This week I received email from readers about their illness from covid. And email about the death of loved ones, from covid. Email from people unsettled, tired and scared, looking for words. “Are we going to be okay? How do we pause internally to find refuge? Relief? Sanctuary?”
I close my eyes, and vividly remember the times in my life when the fragile nature of my world felt like a breaking point.
And I want more than anything to give them a reassuring and consummate answer. And I laugh at my own performance constraint, now wondering which anxiety is gloomier.
For anyone unsettled, I give them a response I leaned from the Natal tribes in South Africa. They greet one another each day, saying “Sawa Bona,” which means literally “I see you.” (The response is “Sikhona” which means “I am here.”) Yes. No one of us is on this journey alone.
On my walk this morning, I ask my congregation the sheep, “Any advice on what to say to people with anxiety during a pandemic?”
“What do you say during ‘normal times?’” their look asked.
“Let’s sit a spell on the porch and listen to the birds, maybe wander the garden and smell the flowers, and savor the day,” I tell them.
“So, why would you change that?” They chew and stare at me. And a lightbulb turns on.
The relief we are seeking is connected to an internal switch, not an external one.
When standing knee-deep in the uncertain, it’s so easy to be derailed by tensions from the “unknown”, as if we can only “move forward” with some kind of resolution or tidiness. But what if… I allow tensions to expand my heart, and invite me to new appreciation of the sufficiency that is already there, inside. And from that, embrace the capacity to create a community of kindred spirits kindling the courage we need to show up, even in a messy world?
On a Passion Matters podcast with Fr. Edward Beck, I was asked, “How do you respond to people who say they cannot afford to PAUSE?”
So, I tell a story. An important and hurried and stressed businessman visits a Zen master, seeking guidance and inner peace.
The Zen master sits down, invites the businessman to sit for tea. “I’m not here for tea, I only want inner peace,” the businessman blusters.
Still, the master pours the visitor a cup of tea. But even after the tea fills the cup, the Zen master continues to pour, allowing the tea to spill, now running over the entire table.
The businessman is taken aback, “Hey! Stop! Please stop pouring the tea! Can’t you see the cup is full and obviously can’t hold any more.”
The Zen master replies simply, “Yes. So it is with you. And you will not be able to receive any guidance, or peace, unless you make some empty space first.”
Okay. I can relate to the businessman. After all, there’s something alluring about filling any empty space. And besides, I’m good at it.
This is all the more palpable, now that we stare at empty days. And we’re not so sure what to do with them.
And something very unnerving about being asked to empty (or let go of) whatever I’ve stockpiled to fill that space.
But here’s the deal: When there is no empty space, we pay the price. We are full. Stuffed. Numb. Literally; numb.
When my senses are numbed by noise and overload and worry, I am impoverished. “Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity,” Thomas Merton wrote.
Bottom line, I become a man (in the words of Leonardo Da Vinci) who “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”
So, our spirit is like the teacup. Overflowing. And all we wanted was guidance. We just didn’t expect that it would involve making space. “You need me to let go of what?”
Back to Fr. Edward’s question. “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty,” Etty Hillesum wrote. “To reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
Yes. That’s the gift.
The space enables me to see the sufficiency that is already there.
The space enables me to be at peace with my enoughness.
The space enables me to know that my enoughness is never predicated on what I’ve collected (or on anything external), but on the gentle hands of grace that hold me not matter what.
And, as Etty, wrote, this kind of peace spills to the world around us.
Another story this week from my friend, Rev. Susan Sparks (NYC) about Beethoven. At the end of his life he wrote the Ninth symphony (I’m playing the Ode to Joy chorus in my mind, standing to my feet). I can only imagine that Beethoven wished for (prayed for) other circumstances. After all, his life had its own fragility. He was deaf. He was driven to melancholy. Yes, he wished for relief. And yet, from that place he wrote the Ninth. I love this story because it is about that internal switch. He celebrated the beauty that was within.
Beethoven added voice, turning symphony into opera.
And he invites us to engage with the music and beauty inside (“large areas of peace in ourselves”), and to share our own song.
In every single one of us, the music is alive and well. Maybe not the Ninth Symphony; fair enough… Even so, play it. Sing it. Live it. Don’t worry if it’s a good enough song or if you have the words right, or that you didn’t hear the song earlier. Savor the music. Here’s the good news: when I’m at home in my own skin, I can be on the lookout for those who are derailed and cannot hear the music in their world.
We are finding ways to replenish and stay spiritually hydrated. Many are involved in the eCourse Retreat, The Power of Pause. So, I’ve added another; Sacred Necessities. This retreat is for people who love life. And, for people who wish to love life, but who are temporarily stymied. Captive to busyness, disappointment, anger, exhaustion, apathy, excess of caution, or even a good reputation… or pandemic insecurity. And we carry around an unused life, as if life is a savings bond to be withdrawn only when mandatory.
In the garden, the bearded iris and Columbine are about to begin their pageant, a parade of color and passion. My Oh My.
Quote for your week…
Let nothing dim the light that shines from within. Maya Angelou
Notes: Resources, tool and practices to keep us replenished and nourished. So many people have joined us for the Power of Pause eCourse. We are grateful. Because of that, this week we will be adding another eCourse at no cost: Sacred Necessities. Look for the email. NEW. Join us in our eCourse Retreat. The Power of Pause.
Join our eCourse Retreat. Sacred Necessities.
An opportunity to replenish. The retreat is available to anyone. No cost. Sign up today.
NEW. Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
NEW. Sabbath Moment Reflections. If you would like the reflections and exercises for each Monday Sabbath Moment, for yourself or for a group, email me email@example.com
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The Power of Pause.
In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Terry, Best definition I’ve heard of normal: Normal is a setting on the washing machine. Read your Sabbath Moment before my morning coffee, and guess what, I no longer needed the coffee. Just wonderful SM today!!!!!! Thank you. It was a Divine gift this morning, just what I, and many of us I’m sure, needed to hear today. Suchin
–Thank you so much Terry for the gift of this wonderful, intimate, and graced retreat. You are a wonderful story-teller and living so much out of your gifts in sharing with others. May you receive every bit as much in return.
–Hi Terry, I love to listen to you read your stories out loud. I wonder if you would Consider creating a simple podcast in which you would read your Sabbath Moments each week. I am an audio learner, so I know I would take in much more listening to the message versus reading it in an email or Facebook post. I bet I am not the only one who would love to hear your words spoken by you. Andrea
Thank you… and yes indeed… All SM are available on audio.
–Dear Terry – you did it again. I needed your words this morning and here you are bringing your healing, sensible attitude and topping it off with Andrea Bocelli. Music certainly brings hope especially when you two get together. His offering in the amazing cathedral was beyond words. Thank you… thank you! With hugs Wilma
–Good morning Terry I am grateful for the gifts your words bring to a heart that daily dances with both joy and fear; both doubt and trust; both laughter and tears. I too find the garden a place of peace and comfort and miracle. Thank you for “paying attention, being astonished and telling about it” In gratitude Linda
–God bless you and thank you, Terry! Words and prayer I needed to hear and hold closely… perfect timing for this precious present. Gratitude, hugs, blessings, prayers, and love, Leigh
–I love my Moments with you in your garden or with the sheep. They are so wise. A friend has been sending me her Moments for years. I have decided to join up myself. Bless you for sharing the gift God has given to you! Dixie
–Terry, Just opened my music (we didn’t get to sing this year) and sang out along with “In The Breaking of the Bread”. Thank you for always being there. Miss seeing you at the CASA. John
–Thank you, Terry! Appreciate your thoughts so much. They are a comfort for me, I get stressed and fatigued with everything. Sometimes feel overwhelmed. Sabbath Moment is a calming thing for me as I’m sure it is for others – a balm so badly needed now in our world… You stay safe and well too. God Bless You
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Have You Ever Loved Your Life?
Have You Ever Looked The Mystery
Right In The Eye And Said
Oh Yes Please I’ll Have Another?
I go among the trees
I go among the trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles of water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build
a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath: lead us there where in simplicity we may move
at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earths’ love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim;
another way of knowing: another way of being. Amen.