Friday, November 27, 2015

Getting Ready

"In the Moment"

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is over, it’s time for people to get ready for the next big event – Christmas, Hanukkah, parties, concerts. The days ahead will be pretty busy time for a lot of us - so much to do to get ready for the upcoming holidays. The more I think about it, the more I realize that getting ready pretty much epitomizes what many of us do not just at holiday times but for most of the time throughout our entire lives.

Several years ago I was the priest in a parish with a large and well-established elementary school. Many people would send their children to that school because it was known for its academic excellence and well-rounded program and the kids in the school were among the most talented children I had ever before encountered. I once asked a parent of a little “kindergartner” why they choose to send their child to our particular parish school and the answer I got really “bowled me over.” The parent informed me, “We chose this school because it fits into our plans for what college our child will attend.”

I soon discovered that many parents had indeed chosen our school because it fit into their well-crafted educational plans for their children from kindergarten right up through college. Our particular elementary school would help them to get ready for the Middle School they had chosen, and that Middle School would be the perfect fit for their child to get ready for a High School that had been chosen to best prepare for the college of choice.

I would often look at all those really sweet and talented kids in our school and think that from now on most of them would be spending their entire time in school getting ready for the next big step.  As I think about it, I suppose that could be said of almost any one of us- most of us spend our whole lives getting ready for the next big moment in life, the next school, the next job, the next career move, getting ready to start a family, getting ready to retire after the family has been raised.

In fact when I think about my average, ordinary day, I realize that it is often far too consumed with getting ready for something yet to come - preparing for the upcoming meeting, getting the house ready for the company to come, getting ready to go shopping so I can get dinner ready.

I am reminded of something one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, once said:

In everyday life we are always looking for the right conditions
that we don’t yet have to make us happy,
and we ignore what is happening right in front of us.
We wait and hope for that magical moment,
always something in the future when everything will be as we want it to be,
forgetting that life is available only in the present moment.

Now that Thanksgiving is over many people have begun their preparations for that next magical moment, perhaps the perfect Christmas holiday with the family all gathered around the twinkling lights of a decorated tree, perhaps a moment in an upcoming religious festival for a deeper spiritual awareness?  But life does indeed only happen in the present and that longed-for magical moment is “only” available right now.

In these days before Christmas I am going to get ready for Christmas by not getting ready. The best way I can prepare for the next big holiday is to realize that what I am looking for is already here – so be alert, be awake!

Author and teacher, John Donohue, put it this way:

Sometimes the urgency of our hunger blinds us to the fact that
we are already at the feast.

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