Morning in the Wilderness
I had a pretty close call yesterday- I came less than an inch away from being hit by a fast-moving car in the parking lot of a local hardware store. I stepped into the crosswalk, and I felt the swish of the car as it sped past me, literally within a hair's breath of being hit. The driver was looking at a text on her cell phone, totally oblivious of anyone in the crossing as she rushed by.
I have been reflecting on my near-tragedy of yesterday afternoon. It happened because everyone was so distracted. I was distracted by thoughts of what errands were next on my list and so I walked into a crosswalk without really looking. The driver was obviously distracted, speeding by in a parking lot, on her phone, and no doubt on her way to accomplish her tasks for the day.
This morning as I watched the sun rise, I was very aware of just how many distractions there are in life-espcially at this so-called "holiday" time of the year when everyone is so busily doing the "stuff" of holiday preparations. It also struck me that, more than ever, this is a season to work on freeing myself from the many distractions, and more intentionally than ever, work at being mindfully awake in the present moment.
In the Christian calendar, we celebrate the season of Advent.
There is a beautiful Advent hymn based on a Bach Cantata that pretty much summarizes what Advent is all about: "Wake, awake, for night is dying." All my life, I had been told that Advent is a time for "waking up," and I had sung that hymn about waking up hundreds of times; but I honestly was never all that sure about what all this "waking up" business really meant.
What was I supposed to wake up to? - wake up so that I could see Christ born again at Christmas? But Jesus had already been born, two thousand years ago, so how could I wake up to see him born again?
I would hear the words about waking up in Advent and sing the hymns about waking up, but I honestly only sort of knew what it all meant. It was not until I discovered Buddhism that I finally got it.
The Buddha taught me what Advent is really all about.
The Buddha, Siddartha Gautama, sat under the Bodhi tree and vowed he would not leave that spot until he had learned the meaning of life. So, he sat there for forty nine days, waiting patently, his mind clear, without distractions, alert and mindful in the moment - and finally became "enlightened."
He came to understand that life was all about relationships. He experienced himself connected to something greater than his own individual self. In fact the idea of his own separated self was a false illusion because he was a relationship with all being - everything and everyone all intertwined in one dynamic and interdependent flow.
Under that Bodhi tree, the Buddha "woke up" to what life is really all about.
Jesus, born those many years ago, was an enlightened Child of God. He was "awake" to the reality that our true "self" is a relationship with all the creation -everything and everyone, all a beautiful flow of connection. He called this connection, "The Kingdom of God;" and he invited all who would be is disciples to live lives awake and aware of this beautiful kingdom -here, now, in the present.
I sit in my garden, the night is over. It is morning in the wilderness. I sit and breathe in the warming day. I clear my mind and look out at the hauntingly beautiful desert. I smell the flowers and listen to sounds of the wind rustling, the fountain gurgling, and the hummingbirds swooshing by.
I sit in my garden, awake and aware that I "am" connected to all people everywhere- those who rejoice, those who mourn, those who suffer, the rich and the poor. I am even connected to that woman who almost ran me over yesterday.
And I realize that I can best prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ by doing exactly what I am doing now- being awake in the "Kingdom God."
Wake, awake the night is dying.
Awake ye children of the light!
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