I flew cross-country this past week. That’s a chunk of hours in a confined space, in seats designed for the undernourished. I’m just sayin’.
Across the aisle sit three women, one holding an infant. I catch myself saying a silent prayer, “Please!” It was a short prayer.
The young woman reaches over and hands me a small plastic bag. “Hope this makes your flight easier,” she says to me. In the bag, a small notebook and pen and munchies and chocolate and earplugs. And a note, “Hello! My name is Levi! I am 5 months old and very excited to meet my baby cousin! I’ll try to be on my best behavior, but I apologize in advance if I get scared or my ears hurt. My mom and grandma are more nervous than I am, so they made this goodie bag for you! Hope you have a great flight!”
I had planned to work on my Sabbath Moment, and realized, with gratitude, that Levi wrote it for me. Levi’s note is an invitation, in this time of division and suspicion and discord, to remember that we can live (each day) fully human and fully alive. To live unafraid of vulnerability.
I confess. These days it is easy to be lulled into shut down or numb mode, fueled by apprehension or fear. Each week someone tells me they’ve started a news fast, and I get it.
It is no surprise that we, more often than not, live asleep.
Let’s just say, Levi softened my heart.
So. Today I am glad for any reminder that no one of us is on this journey alone.
Today, I am glad for any reminder of the capacity to be fully human, tender, vulnerable and kindhearted.
Today, I am glad for any reminder that we are connected to something larger than our fear or anxiety or our ego.
This week I watched Last Flag Flying, the story of a Vietnam vet who visits two of his fellow Marines to ask them for help in bringing the body of his son, a fallen soldier in Iraq, to Arlington. “I was wondering if you guys could come with me,” he says softly.
There’s a good deal of conversation about what to believe or stand for, these days.
And yet. When discussion or debate turns into argument meant to divide, we miss the opportunity to be human with one another.
“Everywhere I go these days,” Jon Katz writes, “I run into people trying to get me to hate other people – e-mails, phone calls, lunches with friends, cable news channels, newspapers. They are the new electric messengers, they carry grievances from far and wide, and alarms from just outside the door. Every minute of the day someone is trying to alert me to an outrage committed by some person with a different label than I have. A person I am supposed to hate.”
Is there immunity from hate?
Sabbath Moment friend Rabbi Ted Falcon talks about Jacob waking up, “being initiated into a far more expansive appreciation of the interconnectedness of all Being. After obtaining the blessing of the firstborn that Esau had expected to receive, Jacob flees the anger of his brother. On his first night alone in the wilderness, he lay down and slept.
After his dream, he wakes…
‘And Jacob awoke from his sleep, and he said, Surely Eternal Being is in this place; and I did not know.’ (The Book of Genesis)
Awakening is always the intrusion of the greater meaning into the present moment. We awaken to what we had been blind to, but which is always here. Jacob realizes that his place is a place of connection — a place where levels of reality meet.
‘And he was afraid, and said, How awesome is this place! this is no other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’”
So. This Sabbath Moment is about waking up.
When we live awake, our world is different, changed. We see. We are open to receive. And we embrace our better angel. (Too often relegated to slumber, I’m afraid.)
Our better angel enters the day vulnerable, receptive, filled with compassion and empathy and heartache and redemption.
Waking up is not easy. Lord have mercy.
I will get scared. The problem is when I assume that this vulnerability is unacceptable, or needs to be covered up and apologized for.
What if I don’t feel strong enough?
What if the weight I carry is too great?
There is something potent in our need to confine, conscript, and control, as if we can only make a difference when we have our act together.
But here’s the deal: Awake, we find our real self.
Jacob, almost 70, finds himself in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s. For over 20 years a clinical psychologist and mediator, Jacob is now acutely aware that his faculties are deteriorating. On occasion his mind and recall are totally blank. At times he needs help with rudimentary physical tasks. Even so, Jacob’s spirit does not break.
At a retreat with Tara Brach, Jacob is asked, “How can you be so accepting toward your disease?”
He said simply, “Because it doesn’t feel like anything is wrong. I feel grief and some fear about it all going, but it all feels like real life.”
Jacob told Tara a story about an experience at an event–which happened in the earlier stages of the disease–when he traveled and gave talks about Buddhism. On one occasion, a hundred meditation students (alert and eager) gathered. He looked out at the expectant faces, and suddenly didn’t know what to say or do. He didn’t know where he was or why he was there. With his heart pounding and his mind spinning in confusion, Jacob put his palms together at his heart, and began naming, out loud, what was happening inside; “Afraid, embarrassed, confused, feeling like I’m failing, powerless, shaking, sense of dying, sinking, lost.” In time he relaxed and grew calm. He lifted his head. And apologized to the audience. Students were in tears. “No one has ever taught us like this,” said many.
Which begs the question, “What exactly did he teach?”
And what lesson is to be learned here?
“Surely Eternal Being is in this place; and I did not know… Awakening is always the intrusion of the greater meaning into the present moment.”
So yes. In this moment, this Terry is enough.
So yes. I need to let you know that I may get scared (afraid of being misunderstood, or unseen, or unheard, or of being dispensable), but that will not stop me from bringing my whole soft heart to this day.
It is 4:30 p.m. and almost dark here. Trees silhouetted against a dusty blue sky.
The moon is waxing past half, visible in the southern sky framed by limbs of a towering Douglas Fir. These are snapshots to make you stop. To breathe, to say thank you.
From the fires in California, the numbers are staggering. Our hearts go out to all who are affected. And we are following stories of ordinary heroes, making a real difference.
A blessed Thanksgiving to you all. The best recipe for Turkey, by the way, is to forswear political discussion during the meal. The stuffing always tastes better that way.
Stay safe this week, especially if you’re competing in one of those Black Friday sales events.
Quotes for your week…
You never know what you’re going to encounter en route. (So, now) I don’t miss a thing. I touch everything. Andy Merrifield
Let us be grateful
To the people who make us happy,
They are the charming gardeners
Who make our souls blossom.
Photo — Pat Prado Moore
Note from Terry… At the end of this month, you will receive emails inviting you to donate to Sabbath Moment. Your gifts make this ministry possible. If you do not wish to receive donation emails, there will be a link to unsubscribe. You will still receive Sabbath Moment… it will always be free.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Our true home is in the present moment. The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment.
Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us;
in our bodies and our spirits. Thich Nhat Hanh
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Thank you for the gift of today.
Refresh me, invite me,
To discover Your presence in each person
That I meet and every event encountered.
Teach me when to speak and when to listen
When to ponder and when to share.
In moments of challenge and decision
Attune my heart to the whisperings
Of Your Wisdom.
As I undertake ordinary and unnoticed
Tasks, gift me with simple joy.
When the day goes well, may I rejoice!
When it grows difficult
Surprise me with new possibilities.
When life is overwhelming
Call me to Sabbath Moments
To restore Your Peace and Harmony.
May my living today
Reveal your goodness.
Blessing by Pat Bergen, CSJ