It is the end of a relaxing Memorial Day weekend where my responsibilities were low and my time happily spent with someone I love. We went on slow walks in the woods with its luscious green everywhere and the smell of wild roses filling the air. We spent time at the shore, napping on the beach, walking the boardwalk, eating at one of our favorite cafes. We rented a movie, ate lots fruit, had coffee together and laughed. I did some packing and some light running. It rained only at night and we managed to avoid all traffic heading south. It was perfect. Despite all of that, there is a voice that pipes up, slightly panicky, childlike and pleading..."I don't want it to end, yet" it gently moans, afraid of sounding ungrateful, but unable to restrain the sentiment. Then I realize that this is the material of time, desire, and fear that gently plagues so many of us.
Of course it is not enough! This is a never-ending, lifelong practice.... letting myself be full and relaxing into the notion that I have enough without fear that I will be devoid of it soon. How do we strengthen this ability in ourselves to relax into what is here and to be content? I've been working on this one. To be able to say those very words to myself..."right now I am content" is a profound act. The problem is that we often don't feel it, not because the conditions aren't sufficient, but because we simply don't pause and literally say it to ourselves. I do believe that often it is that simple...making a statement that identifies the goodness and feel how full we are from it and letting it be enough. "Right now, I am content and filled." Instead we express joy at something, but follow it up immediately with what could be better, or what else is not good, or ask when or how we can have more. It is that sense of "not enough" at work. I understand it and have compassion for what seems like our human nature... to keep wanting more. Unfortunately, it has the power of taking away from our experience and enjoyment of this life just as it is, of being alive and happy in the only moment we truly have. When we can recognize this incessant need for more, we can press pause and remember that we can choose fullness. Instead of just passing through our enjoyment, like watching a landscape through a train window and never grasping on to something, we can be filled with each thing we pass as short or long-lived as it is. We simply say, "I am content; my cup has been filled today; what a gift." The practice, at the end of the day, of writing down, or reciting aloud a list of all the things that were fulfilling...from the simplest (no traffic, the sight of fox, the blooming of peonies in the backyard) to the largest, and recognizing the feeling each thing brings (connection, peace of mind, rest, love, joy, comfort, inspiration, support, etc.) can strengthen their impact on us. It takes what is good and shines a light on it, making it brighter within ourselves. It might sound hokey, but sometimes hokey works.
Equally important, we recognize the part of us that grasps, like hands reaching out for more. To that part, we can use our words of kindness. "I see my fear that I won't have this feeling again, this space, this time, this love, this pleasure. May I take comfort in that fact that it will come around again, because all things change, and may I be filled by what is unknown, in front of me, this week." From here, I can be that very thing that Brother David Steindle-Rast so beautifully teaches...I can grateful and therefore, joyful. In this place, I can rest. I can find peace of mind in the transitions between things.
I'll keep practicing. Wishing all of you a sense of fullness, gratitude, and joy this week.