Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including yourself. (Thank you Anne Lamott.)
And yet. We can’t just unplug, can we? Don’t we need a plan of action, a strategy for self-improvement, and targets to measure success? What’s the point in nourishing our soul if we don’t have boxes to check? What do we win?
Writing about unplugging and refueling makes me wonder… What is it I am asking for? I do know this: If I “wake up to this life,” I may not like what I see. Hurry and distraction have always served a purpose.
Like the middle-aged male journalist who went on Ritalin after his wife sent him to a doctor. She complained that he had attention deficit disorder because he was not paying enough attention to her: after his Ritalin kicked in, he focused on the marriage, and decided it was over.
I write about sanctuary, but frankly, there is something oddly satisfying in the rush, the hurry, the stress. Maybe I’m afraid, that if I stop, if I slow down and unplug, I may not amount to anything. What if someone told me (and this is indeed the scandal of Grace) that everything I am ever going to amount to, I am right now?
We’ve missed the point if we don’t see that refueling is a laboratory for forgiveness, which begins with self-forgiveness. And unplugging invites you to befriend your scattered and wounded self. Grace, it turns out, is WD40 for the soul.
So, let us feed our soul. For starters, we can let go of our wiring, that sees any endeavor as a transaction, or tactical devise to “improve” one’s life, propelled to best in class. A need to perform or achieve attracts fear-based or self-interested people, and life calls for lovers. Franciscan teacher John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) helps here. He tells us that God did not create genus and species. God only created “this-ness,” (in Latin haecceity). He said that until we can experience each thing in its specific “thisness,” we will not easily experience the joy and ubiquity of Divine Presence. What my son taught me while savoring a cinnamon twist, “Dad, this is the life” (you can read it here). Thisness; to embrace (and be embraced by) the sacrament of the present moment, the here-and-now in all its ordinariness and particularity. In other words, I can’t be present in general. I’m invited to be present to this person, this conversation or event or conundrum. Right here, right now.
I love John Muir’s reframe about hiking. “I don’t like either the word or the thing,” he wrote, “People ought to saunter in the mountains–not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so, they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”
Here’s the deal: Thisness invites savoring, and gives birth to wholeheartedness, joy, empathy, compassion and connection. In the sacrament of the present, fear and striving do not own us, and we welcome our imperfect parts.
When everything must be weighed, and measured to be of value, down the road, (gratefully) something snaps. While I sit on the back deck, the sun sets over the Kitsap Peninsula (the expanse of land west of Seattle and Puget Sound). The sky, as if batter poured from a pitcher, turns an effluence of slate blue and vermilion. Spires of hemlock are backlit and silhouetted like hand puppets on an immense screen. I stand for some unknown reason, singing, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog. Was a good friend of mine…” at the top of my lungs, and do a little boogie with my dog Conroy, who hasn’t the foggiest idea what’s come over me but is a sucker for a party and plays along nonetheless.
I let the moment melt around me before I gain my composure and give myself some sort of reality check: a quiz requiring justification for what I’m feeling and why. And then it hits me. I can’t tell a soul about my dance at twilight without coming face-to-face with who I was pretending not to be and the energy it required to maintain that image.
When I lived in Southern California, I spent three days a month at a Benedictine monastery out in the high desert. It was my periodic trek to a place where I could slow down long enough to pay attention. Truth is, I wanted to learn how to be alone with myself and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that. And, I wanted to learn how to be alone with God and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that, either.
On one visit, a friend asked one of the monks, “What exactly do you do here?”
”We pray,” the monk replied simply.
”No, really,” my friend persisted. “I mean besides that. What do you really do?”
”It is enough just to pray,” the monk told my friend.
”It is enough,” I tell my dog standing on the deck absorbing the summer sky, “just to boogie.” Just to boogie under the inexplicable marbled canopy of dusk. Just to feel your lungs swell and your heart flutter. Just to cheer the sun as it sets and not give a damn about some need to fight back the tears, standing spellbound in the salty prism for twilight rainbows.
Thisness. Not a bad way to start of conversation, “Where did you find or embrace Thisness today?”
Last night I was with the good people at St. Brendan’s San Francisco, talking about ways we can let our souls catch up with our bodies.
Today I’m on a plane to Florida. Headed to Manasota Key, my annual visit with friends of 35 years. You can be sure I’ll be finding simple sanctuary, and practicing thisness.
Quote for your week…
We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have — for their usefulness. Thomas Merton
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s photo credit — Panajachel, Guatemala, Jessa Blessa Hurst… Thank you Jessa… grateful for your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Misc. in the mailbag…
–Hi Terry, Now, at 85, I can no longer climb the apple tree. I climb in and out of my bed, at time with help of my dear husband of 62 yeas. From there, I climb into my motorized recliner, which has 10 buttons; can be a wild ride if I hit the wrong button. I have windows on 34 sides of the room to view my flower gardens, 2 hummingbird feeders, room filled with volumes of books, dvds, cds, computer, printer—all the necessities. Last week I bought Mary Oliver’s book. Also took Spiritual Literacy by the Brussats that you had recommended when I was watching the Hallmark Program you were on years back. Really miss that program. Thank you for all your beautiful thoughts you share. Peace, love, joy and always laughter. Marketta
–I enjoyed your leadership immensely and the way you ensured we all got to meet each other, and share our stories more deeply with each session as our trust in you and each other blossomed. Your approach to politics and religion opened up this forbidden topic so easily with great artistry. As a WWII veteran I am deeply involved with obtaining peaceful relations among all humans, and the work we did assured me that it can happen. You adapted your leadership to our expectations expertly. You were ideal and a genuine pleasure. I feel richly blessed in being able to enjoy this wonderful experience with you. Bill
–Thank goodness for your cello playing. Without your Sabbath moment I would feel lost. You bring kindness and understanding to so many. Can’t imagine this world without your cello music.
–I love the story about Parkinson’s and music. It made me think of stutterers (which I am one of) often don’t stutter when they sing. Brad
–Hi Terry, Just a simple thank you for sharing your light yet another Monday. I am grateful for my Monday morning tune up. Joanie
–This beautiful reflection of many facets reminds me of a young man who was on a youth retreat I directed. He was in a wheelchair but he was not wheelchair bound. The retreat was titled Gifted and Giving. When the participants were invited to share their gifts, the young man said he would like to dance for the group. I’m sure I took a deep breath, hoping he would not embarrass himself. With effort he rose from the chair and began an Indian style dance–actually doing it with grace in spite of his cerebral palsy! Somehow the rhythm of dance freed his body to flow into the dance. It was a beautiful moment that lingers in my heart years later. Patti
–Terry, that cello story was magnificent! Thank you so much for this beautiful Sabbath Moment. I may use it this Sunday–giving you credit, of course. Blessings. Rev. Susan Sparks
–Thanks for sharing your “cello”. It never disappoints! Jennie
POEMS AND PRAYERS
The biggest spiritual problem of our time is efficiency, work, pragmatism; by the time we keep the planet running there is little time and energy for anything else. Thomas Merton
I Meant to Do My Work Today
I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?
Richard Le Gallienne
Two miles I had to walk along the fields
Before I reach’d my home. Magnificent
The Morning was, a memorable pomp,
More glorious than I ever had beheld;
The Sea was laughing at a distance; all
The solid Mountains were as bright as clouds,
Grain-tinctured, drench’d in empyrean light;
And, in the meadows and the lower grounds,
Was all the sweetness of a common dawn,
Dews, vapors, and the melody of birds,
And Laborers going forth into the fields.
– Ah! need I say, dear Friend, that to the brim
My heart was full; I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
A dedicated Spirit. On I walk’d
In blessedness which even yet remains.