Grounded, Simple, Generous, Controlled, Joyful, Present –
The contemplative life isn’t hard to understand. Most of the teachings can be learned in a day but they offer a lifetime of wisdom.
A few moments ago I was sitting on the porch basking in the sun. It was wonderful. I had brought my phone with me but not sure why. I laid it down beside me and closed my eyes. It’s warm for the month of January. Yesterday it was cloudy and cool but in that present moment of sitting on the porch, the skies were a brilliant blue. Our Siberian Husky was sprawled out on the driveway, not a care in the world. As I embraced the beauty and warmth my attention kept going to the phone. I knew there wasn’t anything on it I needed to read or respond to but the fact it was there distracted me.
This is why simplicity is important in the contemplative life. Everything we own, invest our ourselves in, give our passion, energy and time takes a piece of us. The more we have in our lives the less contemplative we are able to be. Letting go of all that is superfluous allows us to focus on what’s important while the fluff floats away.
Might Be –
One of the greatest senses we can develop is that of self-awareness. It’s the discipline of being able to look into an existential mirror and see who we really are, no delusion or illusion. We can see ourselves, the good and the not so good, discover what we do well and what needs to be improved.
Most live in a constant state of denial of who they are and/or who they should be. They allow others, culture, reputation, ego, the false self to define them. If we are not self-aware the world has a limitless number of fake identities to slap on us. If we aren’t careful we can settle for these alter-egos and never take off the masks too many wear for a lifetime.
Letting go of who we’ve always thought we should be isn’t easy. There is pain involved on the journey of self-discovery. However, if we dare, the challenges and difficulties can be overcome, the illusions and delusions shattered, and we become what most dare not hope for; at peace.
My friend, role-model, and father passed away early this morning a little after midnight. His fight was over and he was ready. He sat up one last time as if to say, “It’s my time. I’m coming home.”
The house seemed empty today when we returned from all the breathless running around one does after a loved one takes their final breath. Even though he hasn’t been home in a few weeks it seemed he had just left the house. Keys, hats, computers, movies, his chair all still in their proper place. It seems this is still his house, his home. But…it’s not. Sure, there are memories and experiences. A lifetime of highs and lows to relive for the rest of our time on this shadow side of eternity but he has moved and left a forwarding address.
I sit in the quietude with his presence still lingering. I think about all of the rough days he’s had over the last 8 months, the noises of the machines which were keeping him alive. After we received the phone call we drove over to the hospice house to say our; “Goodbyes.” The room was so still. No beeping, whirring, pumping, dripping, nurses checking in. It was motionless and the silence was deafening. My mother began to fill the atmosphere with soft cries, and soft words to her best friend and lover of the last 40 years. My brother and I standing in the background, witnesses to a heart affair which is rare in this world. Finally, after a few more kisses from her on his hands and cheek, we left all thankful we’d never see that room again and that he had moved on to his permanent address.
And now, we are left to carry on. To occupy a house which isn’t home without him. To learn to adjust to a new normal we didn’t choose. To loosen our grip on this world, this place, because we know home is waiting for us on the other side.
I was talking with a friend this week about the different masks we wear when we go different places. There’s a work mask, family mask, friend mask, public mask, and somewhere, often buried deep is our true authentic ourselves. The problem is that we become so accustomed to wearing masks we never take one off for too long or risk showing the world who we are under all the fantasy. The conversation continued and we wondered if any of the illusions we create could eventually lead us to allow others to see the genuine person.
The conversation continued and we wondered if any of the illusions we create could eventually lead us to allow others to see the genuine person. We are so accustomed to hiding the “real” us, the person we think people won’t like, that wearing masks become our default and our defense.
The question becomes how do we break free of this habit of wearing masks? Overcome the fear of our authentic selves not being good enough? How do we begin to discover who we are when concealing our true identity has been our goal for most of our life? This is the reason we are here now, the journey we are meant to travel, the discovery, not of a lifetime, but of life.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.”
Get Moving –
“When they rise for the Work of God let them gently encourage one another, that the drowsy may have no excuse.” #RuleofSaintBenedict
The excerpt above was from my morning reading of the Rule of Saint Benedict today. It made me think of Beth. My beautiful wife can be described in many wonderful ways but being a; “morning person” isn’t one of them. When the alarm sounds, threatening to awake her from rest she’s not getting up without a fight. Finally, after several snoozes, she sits up, head down, exasperated sighs filling the air, one foot and then another are placed upon the floor. She shuffles to her closet, then to the kitchen and then to get a shower. Everything about her says; “I’d give almost anything for another hour of sleep!” There are a few approaches I have to help her get through these dreaded times. Some days I can engage her in a conversation, others I can be playful but mostly I’m quiet allowing her to locate the rhythm of her day. After 26 years of marriage I almost always pick the right approach to get her moving but there are some days when I choose poorly and quickly back off when it’s clear I’m pushing the wrong buttons.
Wisdom teaches us that folks have different speeds on the path of life. Each of us finds our own rhythm and we must be careful to allow others to move at their own pace. Our gift to others is not making them go as fast or slow as we want but to offer the gift of grace and love when our lives intersect for a moment or a lifetime.
She discreetly raised her hand and asked her question. I could tell by the way she phrased it that it wasn’t a general but a very personal inquiry. I did my best to give an answer faithful to the materials being presented but also taking her feelings and situation into consideration. After the seminar I spied her waiting on me just outside the door to the classroom. Unfortunately I was intercepted by someone else who wanted to speak with me and the woman couldn’t wait any longer. I looked for her as I walked to the truck but didn’t see her. Hopefully she’ll follow up with the contact information I give to everyone who attends my lectures.
The presentation I give on the fatherhood crisis in America has lots of statistics and facts. I also share stories of dads I work with and have had the pleasure of counseling and mentoring. There are examples of successes and “not quites.” It can be easy to forget that these lectures aren’t always times for simply gathering information. For some attending it hits very close to home and their personal stories are found in the materials given.
Life, what we do, what we say, who we are, has a way of always being personal and making an intimate impact.
Music is amazing. It’s power to transport, transfer, transition our minds, emotions and moods is unparalleled.
The last few days have been overcast and gloomy. My disposition has been effected and reflected in the drops of rain falling and the clouds hanging overhead.
In my workshop yesterday I listened to a storm and tried to cross a few items off the “need to do” list. I plugged a speaker into my phone and selected a slow playlist of current and classic songs. As the tunes played I thought of long time friends, different seasons of life. Music has the ability to allow us to be in multiple places at a single time.
I wonder if our lives can harmonize with the music of kindness, grace and love? Is it possible that we can impact others in such a way that it lasts for a lifetime? Perhaps even echo into eternity?