Recharging our batteries

If you watch young people closely, as I do, you’ll see that when they walk into a room they scan the room. No, they are not looking for the best views…..[or] for the most comfortable chairs. They are looking for a place to plug in, to charge. Time and again, they pick the place to charge their appliances over recharging their own souls.

This is where we are as a human species. We have more ways of keeping in touch, and yet seem to have less and less meaningful things to say to one another. We are lonely, deeply lonely. We have our devices that seem to be never more than an arms length away. We have Facebook, Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp, and a hundred other ways of staying connected. As long as our phones are beeping and ringing, we feel assured that someone, somewhere, “likes” us.  One-third of us would choose our electronic devices over being intimate with our partners. What’s wrong with us? 

People in many traditional cultures used to refuse to have their pictures taken, thinking that each photo takes something of their soul. We used to laugh at them, mock these foolish simpletons. I’m not laughing anymore. We do seem to have lost something of our souls to these… these things.

We keep saying that these devices are actually neutral, and it’s just a matter of how we use them. I am less and less sure. Yes, we need to have wisdom in using them, but somehow staring into a screen does not give us the same sustenance as staring into each others’ eyes.

I wish that we had the wisdom to pay as much attention to our hearts and souls as we do to our devices. I wish we knew our selves, our hearts, and our souls well enough to go into that same kind of cosmic and existential panic when we begin to run on fumes. I wish we knew our own selves well enough to know how to sustain our own hearts and souls.

For some of us, it’s through prayer. For some, it’s immersing ourselves in nature.
For some, music. For some, the gentle touch of a loved one.

So many of us walk around with the “battery” of our hearts showing red. Would that we were as kind to each other, and our own hearts, as we are to these devices that we are so quick to recharge.

Omid Safi, Less iPhone Spirituality, More Recharging Our Hearts’ Batteries

The Bigness of the world

The bigness of the world is redemption. Despair compresses you into a small space, and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground. To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest. Being able to travel both ways matters, and sometimes the way back into the heart of the question begins by going outward and beyond. This is the expansiveness that sometimes comes literally in a landscape or that tugs you out of yourself in a story.

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Breathe out gratitude

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.

Wendell Berry,  Sabbaths – 1993, I

This poem is not first and foremost about aging and dying. It’s about generosity, one of the most life-giving of all virtues. Generosity does not require material abundance. When I think back on the many people who have been so generous toward me, I never think of money or “things.” Instead, I think of the way they gave me their presence, their confidence, their affirmation, support, and blessing — all gifts of “self” that any of us can give.

And where does generosity come from? Perhaps from another life-giving virtue, the one called gratitude. When I take the time to breathe in my life and breathe out my gratitude for the gifts I’ve been given, only one question arises: “How can I keep these gifts alive?”

I know only one answer: “Become a giver yourself, pass your gifts along, and do it extravagantly!” As Wendell Berry says, “Every day you have less reason/not to give yourself away.”

Parker Palmer, Breathe In My Life, Breathe Out My Gratitude

Nothing to achieve

A lot of modern stress comes from the mistaken belief that we should always be working on a better version of ourselves, always looking for greater success. 

In all ten directions of the universe, there is only one truth.

When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same.

What can ever be lost? What can be attained?

If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time.

If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.

Ryokan, 1758–1831, Zen Monk and poet

Always there

Happiness is permanent. It is always there.
What comes and goes is unhappiness. 
If you identify with what comes and goes, you will be unhappy.

If you identify with what is permanent and always there, you are happiness itself.

Poonjaji, 1910 – 1997, Indian non-dualist teacher