Oliver Sacks lived bigger than life. Passionate, eccentric and engaged. As a doctor, (renowned neurologist), he treated patients who suffered, well, from just about everything (including unusual neurological disorders, and you may remember him from the movie, Awakenings).
On this, he insisted; when we see a patient, we must see their wholeness, their humanity and the spiritual within.
A nurse and nun, at one of the old age homes where Sacks did rounds put it more prosaically, “Everyone who reads his notes sees the patients differently, newly. Most consultant’s notes are cut and dried, aimed at the problem with no sense of the person… With (Dr. Sacks), the whole person becomes visible.”
Sometimes, it’s too easy not to see the whole person. Especially when we look in the mirror. And, if I don’t see wholeness, I’m tempted to, or shamed into, add something to my life, because I don’t believe what is already there, is enough.
One day the Buddha was sitting with his monks. A distraught farmer approached. “Monks, have you seen my cows?” The Buddha said, “No we have not.” The farmer continued, “I am distraught. I have only twelve cows, and now they are gone. How will I survive?” The Buddha looked at him with compassion and said, “I’m sorry my friend, we have not seen them. You may want to look in the other direction.”
After the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks, looked at them deeply, smiled and said, “Dear ones, do you know how lucky you are? You don’t have any cows to lose.”
This is an easy story. Because I own no cows. A few cats maybe. If I’m honest, the things which clutter my heart and mind (and absorb my energy and focus and weigh me down) are much more encumbering than the farmer’s cows. Craving something I don’t have, that I think I need.
My need for closure (to tidy things up).
My need for answers (for security I’m guessing).
My need to be right (for others to be wrong of course).
My need to be in a hurry or to be distracted.
My need to be noticed (to impress those around me, even those I don’t even know; fueled by my fear of failure or being a disappointment).
So. Like the farmer, I can live distraught (preoccupied, and dissatisfied with ordinary days, and the gifts of grace).
Because here’s the deal: we pay attention to the wrong stuff.
I smiled really big this week when I read this Irish saying, “You don’t give a man a weapon until you’ve taught him how to dance.”
In other words, first things first. Or, in garden lingo, the soil necessary for wisdom, good choices, bigheartedness, generosity.
The word weapon can be disconcerting. But let’s reframe it, shall we?
Weapons are behaviors we use to control and react to life. Anything that gets in between me and the present moment.
This is not just a symptom to be cured, Sacks would remind us. A different kind of seeing (and learning) is summoned. What a wonderful irony. To learn power, leadership and influence, we must first become disarmed, vulnerable and whole; connected to our heart through mercy and kindness.
For a few weeks now we’ve been pushing the pause button. So, first things first. Let us Stop. Our Jewish heritage would say, Sabbath. It’s about where we tether our wellbeing. And hear this: Grace is the opposite of fear.
The Sabbath—the permission to stop, sit still, wait—allows us to hear the voice of Grace saying simply, “You are accepted. Period. Deal with it.”
On the seventh day, God rested. God savored.
Savoring is rooted… In Sabbath. In Enough. In Grace.
You know you are enough without any extra cows, right?
You know you are whole without the need for a weapon, right?
For six days we work, we build, we create, we control (and at times, we fret). The seventh day we rest. We stop. We receive. We savor. Without savoring, we assume reality is only about what we create or produce (or fail to produce). In other words, because of grace we are not driven to live another life, a different life. We find wonder (or the kingdom of God) here; even without our cows.
Okay Terry. How do we see this wholeness in a world very broken and hurting?
When we see only “brokenness”, fear soaks up so much of our spirit and energy. And the more anxious we are, the more we need to buy and spend in the search for security and safety. The more “cows” we need. When I don’t see wholeness (even in brokenness), I am not free. I’m owned by my “cows”.
The Hebrew word for rested, vyenafesh, can mean rest, or ensouled, breath, to catch one’s breath, sweet fragrance, passion, and inner being of man. A nefesh can also mean a living being. In the context of Sabbath, God ensouled this day by resting. Just as dormancy ensouls a garden, downtime (pausing, Sabbath) ensouls my heart. And my life. To live whole, even in a broken world.
Paul Tillich elaborates, “You are accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not seek for anything. Do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.” If that happens to us, we experience grace.
We continue to pray for our friend in the Bahamas, where people are still searching for missing family members.
I spent the day yesterday in Julian, CA with a lively group at Whispering Winds Retreat Center. I boarded a plane in San Diego at 5 pm. I arrived home on Vashon after 3 am. Let’s just say, that wasn’t the plan. The PNW had its own Mother Nature extravaganza, over 1200 lighting strikes. The airport shut down; football stadium evacuated. But we’re all okay. I’m out in my garden today, talking with the birds about my need to fret less. They give me a puzzled look.
Quote for your week…
Beauty has its purposes, which, all our lives and at every season, it is our opportunity, and our joy, to divine… much is revealed about a person by his or her passion, or indifference to this opening of the door of day. Mary Oliver
SABBATH MOMETN BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s photo credit — Somewhere in Texas… Bill Taylor… Thank you Bill… 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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Podcast to Enjoy — Embracing Woundedness — Terry, on The Next Chapter with Charlie Hedges
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In the mailbag…
–Hi, Terry, I haven’t written for a long time, but try to read your Sabbath Moment each week. We have had lots and lots of little butterflies here lately, not Monarchs but smaller and almost as pretty. Painted ladies, I think someone said. This weekend I was taking some groceries out of my trunk next to several planters and saw four butterflies on my lantana plant. Thought I’d take some pictures with my phone, but after a few pictures, my camera got stuck on “saving” and all I saw was the revolving circle. I have no idea what I did because that never happened before. I finally gave up taking pictures and just watched and enjoyed the butterflies. As I was “in the moment” the butterflies were joined by an unlikely friend – a hummingbird who came by to test the nectar of the same plant. I swear the little thing smiled at me as I watched. No pictures on my camera but a lovely one in my memory. The power of pause can be quite wonderful! Thank you for your beautiful writing each week and your soothing voice in the midst of a crazy world! God bless you, Mary
–Terry- Your note about “privilege” struck a chord: I often tell people that, as a chaplain, I have the best job in the hospital. Often as I leave a patient with whom I have had a productive dialogue, I thank God silently as I leave the room: Thanks for the privilege, Lord, of that visit! And although I have a profession that is particularly suited to such an encounter, I am also aware that nurses, doctors, and room-cleaners have an opportunity to do this as well! Regards, Bob
–Dear Terry, How sad the reaction of so many people on Andrew Luck’s decision to retire. I am not a football fan but I am now a fan of Andrew Luck for having the courage of making the choice that was best for him. Too bad so many people see him as a machine to fill their desires rather than a human being. Oh, about the “white privilege” garden, wow I never realized my roses, or lavender or cactus knew whether I was white, black, pink or purple! Love Sabbath Moment it lifts me up when I am down and sets me on the right track!! Kathleen
–Hi Terry, I’m enjoying your book immensely! I have a Happy Holy Hour of Adoration every Monday afternoon in our parish chapel and I’ve been bringing you along to guide me. I also find my garden a wonder Sanctuary every morning with my coffee. Just wanted you to know, you are making a difference to this “starfish”! May God continue to bless you with your gift of writing. Sincerely, Julie
–Terry-thanks once again for your wise words. It is sad to see a football hero boo-ed because he is hurt for life by giving his all to the sport. Fans are fickle. And white privilege because you have a garden? Hate has no color boundary. Please keep growing your plants and flowers to bring beauty to our earth. My wife and I look forward to your balanced love Moments each week. Although we have never met in person, we feel you are a dear friend. We have commented to each other recently that we must get to one of your retreats. Perhaps when you are in Texas (we live in northern Texas) You are a blessing! Paul
–Thank you, Terry, for this inspirational daily dose of hope for humanity! I love the story of the chaplain in Normandy when he says, “if you are a minister the only question you ask is, can I help you!” Amen to that!! Irene
–As I’m reading I forgot what SM stood for, and I read “Senior Moment’… ooops. I just enjoy your writing so much, today particularly the story of the child and Grandpa… company and ice cream, indeed. Thank you for all of your SM’s! Sheila
POEMS AND PRAYERS
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because, in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
Anne Frank (Diary of Anne Frank)
Bring on the poets
to remind us of the weighty glory resident in the rose,
the caterpillar, the dog, and the grass.
Bring on musicians of the spirit
whose melodies touch both light and dark.
Bring on painters and writers and designers and architects
who ignite sparks of the soul.
But mostly, bring on the sun and the rain and the dawn and the dusk,
the night and the moon, shadowed by a hazy film of cloud.
And bring on love in a wife and a son and rich friends
who suffer from the same fatal disease but refuse to give in,
who redeem moments of time simply for rest
and joy and goose-bumpy love.
O energy of grace, O fire of light
let my heart express its longing and its love
for you who are within and without
for the immersion in your essence and your vibrancy
for your flow in the very marrow of my soul
and in the music of my members and molecules.
O Christ, energy of love,
pilot me, indwell me, transfigure me
enlighten me, release me into your being.