“I hate people. I hate life. I hate the world.” Lucy is apoplectic.
“I thought you had inner peace,” Charlie Brown says to her.
“I do,” Lucy responds. “But I have a lot of outer obnoxiousness.”
Speaking of life’s fretfulness, I don’t know where to begin this week.
Our friends in the Carolinas are deluged. “We’re looking for missing women and children,” one rescuer shouts from his boat.
We relived images and memories from the 17th anniversary of 9/11.
A friend tells me about loved ones that died in Puerto Rico, from Maria, hoping that they are not invisible to us.
“I’m Catholic,” writes one SM reader, “But these abuse stories. I’m angry and don’t know now.”
When life turns left, I can tell you that my urge is to ignore and pretend. And maybe hide until outer obnoxiousness passes. I wish it weren’t so. But it is the truth.
Friday, I spent a day with people who work in senior care in the Seattle area. In my book, these people are heroes. My topic, Reclaiming the CareGiver Within. It’s easy in the hubbub (even the hubbub of good things) to lose our sense of self. Or to lose touch with what is authentic and grounds us. Why does this matter? Because care of any kind is not just a skill set. It is grounded in authenticity. When you care, you bring who you are, in empathy, listening, kindheartedness, benevolence. It spills from you.
So. Where do we go for sustenance? Our cognitive knee-jerk doesn’t help. You know, that surefire list to solve or fix, and run from life’s fretfulness.
But what if? What if peace (restoration, groundedness and renewal) can only be found, or embraced, or internalized, in the specific, the mundane, the daily and the particular? Where we are invited to give in to the sacred, in the moment. Even in the messy, the disheartening and the uncertain.
Here’s the deal: Our soul cannot thrive without nutrients. It becomes anemic or withered or weak. We experience a loss of creativity, joy, presence, listening, vibrancy. And an absence of peace.
Which begs the question: what or who is feeding that part of my soul that nurtures peace and well-being? Where is that place which doesn’t require performance or manipulation or retribution?
My mind goes to a moment when Zach was six. We are taking a break, sitting on the bench in front of Bob’s Bakery (Bob’s is our Island morning gathering spot). We’re having Cinnamon Twists. They are decadently yummy, and make me forget my need to be useful. The bench is made from a trunk of an old downed log, it’s seat now worn from years of time and use. Zach and I watch the Vashon traffic–“traffic” in a poetic license sort of way–go by. And Zach, his mouth full of half a Twist, says, “Dad, this is the life.”
Where do we go for sustenance?
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it,” Ashley Smith writes. “Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
Really? That’s your advice Terry?
I do know this… when we stop the noise, we make (allow) space to practice the sacrament of the present. I am here. To see. To listen. To touch. To give. To heal.
A seminary student body participated in a day of recollection and reflection. As the Seminary President introduced the guest retreat leader—on a beautiful Saturday morning in spring—he apologized to the seminarians, “I’m very sorry for the distraction and the noise.” This Saturday—on the seminary grounds sports field—happened to be youth soccer day. It seems that the President had forgotten to arrange for the local youth soccer program to play their games elsewhere on the day of the retreat. Which meant hundreds of children on the seminary grounds, and the sounds of play and laughter could easily be heard, echoing and reverberating inside the lecture hall. But when the retreat leader stood up to begin his first talk of the day, he said, “I think it’s wonderful that the children are here with us this morning. I will not have done my job, if you aren’t able to have a good retreat while you see and hear the sights and sounds of children playing on our soccer fields today.” It sounds good, doesn’t it?
I’m just not sure how easy it is to practice.
I received a call this week about a job. Would I be willing to give a motivational talk to a group of professionals? The woman explained, “Our people are very busy. Their life can be crazy. They juggle and multi-task. So, your pause message sounds just right,” she tells me.
“Thank you,” I tell her.
“But,” she asks (and this is always the caveat), “How do we actually practice it? The pause part?”
That is the issue, though, isn’t it? Life tilts and turns left when we least expect it. And we want someone to give us the answers. Someone to balance it all.
We want someone to give us the “how.”
And, on a day when we expect inspiration, reassurance and motivation, we are told that it is enough to take delight in the play and laughter—the noise—of children, and the savoring of a Cinnamon Twist.
Excuse me? Am I hearing you correctly?
Living intentionally and fully alive—from a place of groundedness and internal peace—is not a technique. There is no list. But if we demand one, chances are, we pass life by—the exquisite, the messy, the enchanting, wondrous delightful, untidy—on our way to some place we think we ought to be.
There is meaning—consequence, value, and import—only when what we believe or practice touches this moment. In other words, it’s the small stuff that does really matter. Belief is all well and good. But there has to be skin on it—something we touch, see, hear, taste and smell.
So. Today, let us practice the sacrament of the blessed present. Before we decipher life, let us see life. 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 succumb to “someday”, let us inhale this day. Before we trade in this life, for the life we should have, let us taste this life. We make the choice to be open, available, curious, willing to be surprised by joy. To know there is power in the word “enough”. We carry this capacity to honor the present into every encounter and relationship. Meaning that we honor the dignity that is reflected by God’s goodness and grace, a place to include, invite mercy, encourage, heal, reconcile, repair, say thank you, pray, celebrate, restore, refuel.
It is almost autumn. The garden begins to give up its need to be impeccable. The plants are lax and carefree… absent of tension.
So, I walk and enjoy. And then spend time cleaning the gutters. Yes, I have a list.
Speaking of sustenance, join me for a Webinar, Creating Space for Grace in your life, September 19th. If you can’t join us, sign up and you’ll get the replay. And we’ll be offering the eCourse Finding Sanctuary, beginning October 2.
Enjoy the letters below. Many SM reader sending links to blogs and articles, all nutrients to nourish our spirit.
Quote for your week…
Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Mary Oliver
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Let us go forth from here,
blessed and renewed
in the Spirit of Shalom
in the Spirit of Integrity
in the Spirit of Illumination
in the Spirit of Transformation
with hopes lifted heavenward
with hearts loving the earth
in the name of our creating,
liberating, nurturing God.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back,
that something happens better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.
Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose
Hold on to what is good
even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life
even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand
even when I have gone away from you.