A farmer once came to see the Buddha, to seek advice, to get help with his problems. The farmer had many problems, and he told the Buddha, in great detail, all about how they made his life very difficult.
The weather never cooperated the way that he wanted. It was either too wet or too dry, so his crops often failed.
His wife, although a good woman, was far too critical of him.
Lately his children showed little respect for anything that he did.
His neighbors were nosey, always interfering in his affairs by spreading gossip.
This farmer’s list continued long into the afternoon. And, after each complaint, the Buddha replied simply: “I cannot help you get rid of that problem.”
The man, now exasperated, asked the Buddha: “What kind of teacher are you? And if you are so enlightened, what can you help me get rid of?”
The Buddha replied: “I can help you get rid of your 84th problem.”
“And what is my 84th problem?”
“Your 84th problem is that you assume your life will be better if you get rid of your other 83 problems.”
Take your pick; problem, conundrum, setback, tragedy or hindrance. Any of the list can literally darken our days, consume our mental energy, and feed us the narrative that “real life” is still pending.
I remember when I used to watch my dog (Conroy) laying on the patio, reflexively snap at flies and mosquitoes (with no luck of course), jumpy and agitated. It was entertaining to watch, but I always wondered why he didn’t just get up and move. I’m smiling, because now I know. Whenever I glance at my phone (to check out updates or the news), I begin to scroll, and must appear to anyone watching, that I have a type of Tourette’s, jittery, and now consumed.
Maybe there’s the connection… When the world around me feels by all accounts steeped in uncertainty and chaos, my daily difficulties (inconveniences, my 83), appear larger-than-life. And down the rabbit holes we go.
Which is another way of saying, the 83 (or more) now “own” me.
In other words, I didn’t give myself the permission to embrace the gift—to simply be here, now.
Yes, there is something about the tempting lure of life in “boxes”—you know, the comfort of tidiness, neatness. And perceived control.
In a national magazine, an ad for the Humane Society minced no words. Above an adorable puppy and kitten, the ad read, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”
Our wellbeing, is about who or what, owns us. The good news is this; when we lose our way, our authentic self is not gone.
Remembering that assuredness (groundedness) is not about knowing all “answers” (getting rid of problems), but about knowing in who’s arms we dwell.
Where do we tether our identity?
What are the rituals that ground us, and invite us to pause.
This much I know: the pause button is essential.
Here is one of my (pause button) go-tos when the news overwhelms, and my world tilts… I turn to poet Mary Oliver and warm to the invitation to embrace “our wild and precious life.” Gratefully, the healing and sustaining power of the sacrament to the present moment doesn’t begin after problems are eliminated.
I like the idea of a wild and precious life;
to give no heed to public opinion,
to walk on the edge,
to dance as if no one is watching,
to give the child in me a wide sky,
and to love as if I’ve never been hurt.
(Thank you Mary Anne Radmacher)
Rabbi Abraham Heschel reminds us that “we teach the children how to measure, how to weigh. We fail to teach them how to revere, how to wonder and awe.”
And that’s where my Sabbath Moment should end. Because I don’t have a “how to” list to accomplish this. Which is the heart of the Buddha story: it is not the solving of our problems that lightens our load, but the freedom that comes from knowing that our wild and precious life is alive and well in the very midst of whatever our problems may be. No wonder Jesus baffled people with his affirmation that the kingdom of heaven isn’t in the by and by; it is now.
“Life is difficult,” Scott Peck’s Road Less Traveled begins. Like it or not, our lives can be a litany of problems. And even when we’ve finally gotten our “act together,” or risk love or passion or delight, we break or fracture in the hidden places of our heart.
However, here’s the conundrum, and the invitation. Once I step into the tangle of this life—the sacrament of this sacred moment—I own my capacity to be present. Yes, to be a voice for humane encounters and dignity, a fortress against intolerance and despair, a sanctuary for calm and sufficiency, a shelter for healing and restoration.
Last night, shooting stars. Did you see them? Mercy. And I remember a scene from Cold Mountain. When Inman and Ada meet, he wonders aloud, “If it were enough just to stand without the words.” “It is,” she tells him. “It is.”
In the typo department, last Monday’s Sabbath Moment had this quote, “St. Benedict did not listen with the ear of his heart.” What he actually said, “Listen with the ear of your heart”… Yes, much better… thanks to the readers who caught it.
And our hearts are with the people, the community and friends on Maui after the wildfire destroyed Lahaina. And grateful for the people stepping up to be restorers and healers.
Quote for your week…
Living humanly will be its own reward. The person who has discovered the pleasures of truly human living, the person whose life is rich in friendships and caring people, the person who enjoys daily the pleasures of good food and sunshine, will not need to wear herself out in pursuit of some other kind of success. Harold Kushner
Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, Good, I do this every morning! (May Sarton’s ‘I spend the first twenty minutes of every day wandering my garden looking for miracles.’) I start with sunrise, treats for alpacas and then a slow walk through my garden. Today’s was filled with miracles. This Viceroy had just come out of the chrysalis! We are about 45 minutes west of Houston, Texas.” Bev Victory… Thank you Bev… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Hi Terry. I finally got around to reading your weekly article. I think it’s the best I have read. Robert
–There are so may post worthy nuggets in this Sabbath Moment I do not have enough refrigerator magnets to handle them individually. I opt to just print the whole thing and post it. Very much needed to hear all of this today Terry. Thanks, Linda
–I am part of Threshold Choir, a group who sings at the bedside of people who are approaching the end of life. We are planning a retreat for our members, and I would like to use portions of today’s reflection. Do I have your permission? Pat
–I read the office of readings this morning from the liturgy of the hours and was struck by Augustine. I the read Sabbath Moment and felt connected again to the garden of the earth that we need to tend. Poor people in Canada and Hawaii with fires. Terrible flooding and heat domes around the globe. Let’s not forget everyone’s a flower there are no weeds. Tom
–You gave us a lot to savor. Photos are my way of telling God I’m trying to pay attention. Thank you for this wonderful post! Janet
–Good Morning Terry, As usual, one of the first things I read this morning was your reflection for the day. I look forward to doing so every morning. Today you mentioned St. Benedict and I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned as a Benedictine Oblate of Mount Saviour Monastery. In fact my leadership training at another Benedictine monastery was titled ‘The ear of the heart’. I’ve included a link to the video about Mount Saviour Monastery and also part of the Prologue in the copies I have of the Rule of Benedict. I hope you enjoy the video and photos of this monastery which is also a working farm and retreat community. Thank you for all you offer! Eve
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Oh do you have time
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.