Monday, March 31, 2008

This Is It. Nothing Else Happens.

It was a relaxing and low key weekend for me. I slept in on Saturday, had a leisurely breakfast at my favorite bagel establishment, spent part of the afternoon watching a DVD from last summer's Crossroads Guitar Festival with Eric Clapton and many other very talented musicians. In the late afternoon I visited my father. Two weeks ago I thought he might not be with us much longer. He is still in a nursing home, and will be there indefinitely, but he was dressed and lying in bed. I sat on the side of his bed, held his hand, and talked for a while. He knew who I was. I updated him on my family and what was going on with all of them. He seemed to understand. At one point he looked at me and said, "My days are numbered". I looked back at him and said, "Dad, all our days are numbered and none of us know how many days we have. You're still here so God is not finished with you and it's not your time yet". Sunday was also very leisurely until my wife got out of bed. After that most of Sunday afternoon was spent working and doing a number of chores. I don't always like to do chores but I always feel a sense of accomplishment when they are behind me.

Zen is doing what you are doing and being where you are. Sounds simple, right? The simple things....the basics....are often challenging to do on a daily basis. The reality of the spiritual life is that it is simple but difficult. What is the spiritual life? It's not always clear what is spiritual and what is not. Spirituality is woven into all aspects of our life. Spirituality is much more than going to church or doing holy things. Spirituality embraces all of life even in its most mundane aspects. It is putting the Spirit into your reality. This is brought to light in the following story.

Two monks were meditating. An older, wiser monk and a young novice. As they were meditating, the young monk kept peeking at the older monk. He did this several times. Finally, the older, wiser monk looked at him and said, "This is it. Nothing else happens.

To be a Buddha means to be an "awakened" one. In the Christian tradition, to be a contemplative is to also be an awakened one. Our spiritual practices are a means to an end. Our intention is the inner transformation and conversion that leads us to purity of heart. As an awakened one, we strive for the single minded attentiveness to what is deep within us. Like the Tom Cruise character in the "Last Samurai", we often have too many minds. Admittedly, in modern life it is quite challenging to have one mind especially when we often feel like we are losing our mind from the many demands made on us. Even when I don't have one mind or can't "see" the spiritual in my daily life, I try to remember the following.

A small fish was swimming along. He came upon a bigger fish and asked, "Can you tell me where the ocean is?" The bigger fish said, "Are you kidding??? You're in the ocean. It's all around you. In it, we live and breathe and have our being!" So it is with God. God is like the ocean and we are fish. We spend our entire lives living in God's presence. In God, we live and breathe and have our being!

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