The only life

We need to have the courage to follow our heart:

Best advice I ever got was an old friend of mine, a black friend, who said you have to go the way your blood beats.

If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all.

That’s the only advice you can give anybody. 

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Happier people

When people ask, “Well, how shall we practice this gratefulness?” ….there is a very simple kind of methodology to it: Stop, look, go. Most of us — caught up in schedules and deadlines and rushing around, and so the first thing is that we have to stop, because otherwise we are not really coming into this present moment at all, and we can’t even appreciate the opportunity that is given to us, because we rush by, and it rushes by. So stopping is the first thing.

And then you look: What is, now, the opportunity of this given moment, only this moment, and the unique opportunity this moment gives? And that is where this beholding comes in…. And if you do that, if you try practicing that at this moment, we will already be happier people, because it has an immediate feedback of joy.

David Steindl-Rast, How to Be Grateful in Every Moment (But Not for Everything)

Everything is music

We are part of something greater, so we don’t have to work so hard to make things happen. Even if one part of life breaks, the ‘hidden instruments’ keep playing unimpeded:

Don’t worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn’t matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

.even if the whole world’s harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.

Rumi, Where Everything Is Music [extract]

Midsummer

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur

This morning the Summer Solstice occurred at 04:31 in Ireland, beginning the northern hemisphere’s longest day. Different cultures knew the significance of this date and marked it by bonfires – as I will this evening – to recognize the ongoing gift of each day of light and to celebrate the energy of life.

These rituals remind us that we are at a midpoint in the year, which hints at every midpoint in our lives, every letting go and starting over.  Life passes and we discover again its “dearest freshness”. We relax into its mystery, without looking for answers, without clinging to security.

Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible.

Awakening and surrender: they  frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty.

John O’Donohue.

Part of the world’s peace

Recently I’ve been pondering a process I call “bewilderment”—or, as I like to pronounce it, be-wilder-ment. I figure if we all become a little wilder, a little more present, a little more connected to whatever it is that makes dogs so damn happy, we’ll feel better and do better things. The first step in the bewilderment process is simple: CALM DOWN.

The whole world functions this way: Real threats do exist, but when we approach life with fear, we see threats in everything, including unconditional love. We puff up in self-defense, which others perceive as aggression. We use violent, extreme words and actions when peaceful attentiveness would work far better.

If you’d like to be-wilder yourself, try this: Whenever you notice that the monologue in your head is fear-based (worrying about the future, belittling yourself, fussing over what others may think) stop, breathe deeply, and switch to a silent loving-kindness meditation, repeating phrases like: “May I be happy. May I be calm. May I feel safe and protected.”

It sounds so simple, because it is. Wild things don’t make speeches, they just notice what’s really in front of them. What’s in front of us is a world where far more goes right than wrong. Make your mind part of the world’s peace, instead of its fear, and I promise, life will get better and better.

Martha Beck, Make your Mind part of the Peace,