Friday, June 24, 2011

Ramblings In My Mind Vol. XI

I am an early riser, even on weekends. My wife likes to sleep late and so does my youngest son whenever he’s home from the seminary. Last weekend I was awakened each morning by thunder and lightning. It was wonderful. I got out of my bed, performed all my morning rituals, picked up my morning paper before the rains turned it into a sponge, started the coffee pot, made some toast, and then sat looking out my window at the falling rain. I’ve had a much greater appreciation for heavy downpours and gentle thunderstorms since a time when I made a retreat in the hermitage of the famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. He wrote a wonderful essay on rain called “Rain and the Rhinoceros”. It’s in a book called “Raids on the Unspeakable”. I had the wonderful experience of reading this essay while sitting in his rocking chair in the very hermitage in which he wrote this essay. It was a true Zen moment. Rain has never been the same since that night I spent alone in the woods.

Like many people I often dream of traveling to faraway places. However, the older I get the more I just want to be home. I am a man who truly values a peaceful home. I would rather be home than anywhere. I have lived in the same house for almost 25 years. In the last year it’s received quite a makeover. Although I am married and part of a close family I am something of a hermit. I realize now this is something I got from both of my parents. When my dad was alive he loved to be in his backyard sitting under a tree with his dog. To this day my 81 year old mother can sit and rock for hours while looking out her window at the world. Our homes are our sanctuaries. It is where I am most myself. Home is where all the stuff that defines me resides. My home is my castle. Each morning when I leave there I dream of returning to it in the evening.

Sometimes people think I am a Zen Master. I am not a real Zen Master although I do play one in my office. Whenever I am asked to explain Zen I give people this simple description. Basically, I think Zen is being where you are and doing what you are doing. This seems simple but is quite challenging. Most of us spend much of our time wanting to be somewhere other than where we are. At this very moment how many of you are wishing you were sitting on the beach with sand between your toes and your eyes fixed upon the waves crashing on the shore. As I am typing these thoughts my mind is already racing ahead to all the other tasks I need to complete this day. I am not where I am and I am not totally focused on these thoughts. Earlier this week, however, for a short time I was where I was and I was doing what I was doing. I got home a little early from a doctor appointment and there was a wonderful and intense summer thunderstorm. I stood on my back porch totally lost in the moment and the wonder of it all. Such moments are Zen.

My wife’s last remaining uncle passed away this week. He was 78 years old and part of “The Greatest Generation”. As someone near the front of the baby boomer generation I was reminded of my own mortality and the preciousness of life. Death is always a wakeup call to those of us still living. So often our lives get bogged down in pettiness, complaining, and small mindedness. Sometimes we need to step back and examine our life to remind ourselves what’s really important. Ideas are more important than gossip. I’ll take the positive over the negative any day. People are more important than anything. It is challenging to live well and to be high minded but I will keep trying.

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