Monday, March 24, 2014

One Day at a Time

-in my meditation garden-

There is a little statue of a praying monk in my meditation garden. The monk sits across from me when I sit in the garden during my morning meditation time. I keep him there as a source of inspiration. 

Someone once told me that my statue of the praying monk made him envious:  "Sure wish I could be like him- not a care in the world." 

That one little comment spoke volumes to me about how people often think about the spiritual life or a spiritual journey. Many think that, when you connect with your spiritual nature, you are taken to a place where you have no cares or problems, no more suffering or difficulties. But, I don't think any spiritual journey eliminates the difficulties of life, it just helps us to face them. 

One of the Buddha's "four noble truths" is : "All life is suffering." This fundamental observation of the human condition isn't pessimistic or nihilistic. It isn't some sort of depressive admission that, at the core, life is misery. Rather it is simply a pragmatic observation that suffering is part of life - to put it another way, "suffering exists."

Several years ago, when I was a college chaplain, I was teaching a course using Scott Peck's popular book, "The Road Less Traveled." This book of practical wisdom begins with one simple little sentence: "Life is difficult."  That one sentence set off a howl of protest among my students at the time. 

They argued that life shouldn't be difficult. Some said that if you work hard enough you can make life easy, maybe even comfortable.  Others said that if you only had "God" in your life, He would take care of all your problems.  

I would guess that today (some 20 years later) those students may not be quite so sure about what they were arguing back then. 

The fact is that regardless of what anyone does or thinks or believes, "life is difficult," "suffering exists." I know of no person who "doesn't have a care in the world," regardless of how spiritual or faithful or prayerful they are.

People get sick, they suffer loss of relationships or lose a job. Financial difficulties come our way- problems at work, at school, in the home or neighborhood.

 I could sit here and spend my entire morning making a list of all the difficulties and problems in my life over the years. I could spend even more time worrying about what may yet happen in the days ahead as I get older. But what good would any of that do?

Suffering exists, life is difficult for all of us, but devoting my time and my energy worrying about past problems and fretting over the problems that may come does nothing to take away the suffering, it only makes it worse.  

Jesus understood this - he taught his disciples:
Do not worry about your life.
Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own

I sit in my garden this morning and look at the face of my praying monk sitting across from me. His face isn't that of one who "doesn't have a care in the world." On his face is a look of "serenity," and  I want to be like him.

So, I get up this morning and I take it "one day at a time," - whatever comes my way, all the joy along with all the inevitable difficulties. I may be able to change some things; however, most things will just happen regardless of what I do or how hard I work or what I believe. 

I take it "one day at a time" and even though I am well aware that "suffering exists," I also know that I am never alone. After all, I am connected with everything that is. A Holy Presence flows in and through it all.  So here, this morning, "present" in the moment, I embrace what "is" with a sense of serenity. 

I look across at my praying monk. I hope I am looking into a mirror. 

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