We are in the midst of the Christian church season of Lent, and I have been reflecting on the theme: Let fear become love. Love, I realize, is not some warm and fuzzy feeling inside, but a deliberate step out of fear and self-centeredness. My reflections have revolved around a series of questions I want to share.
What am I afraid of? We live in a world filled with fear, especially fear of those who are different, yet most of us are afraid to confront our fears and overcome them. We barricade ourselves behind walls of hate and self righteousness.
Every day, I get a text with three things my Dharma buddy is grateful for. Today it was the snow day, the home cooked meal, and the snow plows and shovels. Other days it might be a lunch with a friend, a run, or the chance to begin again.
I love these texts.
My Dharma buddy is a friend I met at our local Insight Meditation Center. At the beginning of a meditation class we were taking, the teacher gave us the option to be matched with a Dharma buddy. The purpose was to have someone to check in with about practice and to support each other in cultivating qualities of mindfulness and joy.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” —Exodus 20:8
This commandment reminds us of the holiness of rest. Not only does it refer to God resting on the seventh day of creation, but it also guides us to the awareness that resting is a sign of freedom. Moses proclaimed his wisdom when the Israelites were in the desert after their escape from slavery in Egypt. Choosing to rest is not possible for a slave who is oppressed by a master. Only the one who is totally free can take time for needed rest. Resting becomes a sign of our freedom.
Last fall, we installed a Little Free Library in front of our house. Eager to make it look inviting, we created a little landscaped square at the base, with a couple of decorative pepper plants surrounded by stones. We lined the area with landscaping fabric, intent on keeping weeds out of our little stone garden.
The car veered toward the fence post and I had less than a second to react. There was no ice, and the driving conditions were near perfect. “Look over there,” I blurted and pointed my finger in the direction we needed to go. The car swerved back onto the driveway, and we passed by the fence without incident.
I was the driving instructor and the passenger. Experiences like this are not uncommon with new drivers. The student driver was fixated on the fence post, thinking that she did not want to hit it. Fortunately, I developed a sixth sense about things like this and so I was able to redirect her gaze. (And yes, I also had one foot covering my own brake pedal.)
It was one of the most difficult weeks I’d ever known. The depression that’s shadowed me for most of my life had come on with a vengeance. One afternoon it left me completely immobile. All I could do was lie still and breathe.
Call it a moment of grace, or a fortuitous firing of the right neurons. Whatever the case, my breathing quietly caught my attention. I thought: Well, I can breathe. And something within me said in reply: That’s good. That’s very good.
Such a tiny response, sounding so much like the whisper of God, started my recovery. Strangely, it also said something to me about myself: You are resilient.
“I could never have handled this so well if I hadn’t had you in my life.”
This message came from one of my spiritual directees recently, after they had addressed a particularly difficult family situation. The text surprised me, because the work we had been doing in our sessions didn’t feel related to the family situation, and I wasn’t sure why this directee connected it with our time together.
In January of this year, the Saskatoon Open Door Society began offering “Structured Conversation Circles.” Because there are not enough spaces for refugees and immigrants to take formal English classes, we are hoping that these Conversation Circles will provide a place for them to learn some English during the wait time. I volunteer twice a week. As an educator, there is nothing I appreciate more than students who are eager and excited about learning!
The voice of compassion calls us to reach out and minister to one another. After all, the origin of the word "compassion" is the Latin word "compati" which means, "to suffer with." With the recent spread of a stomach flu that is going around the school system in my town, the word "compassion" instantly conjures a vision of parents caring for their children.
When I was a child, my family spend many spring vacations visiting the Smoky mountains in Tennessee, USA. To those unfamiliar, our favorite destination offered a combination of natural beauty, and what my father affectionately referred to as, “tourist traps.” The tourist traps took advantage of families vacationing together in the mountains, offering overpriced entertainment in the form of old-time photos, arcades, haunted houses, oddity-museums, and gift shops. I’ll never forget my first encounter with a stereogram (a 3D image hidden inside another image). Popular in the late nineties, these pictures offered a seemingly magical optical experience for the viewer. Stare long enough at a repetitive and colorful pattern and eventually an altogether different picture would emerge.