Have you ever thrown your hands up into the air, and shouted to no one in particular, “Enough already, I’m tired of all this!”
I have. And these moments seem to detonate more frequently.
On cue, I scurry down a rabbit trail of distraction, bristling and affronted, and before I know it, at the mercy of discombobulation.
In her rear-view mirror, the young woman sees the blue flashing lights, and she feels the knot in her stomach. She pulls her car to the side of the road. The police officer approaches her car. The car window is rolled down, and the young woman prattles as he arrives, “I know officer. I know. I can’t even believe it. I was speeding. I was going way to fast. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
“Yes ma’am, you were speeding. What seems to be the problem? Why do you need to be going so fast?”
“Isn’t it obvious,” she tells the officer, “I’m lost.”
The world depletes us. And the technology toys we’ve added, don’t help. (This is not a Luddite rant, although I’m not above such.)
So. It is time to push the pause button. To pay attention to what diminishes and disconnects us. And, to what replenishes us. This I know: when we’re not replenished or grounded, we’re at the mercy of what is detrimental, to voices of division and acrimony, both external and internal.
Here’s the fallout; Our anxiety is weaponized to distrust as we disconnect from one another and ourselves. Why? I like Rabbi Ted Falcon’s take, because “we forget the fuller nature of our Being. When we collapse into our separate selves, each of us striving to protect what is ours, each suspicious and watchful and fearful.”
This email from a Sabbath Moment reader, “I think my inner fire has gone out. I am normally a pretty out going, giving, strong, open minded and kind spirit. Lately I find I just feel tired and weary with people and my own life. Now I just feel numb. Has this happened to you?”
“Yes,” I write her, “it has.”
Is there an antidote for healing?
We went to the outskirts of Bourke (Mother Teresa writes), where all the Aborigines were living in those little small shacks made of tin and old cardboard. I entered one of those little rooms and told the man living there, “Please allow me to make your bed, wash your clothes, to clean your room.”
He kept saying, “I’m alright, I’m alright.”
“But you will be more alright if you allow me to do it.”
Then he allowed me, and at the end, he pulled from his pocket a little old photograph of his father. I said, “You are so like your father.” He was overjoyed. I blessed the photo, gave it to him, and it went back into the pocket near his heart.
After I cleaned the room I found in the corner a big lamp, full of dirt. I said, “Don’t you light this lamp, such a beautiful lamp?”
He replied, “For whom? Months and months nobody has ever come to me. For whom will I light it?”
So I said, “Won’t you light it if the Sisters come to you?”
And he said, “Yes.”
So the Sisters started going to visit him for only about 5 to 10 minutes a day. They started lighting that lamp. After some time, the man got into the habit of lighting the lamp himself. Slowly, slowly, slowly, the Sisters stopped going to his shack (although they used to go every morning). I forgot completely about my first visit, and then after two years he sent word, “Tell Mother, my friend, the light she lit in my life is still burning.”
We are fortunate people. We do not live in shacks made of tin and old cardboard. But each one of us knows what it is like to let the light go out, or to leave the lamp unlit, or to bury the lamp (for any number of reasons, whether it be fear or shame or being just plain stuck) in the corner, under the debris of disillusionment and disconnection.
Tussling with life’s enigmas is not an enemy to wholeheartedness. This is not a resignation to unremitting struggle, but an invitation to embrace our vulnerability. Invitation toward change? Yes, of course. But we can’t change anything until we love it. And we can’t love anything until we embrace it.
“When we can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough,” Richard Rohr writes, “then we will, ironically, find that we are more than enough.”
This is why Mother Teresa’s story reignites something inside of me.
Even in (and especially in our vulnerability) we are reminded that very simple gestures can make a profound difference.
Simple gestures; to light a lamp, to give hope, to listen, to embrace, to empower, to hug. One Irish way of saying hug is, “duine a theannadh le do chroi”, to squeeze somebody with your heart.
I don’t tell this story as a motivational tool. As if there is an obligation to “be kind.” I tell it as an affirmation and a reminder (mostly to myself) that within each of us there is a light. And that this light—of hope, dignity, delight, passion, justice, beauty, grace—still shines, regardless of the dirt that covers it. Yes, there are times we forget (and throw our hands into the air). However, there are also times when a simple act of kindness, or gift of compassion, rekindles the light in our own spirit. This gift we give to another, becomes a gift we gratefully receive. In the story, both—the giver and the receiver—are liberated.
Mother Teresa wasn’t in that shack just to be kind. She was there to shine. (In reading her book, you realize that she did so at a time when her own life was racked with doubt and frustration and moments of deep despair. Yes, even from darkness, the light still shines.)
More than ever, we need one another.
This week a ferry boat down. The line everlasting. (If you’re in a hurry, this isn’t the place to live.) A doe and two fawns, still spotted, stand in the roadway, non plussed about the line of parked cars. Any ambitious plans for the day succumb, and there’s no one to complain to, so you talk with the deer, read a book and look out the window at the blackberry vines, it’s fruit only a week away from cobbler ready.
Quote for your week…
The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become large and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door. David Whyte
Note: On September 9 we push the pause button with the eCourse How to Harness the Power of Pause. You’ll be receiving an email invite. If it’s not your thing, no worries, just ignore or better yet, pass it on. For those of you who want a dose of replenishment, I’ll see you in the course.
SM reflection questions and exercises are available for group and personal use. Let me know if you want to receive.
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Today’s photo credit — Early morning Lake Tahoe, Kathryn Halloran… Thank you Kathryn… last week; Vashon Island, Helen Pendergast… keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
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Sept 9 – Oct 4–eCourse How to Harness the Power of Pause
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In the mailbag…
–Dear Terry, I had the pleasure of hearing you speak The Power of Pause in Incline Village recently. I am so glad I signed up for your amazing Newsletter: Your writings, videos, poems and prayers are food for my Soul. I especially appreciate your voice. I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for living your life on purpose. There was a story you told that resonated with me. In a nut shell it was about a group of men working very, very hard for several days. Then they stopped. They needed their souls to catch up with their bodies. Sincerely, Kim
–Hi Terry, I just now got around to reading Monday’s SM and, as always, I am better for it. Hope you are enjoying your week at home. I have been retired for 7 years now and every day is blissful, though our leaders often overshadow my joy and the recent shootings have put me in a funk. Then my latest great niece came home from the hospital after spending her first 10 days there and suddenly, I can’t wipe the smile off of my face. This baby whom I haven’t met in person yet has already captivated my heart. Now, the reason I am writing is to tell you that I listened to A Safe Place to Land and found it so beautifully performed and written. It made my heart ache for it but I found the immigrant story so poignantly described in the lyrics. I will remember that analogy of being told to stand still in a burning building with windows wide open. Thank you for sharing that heartfelt song. All the best, Rose
–Terry, Thank you so much! I needed this today… more than I can express. Being Mexican, the last couple years have been a struggle. The separation at the boarder has been almost unbearable! Then baby Paul, the four-month-old baby shielded from his parents, are my relatives. I am trying to organize time for you to come and speak to us so don’t think I have forgotten about you. You are so needed in this time. Mary
–Holy shadows… abound. Thanks for bringing them into focus as I read your piece. Sandy
–Sabbath Moment casts holy shadows in my life. Just the words my eyes need to see and my heart needs to feel. Pati
–Wonderfully said—May I be a “shadow man” today—what a great prayer to remember. Thanks, Terry! Brian
–Terry, I am Father Arturo Corral from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This coming Sunday the Gospel is about Mary and Martha. You are an inspiration for my homily when you write books like Sacred Necessities and Sanctuary. To stay at the feet of the Lord is a Sanctuary. Thanks a lot for your inspiration. Fr Arturo
–Thank you Terry for the Diana Makalintal. Prayer. I have no words when one more act of violence occurs. Her prayer was perfect. Raedene
–Marvelous words from a healing heart. Thank you, Terry. The Wizard of Oz remains one of my top 3 favorite movies even though the flying monkeys scared me so badly, my precious Mama had to stay with me a coupla nights till i dozed off. And the Tin Man was my favorite. indeed and indeed, Peace my brother.
–Hi, Terry,Tomorrow will be one year that my cousin, Matt died fighting the Mendocino Complex fire. I’m already having a hard time with it. I can only imagine how his sweet wife Heather and son Griffin are dreading tomorrow. My aunt and uncle and my cousins (his siblings) will all be camping together celebrating Matt- they were camping last year on a trip Matt was supposed to be on but wasn’t because he was fighting the fires. Can you lift all of us in your prayers tomorrow? It will certainly be felt by all. Thanks! Sarah
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
We can allow our moral choices to rest within a life of prayer, and we must. Regular moments of awareness that there is a power greater than ourselves save us from an inaccurate sense of our own sovereignty over our lives — they do not belong to us. We occupy our space here for a brief season, and we must relinquish it when the time comes. We are the very definition of ephemerality. We are tiny, and our challenges are huge. Neither you nor I will prevail over them, not on our own. But we are not on our own. We have God and we have one another. Be tender and kind. After all, we are the only one another we have. Barbara Crafton
Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
I yell ok. Finish something I’m doing,
then something else, walk slowly round
the corner to my son’s room.
He is standing arms outstretched
waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.
Why do I give my emotion an animal’s name,
give it that dark squeeze of death?
This is the hug which collects
all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
The thin tough body under the pyjamas
locks to me like a magnet of blood.
How long was he standing there
like that, before I came?
At the end of the day,
We give thanks for the hours that were given.
The buds that brought beauty to the land
And the vision of a world
A vision of work to do
Rituals to bring back the hope and the delight
Practices that center the mind in peace
Time that passes so beyond this day and night
We give thanks for the conversations that were
Holy ounces of breath in and breath out
And we scatter the rest to the wind
To die back or to create forth