A dreary rainy day here in Ireland, after weeks of sunshine. The temptation is to keep ones head down, moving quickly from place to place. However, positive emotions are linked to paying attention and appreciating whatever is around us – grey or bright – noticing the small details in every moment.
God and the sacred, the enchanted and the luminous, are not “over there” somewhere. They are all right here, where we are. May we get back to the ordinary, the breath by breath, and the living in each moment fully. Inhabiting each moment and seeking the wonder therein. The refusal to let life descend down to a cycle of the mundane, the insistence of seeking awe in the ordinary – this is the beginning of spiritual life.
This is the wisdom of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, among so many others, who said “Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin”
Sin, for Heschel, is ultimately not about eating this or not eating that, praying in this temple or that temple, but a losing of that sublime wonder of being truly alive. That is the ultimate sin, the only sin. Yes, there are religious commandments to observe. But the goal of religion remains to cultivate that sense of wonder, awe, and radical amazement.
Omid Safi, The Spirituality of the Ordinary Is Luminous
Building on the ideas in yesterday’s post…
The way we know things depends on the mind, nothing more.
Most of us have moments of deep contentment when we don’t feel a need to alter, express, run from, or invest some special meaning in our experience in any way. Deep contentment shows us that, at least momentarily, our habit of cherishing and protecting ourselves from what we call “other” has subsided. In moments like these we have stopped objectifying things. We can let things be. And when the mind rests at ease in this way, it accommodates everything, like space.
Elizabeth Mattis–Namgyel, The Power of an Open Question
Consider the “forest pool” metaphor so popular in Buddhism. After inclement weather, the pool is muddy, full of sediment and debris. We cannot clear it by trying to control the contents – that would make the pool worse. We can only wait for all the sediment to settle to the bottom, leaving the pool clear again. So in meditation, by concentrating on the breath or our body or on sounds we can hear in the present moment, we create a space for clarity. We often find that in this spaciousness, an answer to a problem will simply “pop up” to the surface. Sometimes it won’t, but our bodies will thank us for a break from all the worrying.
Sarah Napthali, Stewing
When we find our life unpleasant or unfulfilling, we try to escape the unpleasantness by various subtle escape mechanisms. In such attempts we are dealing with our lives as if there’s me and then there’s life outside me. As long as we approach our lives in this way we will bend all of our efforts to finding something or somebody else to handle our lives for us. We may look for a lover, a teacher, a religion, a center — something, or somebody, somewhere, to handle our difficulties for us. As long as we see our lives in this dualistic fashion we fool ourselves and believe that we need not pay any price for a realized life.
Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen
When the shoe fits, the foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits, the belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
“For” and “against” are forgotten.
No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs are under control.
You are a free person.
Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.
Chuang Tzu, 4th Century BC, In the Dark Before Dawn, (trans. Thomas Merton)
We cling to our own point of view, as if everything depended on it.
Yet our views have no permanence;
like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.
Chuang Tzu, 4th century BC