These beautiful autumn days touch the heart and the spirit. Simply being out in nature can heal and restore us, without the need for words or explanations or ideas.
We can learn from it as to how to be with someone who is going through a time of difficulty:
I was sad one day and went for a walk; I sat in a field.
A rabbit noticed my sadness and came near
It often does not take more than that to help at times –
to just be close to creatures who are so full of knowing
so full of love, that they don’t
they just gaze with their marvellous understanding.
John of the Cross
Hope is a dimension of the soul … an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. … It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.
Don’t prolong the past,
don’t invite the future,
don’t be deceived by appearances,
just dwell in present awareness.
Even good and worthwhile, things have the capacity to pull us away from what we should be doing at this moment, which may seem less exciting in comparison. We do not need to rush the future, just do what is in front of us today. The different wisdom traditions often tell stories about this. The famous Zen proverb – Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water – can help us be in the moment and put our whole selves into whatever we are doing. In the tradition of the Church we are often encouraged to remember the example of those who performed their everyday duties with great love, touching the loves of those around them. Sometimes we can get too focused on the special moments, when it is the ordinary things like doing paperwork or making the lunch that count. Or we get deceived by the “appearance” and the imagining of the future in our minds, and are blinded to the actual reality of the task in front of us. As Therese of Lisieux reminds us, Nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love. In the end, it is just another way of reminding us that the present moment is the key to our happiness and our health. We have no place special to go. Happiness is right in front of us.
The Pope is in England for the start of the process of making John Henry Newman a “saint”. Newman was a good man and a very fine thinker, personalifying a gentle, open-minded search for truth. The school I went to in Ireland, founded in 1867, was influenced by his principles of education. Most wisdom traditions hold up examples of people wo can act as an encouragement to us, such as the Bodhisattvas in the Buddhist tradition or the Saints in the Catholic and Orthodox history. Sometimes, however, the focus is on their extraordinary deeds which can lead us into thinking that full contentment is only to be found there. In this light, I like this quote from Thomas Merton:
For me to be a saint means to be myself.
Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is, in fact,
the problem of finding our who I am and discovering my true self.
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
“True culture is in the mind, the mind,” he said, and tapped his head, “the mind.”
“It’s in the heart,” she said, “and in how you do things, and how you do things is because of who you are.”
Flannery O’Connor, Everything that Rises must Converge
I have always liked the person of Barnabas in the New Testament. He was known as the “Son of Encouragement”. I have always felt that I would love to be known like that, as one who encourages. We all need encouragement and know what it feels like when someone believes in us. Someone who sees us, not as we are, but as we have the potential to become. That gives us courage.
…… If I accept the other person as something fixed, already diagnosed and classified…then I am doing my part to confirm this limited hypothesis. If I accept him as a process of becoming, then I am doing what I can to confirm or make real his potential.