Sunday, August 18, 2013

Instant Gratification

my olive tree

Yesterday I sat in my meditation garden gazing at my olive tree when it suddenly struck me: "It has olive tree has grown." While this recognition may not seem like that much of a stunning  revelation, it was actually quite significant to me. I have been watching that tree for over a year now and it has seemed to have been stagnant and stunted - always the same size, not even an inch of growth.  It gets watered every day, from time to time we put fertilizer on it and obviously it gets plenty of sun, but it just never seems to get any bigger.

I asked our gardner about my apparently stagnant olive tree.  He looked at me with a slight smile (after all, I am relatively new to life in the desert) and said: "Just give it time, it takes a little longer out here for things to grow."  

That's why yesterday was such a revelation to me. Without even realizing it, my olive tree had grown (and actually grown a lot). I just had to be patient and give it time.

Yesterday's "olive tree revelation" afforded me an opportunity to reflect upon my own impatience - my unwillingness to endure and to persevere. 

After all we live in a society of "instant gratification." Perseverance and patience are very much at a premium nowadays. You can press an "app" on your iPhone and a taxicab appears at your door in minutes.  You can walk into a car dealership and immediately drive off with a new vehicle at 0% interest. Want to watch a movie? How about a new book? Go to, press a button, and it's instantly there on your TV or your kindle.  

The other day I received an advertisement for "lighting speed"internet access. I actually thought my internet access was already at "lighting speed." I couldn't imagine how much faster it could be,  and why I would I even want it to be faster than it already is? But apparently some people are troubled if they have to wait a second or two for a "download," so sales of "lightning speed' internet are doing quite well.

I honestly believe that the culture of "instant gratification" has pretty much permeated the way we view the world nowadays. We want immediate results with "no muss, no fuss;" and if we don't get the results we want as fast as we want them, we often move on to something else.

The problem of course is that when it comes to the things that really count in life, you usually need lots of patience and plenty of endurance and perseverance: planting, maintaining and growing "relationships" always take time and effort.  

As I grow older, I have more and more come to see that it literally takes a "lifetime" to grow in love - to practice compassion, to be a reconciler. It takes a lifetime of patient endurance to learn how to be more and more awake in the present moment, mindful of the abiding Holy Presence. 

You can't press a relationship "app" and it all magically happens. There is no "lighting speed" for growing spiritually. In fact, usually the motto is: "Two steps forward, one step back." So stick with it. 

There is a little wisdom story that comes from the "Sayings" of the Desert Mothers and Fathers:

Abba Theodore once told a younger monk, "You've not yet found a ship to sail in, nor put your luggage aboard, nor put out to sea, and you are already acting as if you were in the city you mean to reach."

The spiritual journey takes a lifetime of patient endurance. 

The Buddha taught:

Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines,
but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.

I'm sitting in my meditation garden looking with amazement at my olive tree, "My, how it has grown."


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