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Savor This Life

We are wired to savor. To live awake and attentive, present in the moment… “being spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living.”
What is not a surprise is that savoring is also good medicine for our blue moods.
But I forget that. Well, that’s not quite accurate; let’s just say that I get distracted, exhausted and too often, live numbed.

A young man boarded an overnight train in Europe. He was told, “There have been a lot of recent thefts. We take no responsibility for any loss.” This worried the young man, because he carried a lot of stuff. So, he lay awake, fearing the worst, staring at his stuff. Finally, at 3 am, he fell asleep. Waking with a start twenty minutes later, he saw that his stuff was gone. He took a deep breath. “Thank God,” he said. “Now I can sleep.”
Here’s my question; What is it that we carry (so dutifully) that keeps us from savoring? From living awake and present? The list seems longer these days (including things we didn’t sign up for). It is no wonder that we sometimes feel undone.

I’ve talked about wrestling with depression and anxiety. When it rears its head (shrouded in mystery of course), I treat it like a challenge, or competition, expecting to figure it out. As if I’ll move past it, on to “real life”.
So, of course, I google it. (Not a good first move. Just sayin’.)
I scan the page and a pop-up screen flashes and squawks (literally), asking me to take a survey. My blood pressure now up, I close the box and scroll the article, sidetracked by several ads, playing as videos. Including an ad for a med I cannot even pronounce. There’s a depression(s) guide, with 30 plus types of anxiety to choose from, five articles to read, rabbit trails to follow. At the bottom, pictures with 8 more recommended articles, including foods to avoid. So, I hide my chocolate from the screen in case the computer is spying on me.
I take the healthiest option; I start laughing, turn off my computer, and say out loud, “Thank God. Now I can sleep.”
So. Back to savoring.
“We are part of what is sacred,” William Kittredge reminds us. “That is our main defense against craziness, our solace, the source of our best politics, and our only chance at paradise.”
Here’s the good news; The sacred isn’t always where you expect it. Say, the immediate vicinity. Can the beauty of living, surprised by the goodness and beauty of this life, be enough?

“To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time,” Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, contemplating the art of seeing.
And I love Simone Weil’s memorable assertion that “attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.”

This week I read that it’s a new day on Amtrak. No more sit-down meals. Which takes us again, to savoring. Rainesford Stauffer writes, “Just like Amtrak citing prepackaged meals as a chic and contemporary workaround to a prepared meal, the emphasis on ease — on maximizing every second — is supposed to be sexy. But it can feel exhausting. The idea that young people like me are always on the go, always in transition and always on, masks that we might actually desire slowness, want to relish an experience, or enjoy taking a moment to feel comfortable and human instead of curated and optimized.
Our experiences at work, in our homes and even in transit can be chopped up into pieces of purpose and service. Anything else — any lingering, any humanity — can feel superfluous, or even wasteful, especially for a generation scapegoated as entitled for wanting things that used to be considered basic. It’s as though doing more (even when we’re doing something as simple and sedentary as riding a train) with less is always the ultimate goal.
It’s not difficult to see why, when an advertisement highlighting convenience and quickness pops up, we believe maybe this really is the thing that will make life better. Maybe this is what ‘contemporary’ looks like. But I wish small things — meals on a train, unplanned moments that can’t be logged as self-improvement or furniture that is owned — didn’t feel old-fashioned. I wish people knew that my generation wants more than to optimize our lives, or to feel trendy because of how fast we’re hustling. I wish slowing down didn’t feel like a luxury.”
And I say, Amen.

So. Today, where can I pause, see, savor? And say, thank you?
I learned a new word this 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.
This week I shall Fika.
And do you know what spills from savoring?
When we see, we allow ourselves to care, to be invested. To see around us a profusion of “raw, unalloyed, agenda-less kindness” (David Foster Wallace). That’s easy to forget. Gallup released a recent poll on success, about what we value and the disconnect between personal views, and our perception of how society views success. The results are no shock. We think society honors fame and money. But personally, we would choose trustworthy, considerate and helpful. It’s a reminder that we measure the wrong things. And when we do, we carry superfluous and cumbersome baggage.

When I savor, grace comes to life. Grace allows us to risk loving, to be unafraid of a life than can be messy. To make a space for something less than perfect in ourselves and in one another. To offer kindness and compassion. In a glance, in a word, in a touch.
To create spaces, sanctuaries, where healing and hope are offered.
To believe in goodness after harm. And to know that this light and love will always spill to the world around us.

This week, distracted by work, rain and mental shenanigans, I turned toward the foothills of the Olympics. Resting in a saddle, a rainbow, taking a breather, blessing the earth. Or being blessed. And making me very glad to be alive.

Quote for your week…
Instead of trying to name it, I just stand there and try to savor it, to figure out how to hold that peace in my heart and how to take it with me, if I can. Rick Bass

1—tip of the cap to Ron Rolheiser, “being spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living.”
2—New book is here This Is The Life, is out October 14. Join me each week for new video reminders and invitations about mindfulness, grace and the power of the present. We’ll be on Facebook and Instagram. Pass the word.
3–SM reflection questions and exercises are available for group and personal use. Let me know if you want to receive.


Today’s photo credit — Sunrise, Hayesville, NC… Turner Guidry… Thank you Turner… keep sending your photos… send to

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I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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Join me this Fall…
Oct 23 — St. Mary, Park City, UT
Nov 18 — St. Bartholomew, Long Beach, CA
Nov 21 — St. Serra Parish, Lancaster, CA
Nov 22 – 24 — Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Join me on Facebook. And Instagram. Every Monday, Sabbath Moment. Every week day, a quote or two, to pamper your soul, and make you smile.

In the mailbag…
–I do appreciate the uplifting message you send each week. Some weeks, it just keeps me sane… Julie
–Yes! And it’s up to us to keep spilling the light we receive. Like a pebble in a brook, the light we receive spreads out to others. I had a very good guide, his name is Terry. Thanks Terry for your light. Denise
–Your new book–that’s something to look forward to!! Bob
–I loved reading your Sabbath Moment, today! I too was raised to be Saved. Someone asked my little sister if she had been Saved. Her reply was “Oh yes!! Hundreds of times!!”
I was always scared that Jesus was going to come, and I would be left behind! I loved Mr Rogers too… My little boy and I watched it together, every day! And I loved Ken Burns, Country Music! Looking forward to your new book! Eunie
–Wonderful words and encouragement… I too spent a large part of my childhood listening to Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Hank Snow… Got lots of Patsy and Hank Sr. in my iPhone music library… Charlie
–I missed receiving your Sabbath Moment today… my Monday just wasn’t the same. Margie
–Terry and All, Thank you all for this wonderful eCourse retreat. It came just at the right time for me, pointing me to that miracle of my garden for healing. May God bless you all with a garden soul, time to do nothing, and celebrating our play. Again, thank you all. Marilyn

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Wani wachiyelo Ate omakiyayo (Father help me I want to live)
Atay nimichikun (Father you have done this)
Oshiya chichiyelo (Humbly have pity on me)
Wani wachiyelo Atay omakiyayo (Father help me I want to live)
Wani wachiyelo Atay (Father I want to live)
Robbie Robertson

When I Am Among The Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Mary Oliver

May the God of Hills be with you.
Remembering hills you have seen in the past,
may your thoughts always rise up to goodness, truth, and beauty.
May God carry you through your uphill struggles
and run with you in the downhill freedoms.
May your faith and your concern for others encourage them
to walk the hills of their lives with courage, trust, and freedom.
May the blessing of the Hills be with you.
Maxine Shonk, OP

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