Step into the unknown

Being liturgically more conservative than even I would admit, I was quite perplexed when the First Reading at the early Sunday morning worship at the church where I went for the first time, was a poem by Pablo Neruda, rather than the customary Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) text in the Lectionary. And so I listened intently hoping to discover the wisdom for such departure from tradition and the sacredness of the poem. I am happy I found both and the whole experience was quite inspiring.

The poem’s title is: You Start Dying Slowly.

Here are some of the verses that got me into meditation. (You Start Dying Slowly)

“If you do not appreciate yourself…

If you become a slave of your habits, walking everyday on the same paths…

If you do not change your routine…

Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,

If you do not go after a dream,

If you do not allow yourself,

At least once in your lifetime,

To turn away from sensible advice”.

You probably know the traditional response after the Readings: “…Thanks be to God”.

Does this speak to you as it did to me? Actually I felt liberated not only from the bondage of tradition but also a mindset about divinity and sacredness.

Advertisements

Create more of the same

 

Amazing day

Begin this day – and actually, everyday – with this mindset: “This is the day that the Lord has made”. The statement is from the Bible (Psalm 118: 24) but you don’t have to be Jewish or Christian to affirm that every new day comes as a gift. Time is not one of our creation.

But, there is a lot we can do about the second part of the statement: “Let us rejoice and be glad in it”. This is a call for action, and in fact we can paraphrase it and make it personal: “I will let myself rejoice and be glad in it”. It is a personal decision. It is a decision about mindset.

Obviously, every day we face situations and circumstances. Sadly, most of the circumstances and situations that scare us are informed of the past. The truth is, yesterday is history, today is a gift and that is why it is the present. Let us face today in the light of today’s available information and knowledge rather than past judgments (in other words, without judgment).

Remember, if you begin the day with the mindset that you are facing opposition from the whole world, or your co-workers, or the system, or life in general, you will create defensive, suspicious, resentful and even bitter energy which will reflect of everything you experience today and bounce back with even more negative force. On the other hand, if you chose a mindset of acceptance of a good and pure day that positive energy will create more positive force in facing today’s circumstances and situations.

So, make up your mind today, and every new day. That is what it means to live in the present.

Keep calm and pray on

main

It was mid-afternoon on Friday and I had been sitting in the waiting room of the government agency since 8 in the morning. There were around 150 of us waiting for interview for various services; and there was a constant stream  of people coming in as the hours went by and few leaving. A staff member tried to calm down jittery clients reminding us that we were simply far more than their number could handle expeditiously.

We were given numbers, categorized by a preceding letter – A, B, C, M, R, S, D, Z – which must have meant something to the staff but not to us – and followed by digits. Mine was A028. There were also computer monitors on the walls which displayed numbers as they were called for interview and also pending to be called. I kept checking the monitor and listening for calls and I sensed that A’s had not being called for a while.

I was becoming impatient and thinking of quitting and return on Monday morning. Actually I was there the day before too and it was about the time I had quit when my number was far down on the pending list. Just before I rose to leave, a door opened, a staff personnel appeared. There was dead silence in the waiting room as eyes turned to her eager to hear who she would call.

“Number A-021!” she called. There was silence for about five seconds, then someone shouted, “Gone!”

“Twenty-two?” Again, silence, then the whole waiting room responded, “Gone!” She went on, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven…and the response was the same. Then, “twenty-eight!”. I was worried I might not respond quickly enough before the crowd would roar, “gone”, so I raised my paperwork above my head and stood up instantly. The crowd roared, “Bingo!”.

My patience paid off. I was happy and so were my fellow clients. Actually I sometimes boast that patience is one of my blessings. But it is not easy. I have to continue learning each day. I was tempted to blame myself for not being patient the previous day. Yet, as I mentioned in the last post, I should not blame myself or anyone, nor regret because I acted to the best of the information and knowledge available at that time. Acceptance is the way to happiness.

As I sat down across the officer, there was a coffee mug that served as a pencil holder. It sat right in front of me. It was inscribed, “Be calm and pray on”.

“Why wasn’t this mug in the waiting room for all of us to see?” I asked myself. But then, there is the lesson right there. It is written in our conscience, we only need to access it whenever we are losing patience, and in whatever situation we are in: Be calm and pray.

Would it have been different?

SerenityI don’t know if you sometimes wonder – or even seriously ask yourself – “what if…”, or “had I known…”, or again, “only if…” – you can fill in the blanks. I do, sometimes, but I know I ought not. I am really training myself not to.

All this wondering and self-questioning is couched in past experiences and reality in retrospect. Yet, at the time of the experience, there was only so much information and knowledge about what may now be the truth. At any given moment we can only know so much. Even predictions of results are simply that – prediction – not the whole truth.

What we know at any particular time is informed by external, physical circumstances, social environment as well as emotions, needless to say that all these are variable, and not the whole truth.

Such questions cause pain, shame, resentment, blame, and similar negative feelings that drain energy. That energy would, more properly be directed to the present moment, accepting that what is, was meant to be. There is no blame for it, no shame and no resentment. Listen to  what is, learn and act calmly, knowing that there is still a lot that will become clear in the future.

And when that happens, accept it, don’t blame yourself or anyone else and adjust according to the available information and knowledge. That is positive and joyful.

 

The only way you will ever win

Willoughby-golf1I am not a golf player, much less a golfer. But, like a lot of people, the game of golf fascinates me and, when I can, I like to watch it on TV. Many people – especially players – agree that there are important lessons that can be learned from a golfer’s experiences on the golf course.

In the current edition of golfdigest.com/Masters 2016 Greg Norman is quoted saying: “Don’t harbor things internally. Don’t push the elephant under the rug. Anxiety and happiness, both come from within. And so you have to ask, which one do you prefer?”

He says this in reflecting on those moments when you think everything is under control, then – as if from nowhere – everything begins to spin out of control. This ought to be a moment of contingency management, accepting that failure may be inevitable, BUT, it is not the end, nor time to throw in the towel. As another Australian pro-golfer (Adam Scott) states, “you can’t be afraid to lose. You have to put yourself in that position because it’s the only way you’ll ever win”.

All this is summed up in the golf cliche, “take it one shot at a time”; advice well known to people in recovery. What it means to everybody is a call to steer attention away from the result and toward the process.

I know, I know! Elsewhere we are urged to focus on the goal – scriptures say that too. We’ll put that in context next.