The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for a while.
— Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi
Just for today, don’t worry about what tomorrow holds for you. Be present to everyone you meet. When you listen with your heart, the other person may connect with who he or she truly is. Just for today, be in love with the world.
We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.
– David Steindl-Rast
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”
— Martha Graham
I hate the word “depression.” Especially when it really means existential angst, or psycho-spiritual crisis—all fancy ways of saying that you just don’t even know who you are or why you’re here. It’s a dark place I’ve been to recently—probably the darkest of my life, because when you get to a certain age, you think, “I should have a handle on this by now! When the hell am I going to get my act together? And HOW?”
These are old questions, but they get more urgent, more in-your-face when you try to stuff them down. And they start to manifest like symptoms of a disease that ain’t going to disappear just because you ignore it. So, yeah, I’m paying attention. I’m giving myself the luxury and the gift of looking inside, despite the nasty voice in my head that constantly casts doubts on my self-worth. But slowly I’m finding answers—and hope.
I want to share the passage below with you. Please let me know if any of this resonates with you.
A day will come when you will be stirred by unexpected events. A part of you will die and you will begin to search for the elixir to bring you back to life. You will seek this elixir in friends, lovers, enemies, books, religions, foreign countries, heroes, songs, rituals, and jobs. But no matter where you look, the treasure will evade you.
All will seem lost. You will lose all hope that this magic potion even exists. It will be the darkest of nights, and the promise of certain death will lead you to the abyss of despair. But, staring into this abyss, you will begin to see the dim light of your own illumined soul.
Your radiance will transform the abyss itself into the elusive elixir of life. And for the first time you will realize that all the while…it was your own Light that you were searching for.
— Mastin Kipp, Daily Love: Growing into Grace
This morning my lapsed-Catholic self shlepped to mass with my elderly dad. A kind of mission of mercy mingled with guilt. We sat in the front pew, where I had a very clear view of the huge crucified Christ. The prominent scabs on his knees seemed like ogling eyes. The opening song was “Open the eyes of my heart.” There were a few surprises–my dad actually praying (instead of speculating on the parish demographic of fat people), me tearing up at the “Lamb of God” (you know, who takes away the sins of the world), and the finger-pointing homily (which I thought had gone out of fashion).
The priest wrapped up with an interesting point, which I will paraphrase here: Think of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, including the two to three hundred parishioners in this church. Imagine if each one of those Catholics decided to make a difference, how they could change the face of the planet.
I looked up at those scabby knees again, and other, more recent images came to mind: The five-year-old Palestinian kid whose little chest was being tapped fiercely by medics (but he died anyway). The grotesque mass of rubble in Ukraine mixed with 300 bodies ripped from the sky.
And the finger-pointers are everywhere (including in my own family). We don’t need the morality of religious leaders and the righteousness of politicians to point the way to peace. Nor do we need to raise our eyes toward heaven. If we truly feel heartsick at the violence and the bloodshed “out there,” let’s look inward at our own heart. Let’s get a very clear idea of our gifts, our talents, what we have to offer–and then offer it to the world. That is your gift and my gift of peace.
Yesterday I was sitting on a bus going downtown, when a neatly-dressed young guy got on and sat on the bench across the aisle from me. I looked at him for a few minutes to see if he was talking into a Bluetooth, but no, he was apparently talking into the air. He turned his head quickly, looking at me with very strange eyes, and I looked away. Best not to make eye contact, right? The man sitting next to him took another seat at the end of the bench.
Then I realized our guy was chatting with the girl sitting next to me. He told her what he had for lunch and how full he was, and she said gently, “I can imagine.” And she told him she had had chicken wings.
“What else?” he wanted to know. “No fries?”
“Just the wings,” she answered.
“Oh, spicy!” he laughed.
I wondered if they knew each other, if she worked in the group home where he probably lived. But it turns out she was on her way to work in a restaurant in Orleans. He chattered on, asking her questions, and she answered him as she might talk to a pal. At one point she turned and smiled at me.
“You’re a very kind person,” I told her.
She shrugged, “He probably just needs someone to talk to. I’m sitting here with nothing else to do, so why not?”
She could have been doing something else on the Smartphone she was holding (like the suit who had just sat down next to our guy). Or she could have stared into space (yes, like me!).
As I got off at my stop, I looked once again at those strange eyes. They were pinned adoringly and contentedly on his lovely conversation partner across the aisle.
“True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”
― Pema Chödrön