I was listening to an incarcerated man speak about his children last week; “This is my life. It is what I’ve always wanted. Not jail but respect. To get the respect I had to do things which would take me to jail. When my boy grows up if this is the life he lives I will respect him and we’ll rule the jail together.” To hear him hurt my heart. He had decided there was a certain path he, and his family, had no choice to follow to achieve his goal; respect. He didn’t realize it but he was talking about fate.
The dictionary defines fate; “the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.” For this man, the family he was born into, the house he grew up in, the neighborhood he roamed as an adolescent, the laws and societal norms he broke to fit in, powers beyond his control, all came together to put him on the path of being incarcerated. It was his fate and the presumably the fate of his children as well.
Wisdom tells us there are two circles; a large one and a small one. The large one is the things we cannot control; events, tragedies, positive occurrences and negative influences, most of life fits in this circle. The smaller circle are things we can control; choices, habits, reactions, responses to the negative influences and the positive occurrences. There is much out of control and life can seem overwhelming and chaotic. How do we find the right path in a world full of greed, hate, and evil? How do we know what’s right when a lot of things seem headed in the wrong direction? Or, are we fated to walk a certain path because of where we were born and to whom, grew up, genetics, role models?
The power to choose, to react, respond to the life that is given to us is great. It cannot stop tragedies, events, life from happening but it can decide how these things which are out of our control impact us. Life seems easier for some than others. Privilege is real. However, it doesn’t define us unless we allow it to set our course.
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.
Pauses and Spaces –
I worked with a dad today who struggles with addiction issues. He kept repeating the Twelve Step oft heard phrase; “Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray.” It is the addict’s response if they’re tempted to drink, use drugs, get angry, make poor decisions. They are to take a breath and then breathe a word of prayer for peace and guidance.
I use the phrase; “The space in between.” Life is made up of experiences. We’re blind to most of them because we’ve become used to them, take them for granted. There are times however when an experience happens and our choice of what to do or not do, how to react, make the wrong, right or better choice could greatly impact our lives and the ones we hold dear. It is in the space between what happens to us and our choice of how to respond where our future is forged.
Whether; “pause and pray” or “the space between,” we choose to shape the experiences of our lives or be shaped by them.