How do I kill time?
Let me count the ways.
By worrying about things
over which I have no control.
Like the past.
Like the future.
By harbouring resentment
real or imagined.
By disdaining the ordinary
or rather, what I,
By concern over what’s in it for me
rather than what’s in me
By failing to appreciate what is
because of might-have-beens
These are some of the ways
I kill time.
Leo Rock, s.j.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!” each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Beannachtai na Féile Padraig oraibh go léir! Happy Saint Patricks Day
An ancient prayer, attributed to Saint Patrick. It certainly reflects one aspect of his personality – his determination. Once his calling to come to Ireland was made clear, he left all to follow it. We look for that same courage, the strength to take the road that we need to, or make the changes that need to be made, and the perseverence to stick to what we have chosen.
It is better than some of the twee sentimental blessings you will see attributed to Ireland on this day.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendour of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
The reason we practice is not seen on the meditation cushion, but in the rest of our life. We practice so that we can better accept the present moment, where our life actually is, rather than always imposing conditions: it must be this way or that way, or we can’t be happy. These conditions can lead us to look elsewhere for happiness, and not realize that the all we need is already in our lives right now.
As we sit we notice that the mind has a lot of different ways to avoid just being in the present moment. One of them is to compare. It compares this sitting moment – “boring” to other moments we could be having – “much more interesting, much more productive”. And this habit of comparing extends to our life in general. We compare our present self to a better self, or our lives to others’ lives, or to the ideal portrayal of lives which we find in society or which our insecurities about ourselves have generated. We find that a lot of our anxieties arise because we are trying to match up to what we think our life “should” be like, or what others portray as being happy. We are continualy presented with a model of success in career and in relationships which seems so desirable. Often other people seem to have gotten it all together and have all the answers, when we find ourselves feeling frantic, or worried or uncertain inside. Thus we fall into the trap of comparing “our insides to other peoples’ outsides” and we find that we come up lacking.
Comparing can lead us to feeling divided and unhappy, pulled in different directions. It manifests itself as a restlessness and unease because it does not allow us rest in what is here, now. This restlessness comes from the fundamental cognitive dissonance or tension that arises when we are caught between wanting two different things. The dissonance caused by such contradictions creates a tension in the mind, which can range from minor irritation to deep anguish as long as it continues.
As humans we try to reduce our anxiety by stabilizing our life and looking for certainty as much as possible. We also do not like holding opposite ideas. Thus we try to convince ourselves that we are consistent and coherent. We need to reduce dissonance in order to maintain our positive self-image and feel good about what we are doing One way to do this is to deny one direction completely. However, such strategies do not tend to work and our deep sense of anxiety remains.
Mindfulness helps us because it allows us see the different ways we try to escape from our life as it actually is. It allows us relax by teaching us that happiness is to be found in how we are, not how our comparing thoughts tell us how we should be. We see them as thoughts, and like all thoughts they increasingly lose their solidity, become more transparent and we do not need to follow them
For last year’s words
belong to last year’s language
and next year’s words
await another voice.
And to make an end
is to make a beginning.
As I said, another reflection, in Irish,
This time, on the Sabbath
Dé bheatha chugainn, a Dhomhnaigh bheannaithe,
lá breá aoibhinn tar éis na seachtaine,
lá breá aoibhinn chun Críost a agallamh.
Corraigh do chos is téire chun an Aifrinn.
Corraigh do chroí agus díbir an ghangaid as.
Corraigh do bhéal chun bréithre beannaithe.
Féach suas ar Mhac na Banaltran,
Mac na hÓighe, ós é a cheannaigh sinn,
gur leis a bhuafar beo agus marbh sinn.
We welcome you here, O happy Sabbath,
a fine pleasant day at the end of the week,
a fine pleasant day to talk to God.
Move your feet and go to Church
Move your heart and drive out bitterness.
Move your lips to happy words.
Look up towards the Son of the Healer,
the Son of the Virgin, for it is he who redeemed us,
that by him in life and in death we may prosper.