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My heirloom cherry tomato plant has finally begun
to produce small green globes which, G-d willing,
will ripen to a lovely dark burgundy.
It has been an act of faith to get here.
So I was thinking about how different years can be
and how we sometimes discover that the fruit
that comes after long struggle, hard work, and copious tears
sustains us longer than the crops
into which we have not poured quite so much heart and soul.
And, in the same way, smaller or sparser fruit
may also be sweeter or more nutritious.
Two years ago, I wrote this about trying to grow through challenges:
Be in me growth I cannot resist,
endurance I cannot measure,
joy I cannot anticipate.
Be in me the compassion that heals my shame,
the love that dispels my anger,
the hope that overcomes my fear.
Be in me forgiveness for the hurtful words I have received,
the hurtful thoughts that haunt me,
the hurtful acts I have done.
Be in me the hospitality that persists beyond rejection,
the wholeness greater than exclusion,
the mercy too great to be dismissed.
[If you would like to read the post that led to that prayer, you can find it HERE.]
The Latin word ob-audire is the root of
the English word, obey.
Obaudire literally means ‘to listen’
in the sense of ‘paying attention to’.
As a result of the listening,
one then acts from that place of attentiveness.
I was reminded of this because
one of the quotations
that returns to challenge me every year or so
comes from the British Benedictine,
The test of love is not feeling, but obedience.
With courtesy, civility, respect, and kindness
at a frighteningly low ebb in the United States at the moment,
I need to remember to listen attentively
and to act with unwavering obedience to love.
I am trying not to listen to idiocy,
but there is a perilous lot of it around these days
(as my grandmother was wont to say).
I find myself clinging to the wisdom and humor
of other people to stave off complete despair.
So, I am grateful to my father,
who sent me the words of Kurt Vonnegut:
People have to talk about something
just to keep their voice boxes in working order,
so they’ll have good voice boxes
in case there is ever anything
really meaningful to say.
G-d, please give me the courage to be silent
when there is nothing worthwhile
to contribute to the conversation!
108 (More or Less)
Several months ago, in the process of tidying (See: Tidying Up)
I came across my first Commonplace Book
(which, if you are not familiar with the term,
is the journal in which one keeps words of wisdom
one has gathered over the years).
Toward the beginning is something called
“My Personal List of the 108 Sins”
(which stops at 34 followed by two blank pages – presumably for the other 74).
Lost in the recesses of my memory is the reason for this list,
but a little research tells me that Buddhist prayer beads traditionally number 108,
representing our 108 mortal desires which Buddhism would encourage us to give up.
Then I discovered a website that tells me that
the Bible actually lists 108 sins (according to whoever did the counting at the time –)
Neither rings a bell, but the exercise (at least, judging by the 34 behaviors I listed)
has the potential to be an amusing, challenging, and self-reflective learning experience.
The trick is to create a personal list,
the list of things you do that separate you from your deepest self, your community,
the natural world, and G-d or who/whatever is the Wholeness of All that Is.
(That is what ‘sin’ is, in the purest sense.)
I invite you to trust what comes.
Included among mine are:
1. The inability to accept a compliment.
9. Wearing clothes with hems down or buttons missing.
13. Betraying a trust.
17. Using six words when one will do.
21. Not putting the cap on the toothpaste.
33. Living in fear.
[The photo is a string of prayer beads for a shorter list of mortal desires.]
[My guess is that we can all use a reset of our inner focus from the negativity of the 24-hour news feed, to a sense of positive and grace-filled wonder. So, I am highlighting a positive program, event, or person each day for seven days on my Facebook page. You can still find them there. Scroll back to August 11 through August 17.]
I don’t know about you,
but I am having a hard time this summer staying in ‘Now.’
I will admit that I am anxious about the future –
my own as I turn 65 in a month-ish,
the country’s, the world’s.
I am trying to develop a habit of pausing and paying attention to this instant.
I am trying to do this in a playful way
(because being serious about it only makes me more anxious:
Am I doing this right? Am I really thinking about ‘Now’
or am I thinking I should be thinking about ‘Now’?)
So, in the spirit of doing the best I can, I ask myself,
‘What does this moment taste like?’
Or ‘What color is this moment?’
Or ‘What does this instant smell like?’
Sometimes it is obvious: “It smells like coffee brewing…”
Sometimes it is totally abstract:
“This moment was neon yellow until I took that deep breath…
And now this moment is the color of custard.”
If you are feeling frantic, try it.
Even if it isn’t profound, it might make you laugh –
and that isn’t a bad thing!
Appreciative Inquiry tells us that we grow
in the direction of the questions we ask.
This suggests that we need to be
a lot more aware and intentional
about the words we use –
especially the words on old internal tapes
that seem hard-wired into our psyches.
Two weeks ago, looking at my colleague, Ben,
and his soon-to-be husband, Michael, I asked,
‘Do you promise to love him, comfort him,
honor and keep him, so long as you both shall live?’
Now, that is a life-giving and life-affirming question!
“How could you be so stupid?”
directed at myself this morning
when I realized I had failed to plan ahead
is, frankly, not a question leading to a good outcome.
And so, dear one, I hope that you will learn
from my judgmental and life-warping self-attack
(something far more frequent than I am comfortable admitting)
and listen – truly listen – to your own questions.
Practicing gentleness, curiosity, and kindness with ourselves
(and learning to frame questions that encourage, invite, and inspire)
can only improve our relationships with ourselves,
with our neighbors, and with the world community.
Text © 2016, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015, 2016 Immram Chara, LLC