When your internal conversation begins, “I wish my life were different,” your headaches have only just begun. This is not a quarrel that will end well.
You see, when I kick into my compulsion to fix, or figure out, or correct, I see and feel mostly shame in my broken places. “Whoever I am now, is not enough”, becomes my mantra.
When we see only what we want to see, we suffer from scotoma (selective blindness).
A woman stands at a busy crosswalk, waiting for the light to change. Next to her stands a man, with a Rottweiler on a leash. Afraid of dogs, the woman’s unease noticeably rises.
“Excuse me,” she says to the man. “I need to tell you that I am not comfortable around dogs. So, I need to know, does your dog bite?”
“No ma’am,” he answers.
The woman relaxes.
But before the light turns, the dog reaches out and nips at her purse and arm.
“Hey,” she shouts, “What’s the story? You told me that your dog doesn’t bite!”
“He doesn’t,” the man, replies. “But this isn’t my dog.”
I do understand the yearning for security. We all have ideas about the way life “should be”. And if we don’t have such assurance, there is someone (or some ideology or infomercial) who will tell us what we want to hear, or how to live in order to find it.
With the recent blows and heartbreaks in my world, here’s what hit me: Control is overrated. As I wrote last week, we need to shift our paradigm of life… from project management to wade-in.
I reread Joseph Campbell’s reminder and took heart. “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave, that was so dreaded, has become the center.”
Yes, the heartbreaks—you know, the stuff of “this life”—do not remove us from life’s beauty. Or from grace. Or from the sacrament of the present.
I’m enjoying Pádraig Ó Tuama’s, In the Shelter. He tells the story (from National Geographic) about a photojournalist who returned after many years absence, to Papua New Guinea where she’d grown up and taken pictures of a remote area of jungle. When she lived there as a child, her parents had worked among a nomadic tribal group who moved between different homelands depending on the season. Recalling the language of her youth, there was not a word for “hello” in this local language. Instead, upon seeing someone, one simply said, “You are here.”
The answer was equally straightforward, “Yes I am.”
Ó Tuama writes that he sees the words “‘You are here’, and ‘Yes I am’ as good places to begin something that might be called prayer.”
There is power in this.
When we invite the sacrament of the present moment…
We let go of the lure, “I should be somewhere else.”
We see the holy where we did not before.
We allow ourselves to be surprised by joy, even in broken places. We pause. To see, and to hear ourselves say out loud, “I never noticed that before.”
We let go of orchestration, our need to steer the plot, setting down our compulsion to cross T’s, and dot I’s, and re-write the script. (I’m not saying that organizing isn’t recommended. I’m saying that serendipity is a good elixir.)
We let go of prejudgment. And the fear that accumulates with our need to weigh and measure, to calculate and compartmentalize.
“I am here.” When we invite the sacrament of the present moment, we are practicing Maitri (a Sanskrit word meaning unconditional friendship with oneself). Maitri is the salve encouraging gratitude and healing.
Recently I heard someone say, “I would like to do my life over again. And this time, I’m going to do it right.”
Good luck with that.
Here’s my problem. We are so focused on how we want life to be, we miss the life we have. Now.
In other words, we don’t want to live life.
We want the correct way to live life.
Which we assume is a life other than the one we have today.
So, what’s the alternative? Thomas Merton said, “One of the best things for me when I went to the hermitage was being attentive to the times of the day: when the birds began to sing, and the deer came out of the morning fog, and the sun came up –while in the monastery, summer or winter, Lauds is at the same hour. The reason why we don’t take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving. This is a real sickness. Today time is commodity, and for each one of us time is mortgaged. We experience time as unlimited indebtedness. We are sharecroppers of time. We are threatened by a chain reaction: overwork-overstimulation-overcompensation-overkill.”
So, before we decipher life, let us see it.
Before we wish for another life, let us feel it.
Before we give in to if only, let us hear it.
Before we succumb to someday, let us smell it.
Before we trade in this life, for the life we should have, let us taste this one.
I don’t know how to promise you to become unstuck or less anxious. However, I do have a recommendation: this week, practice the prayer of “I am here”. Buy a ticket to live front and center in this life. In this moment. Be curious, wonder, ask, gawk, savor, point, laugh and cry. And when you talk with God use your hands (don’t worry people will think you’re talking on a Bluetooth). Don’t be afraid to waste time… Daydream, journal, stare, linger, amble, give, receive, pay attention, meander, count clouds, make up new colors (baby blue, ice blue, melancholy blue, grandmother’s hug blue), compliment someone, pet dogs, kiss babies. And go into bakeries just to smell the air.
Today I was with the good people at St. Gall’s in Gardnerville, NV. Yesterday, with the good people up the way, St. Francis of Assisi, Incline Village, looking out over Lake Tahoe. This was my first visit to Lake Tahoe. My morning commute was around the lake. Trust me, that counts as going to church.
Quote for your week…
The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away. I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling. Robert Pirsig
NOTE: I wasn’t following the news this weekend, so just saw the stories about the mass shootings. My heart aches. I’ve added a prayer below from my friend Diana Macalintal.
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Today’s photo credit — Sunrise on Duck Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina… Brenda Kern… thank you Brenda… keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
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In the mailbag…
–You must feel a beautiful sadness in your heart where your sister resided. Now her memories are moving in to fill that hole. You have chosen to experience the wonder of this hurt. And you have written an extraordinary piece out of your sorrow and pain. Thank you for sharing your gift of stories and words as we walk through life together. I have shared today’s Sabbath Moment with two of my clients already, and I expect I’ll share it some more before the day is over. Thank you, Terry. Thank you. Blair
–Dear Terry, Thank you for the generosity of sharing your sister’s loss with this community. Thank you for your words and sharing what is in your heart. Your words never fail to touch, humble and ignite my heart. Blessings to you and yours and ours, Laurel
–Terry–I just read this morning’s Sabbath Moment–always a blessing for my week. Then I clicked on this, and felt I needed to forward it to you. I have heard both you and Fr Boyle speak. Thank you! Katrina
We’re taught that Heaven is a place,
but I see it as a practice.
It is the art of being present for each other.
It is the humble miracle of kinship.
Father Greg Boyle
–Terry, once again you have spoken exactly the words I needed to hear. A dear friend entered the Church Triumphant last week, and I take great comfort in this message. May God continue to surround you with his love and peace in the loss of your sister. Thank you for being REAL with us. I’ll be sharing parts of your devotional with our choir Wednesday night, as we all need the message of hope and comfort it brings. Lynn
–Take heart, Terry, continue listening to the birds in your garden sanctuary, and let love fill your lungs, Shauna
POEMS AND PRAYERS
“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.
“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“Yes, but —“
“Why ruin it?” he said.
“But you could be doing something Important,” I said.
“I am, ” said Pooh.
“Oh? Doing what?”
“Listening,” he said.
“Listening to what?”
“To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”
“What are they saying?” I asked.
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“But you know that already,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else thinks so, too,”
Prayer in Time of Violence
I have to admit, God,
that sometimes it’s hard
to even call your name.
On days like this
I can’t help but think
that if you had been there,
we wouldn’t be here—
—here in a world where
so much violence
has changed everything
—here where such bloodshed
fills today’s news
even as many more die
each day, unnoticed and alone.
But here is where we need you,
and here is where we cry to you.
Be here with us, Lord, be here.
Let us be angry for what has been done,
but don’t let us be consumed by it
that we no longer recognize ourselves
as your creation.
Give peace to the children.
Unbind them from the bonds of grief and fear
that they may become again
children of joy, of love, of trust, and hope.
And not today, Lord, but in time,
if there’s at all any room in our hearts to forgive,
then so let it be,
for we all need to be created again.
Be here with us, Lord, be here,
right where we are, as broken as we are.
Be here with us, Lord, be here.
The Work of Your Hands
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.