Summer vacation is over and we’re now into the fall startup. It feels as though we’re into the church start up as well, especially with the Annual General Meeting happening. It’s been interesting to participate in the project of creating a video of “green shoots” in preparation for Synod. The project has forced us all to take a step back and reflect on where, if at all, there are little sprouts of green poking their heads up, sprouts we may not have even noticed. After living through COVID for the last two years, for many of us, we might have felt that our fields lay totally barren. What we’ve discovered, though, is that, lo and behold, there are little green shoots! All because we’ve taken the time to really look, to really be aware.
I’ve been reading “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh, for a course in contemplation. It’s a very short, very simple book, but its value is to make us stop and become aware of the world around us. Like our green shoots, it is so easy for us to not pay attention to the creation we inhabit. To go to work not noticing how our bodies feel as we drive; to bury our head in a computer screen and not notice the sun poking through the clouds or the excitement of a co-worker who just finished a tough assignment; to eat dinner without really savouring each bite. Thich Nhat Hanh draws our attention gently back to the moment we are living, right here, right now. If we are washing the dishes, then we only wash the dishes, aware of the warm water and bubbles, aware of the small joy it is to clean a plate, rather than racing to finish, so we can watch our favourite TV show.
Awareness seems to be the first step in drawing closer to God. Awareness of our own bodies and the great gift they are to us; the incredible miracle of our present breath, and the one after, and the one after that. One of the back-handed gifts of old age is the pain we experience. Pain is precious because it reminds us of these bodies we live in. There is nothing like a stiff neck to remind you that you’ve got a body you can’t forget about.
My husband and I took two of our grandchildren for a hike down Silver Star, the local ski hill. The kids are part mountain goat, so they were off lickety split. My husband can’t see well, so we needed to slow down so that he could at least see some of the beauty we were walking through. I realized, though I needed to keep a eye on the two kids, that I, too, wanted to slow things down so that I could simply breathe in and out the beauty that surrounded me.
It is so easy to become caught up in getting on with the next best thing rather than experiencing the present; whatever that present is. We pride ourselves in getting things done, only to face an ever-lengthening “to do” list. We say to ourselves that when we’ve completed our list, then we will reward ourselves with time to breathe. The problem, of course, is that the reward of a breather never comes.
It never comes unless we make the radical choice to step away from the “to do” list and STOP. This is a radical choice because it isn’t just about ripping up the list in a fit of rebellion, but rather it is a choice about how we wish to do life itself and if there will be any list at all. It is about living each moment with wholehearted abandon and abundance, focused as deeply as possible in the reality of the only life we have, this moment. For it is in this moment that we will discover the Divine waiting for us, waiting for us to see, to hear, to be drawn into Love’s deep embrace, where we can relax with no list at all, except to breathe.