Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What do I really want?

We tend to look outside ourselves for what we think we want; money, fame, love. We tend to get stuck looking for what we want. What we want, true happiness, is inside. D'Souza, Discovering Awareness
Be born to us today. O Little Town of Bethlehem
In, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer shared a memorable story about the time he was offered the opportunity to become president of a small educational institution, In essence, he had been told that if he wanted the job, the job was likely his. He called on a half dozen friends to help him discern his vocation by means of a "clearness committee," a process from the Quaker tradition where the group refrains from giving advice but spends three hours asking you honest, open questions to help you discover your own inner truth.

Halfway into the process, someone asked Palmer a question that proved to be the turning point. It sounded easy yet turned out to be very hard: "What would you like most about being a president?" After spending some time explaining what he would not like about the position, the question was repeated: "What would you like most?" 
"Well," Palmer wrote, " I guess what I'd like most is getting my picture in the paper with the word president under it."  They did not laugh at all, but went into a long and serious silence. Finally the silence was broken with one last question - one that cracked all of them up- and cracked Palmer open: "Parker, can you think of an easier way to get your picture in the paper?" 
Palmer's odd, circuitous route to happiness is not unlike our own journey. For example, we have no control over the choices of others, but we can easily bank our well-being on someone else's happiness.

But we can choose to be happy. This is especially important for those who deal daily with sickness, death, dying, family crises, and loneliness as a main feature of their work. The only person's unhappiness we have any hope of changing is our own.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Collecting Spiritual Toys

Advent: A time to let go of the toys
Some years ago, I met a young American woman who had traveled to India on several occasions to study yoga and meditation under distinguished teachers... After listening to her life story, I asked her why she was doing this. She told me that she was fed up with the materialism of the West, and she was now looking for the spirituality of the East. I told her that essentially she hadn't changed. She reacted strongly, "What do you mean, I haven't changed? Isn't spirituality better than materialism?" I told her in the past, she was collecting material toys to entertain herself; now she was collecting spiritual toys. The problem was she was still collecting. Her mindset was the same, only the object of her "treasure hunt" had changed... We think what we want is outside, but what we really want is within us. Tony D' Souza, Discovering Awareness
The beginning of growth begins with a simple question: "What do I really want?' The answer to this question resides within us, not outside of us. Spiritual toys offer a kind of security but keep us from looking within. We look to others and things to do what we can only do for ourselves: our own spiritual work.
Like the materialism of the season, we can become really busy with the religious calendar while neglecting the one thing needful: the state of our spirit. All the church observances of the season have the goal of letting Christ be born in us, the dawn of God's "tender mercy" enlivening and renewing us. 
Without that life, we may just be collecting spiritual toys to entertain us.

Oldies but Goodies