on him. But now I look around for humans before I talk to the animals. But I talked to the Chipmunks and squirrels that ground feed near my bird feeders and I talked to the birds when I see them.
Maybe I should have been a Franciscan. Stay well. Take good care of yourself physically and emotionally. These are very tough times and there’s no end in sight. Blessings Faith
–Watching John Lewis funeral. Ministering to your sheep while Lewis ministered to his chickens! I love it! Keep up God’s work! Mary Jo
–During this pandemic I have spent almost every day at home. Trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy, all within a mile of home, taking a daily walk through my own neighborhood have been my journeys outside. Then yesterday I picked up a friend who needed a ride home, it was about 5 miles from my house. I found myself enthralled with how green the trees were, I saw flowers growing in the cracks on the bare median on the road, I noticed the hillsides surrounding the area where I live, that were a wonderful backdrop for the red tailed hawks circulating on the wind currents. I was in awe! All these things have been here for the 20 years I have lived here. It took a pandemic and months at home for me to notice and have my breath taken away by them. I plan to take “mindfulness” away from this pandemic experience. I don’t want life, beauty, nature, and moments of awe to slip by unnoticed ever again. Thanks for all you do Terry! Denise
POEMS AND PRAYERS
The music will play on
I’ve been hearing music from the moment I was born,
Spent a lifetime looking for where it’s coming from.
Sometimes I came close to it, sometimes I got off course—
These days I feel I’m heading home to the music’s source.
If I could, I’d dance this way forever,
But some soon day my dancing here will end.
The music will play on, then one day I’ll be gone
I’ll dance into the darkness as new life dances in—
At times the music’s heavy, then it floats away,
A simple, steady heartbeat can get me thru most days.
I’ll be out here dancing long as I can feel the beat—
Take my hand, my love, and catch the next dance with me.
Parker Palmer (see video below)
Blessed are You, O Lord our God,
Wellspring of all that is.
You are the sea on which we float,
You are the wind that fills our sails,
You are the storm that buffets us,
You are the calm that brings us peace.
Open our ears to hear Your word,
Open our eyes to see Your beauty,
Open our hearts to be warmed by Your love.
Free us from our lonely prisons of fear and selfishness,
And make us over, day by day, into bearers of Your peace.
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)