Thursday, June 19, 2014


"Ordinary Beauty"

I was talking to a friend the other day and I asked how he was doing. "Oh, the same old, same old," he replied, "I guess I'm kinda bored." I wondered how many people might say exactly the same thing when they feel stuck in the "same old, same old" in their everyday routine of life? My guess is that lots of people might complain that they are "kinda bored." 

When people become routinely bored, they normally do whatever they can to distract themselves - rise above the boredom. If they are bored at work, they might do some web browsing or take a coffee break. Bored at school - text a friend.  Sometimes when people are bored they go out and buy something new for themselves - a new pair of shoes, new clothes, something new for the house. Boredom demands that you find something else to do, somewhere else to go, anything to alleviate the boredom of the routine of everyday life.

But of course, the new clothes get old pretty fast, you can only buy so many new pairs of shoes before the closet gets too full; and  after a while even the web surfing and the texting become pretty routine, so even the distractions from boredom become "kinda boring." 

But as I think about it, the ordinary everyday routine of life is exactly the place where we can find deepest peace and most joy if we just stop running away from it all and learn to embrace what "is" instead of always looking for something more. 

Back in the 17th century a simple, fairly uneducated French monk by the name of Brother Lawrence lived what would appear to have been a very boring life. Every day he would follow the routine schedule of monastic prayer and study, and then morning, noon and night he would go into the monastery kitchen and prepare the daily meals for his fellow monks, day in and day out, making soup, peeling potatoes, washing grimy pots and pans - talk about a "daily grind."

But Brother Lawrence found great joy and deep peace in this ordinary routine. He experienced a deep sense of Holy Presence while he sat in his kitchen and peeled potatoes and scrubbed pots.  In fact his kitchen became as important to him as his chapel.   

Brother Lawrence wrote a little book, The Practice of the Presence of God, which ultimately became a Christian  classic, still read by people all over the world. His advice: "Don't run from the ordinary, embrace it, every act is a holy act, every place is a holy place, every moment a revelation of divine presence" 

I am reminded of something Thich Nhat Hanh once said about the joy he finds in the simple task of  "mindfully" washing dishes - feeling the warmth of the water, the texture of the pot. 

I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have
were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath.

I think about my own daily routine in my ordinary life here in the desert. Whenever I start to feel "kinda bored" and want to run away from the moment, I call myself back into it. I am trying to "practice the presence of "God," -mindfully embracing what "is" and open to the revelation that will come to me in that embrace. 

I sit in my garden at sunset, my camera is never far away from me. It's just another ordinary evening. But then I become aware of a simple green branch on our lemon tree in the garden. It catches a golden ray of setting sunlight as the mountain glows in the background - such incredible beauty, such a holy moment. 

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