Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ordinary Acts

"There is no enlightenment outside daily life."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Once upon a time I lived with a simple joy of writing and painting and walking along the shoreline collecting shining stones. I lived in a quaint cottage on the corner of a friendly village. I stewarded an island in the green Salish Sea. My only drive was to be with the muse and write praises in poetry while healing my own human pain.

That is how I remembered my life yesterday as I wheeled the skill saw across a complaining sheet of plywood, as I hammered and measured and sweat in the dust of good hard work. I came home from a day of building and weeding for other people and I bent my will toward the woodpile. I swung and cut. We needed heat for our home. We needed to pay the stacked cord of bills.

By four pm I was spent. Yet there was a group at the YWCA that I was scheduled to co-facilitate. And a friend had left a phone message that he was in trouble. The radio was telling me how human beings are becoming selfish in their fear, while the world is sliding into chaos. I held my head and then my heart. I sat on my bed. I sat and remembered the once upon a time life I had... insulated, hidden and uncomplicated.

In an unguarded moment I whispered to myself: "I don't want to be here."

I was shocked at how easily the thought rose up; how life was asking so much of me; how responsibilities were sucking the bliss right out of me. Where were the days when I could not wait to get to the writing desk? Where were the times of wandering in cobbles and sea wrack between the singing tides?

I was carrying the traumas of other people and the sadness of suffering barking across the airwaves. For a moment being in this world felt like too much. It was just a moment of being human, like everyone else.

Then I remembered: I asked for this. I wanted to be an elder in the last days of this world system. I wanted the complications of friendships. I wanted to make a difference in other people's lives simply by listening.

Yet I was surprised at how being of service looked. It looked dirty and dusty and messy. Service is fraught with unsure outcomes, a family with no answers, a broken axe and a long drive into the city simply to sit with amazing wounded people.

Then I recalled that my once upon a time life was not so ideal. I was remembering like a child remembers the joy of summer vacation. But I am not a child anymore. The poems do not flow in such care free happiness any more. They rarely flow at all, at least on paper.

The poems and singing of tides are living in the acts of simply showing up... being with the one crying, swinging the maul, getting the mud under the fingernails. The impact and outcomes are really not up to me. What I realized about my once upon a time life is that even there challenges and pain and calls for discipline swirled around me. One cannot hide from the world.

There is little place for sentimentality in service and adult life. But there is infinite room for infinite love.

And what does "love" look like? It's different for everybody. I have a feeling it comes down to ordinary acts and simple hopes and thoughts. I have a feeling it comes down to compassion, even for the small part of us that does not want to be here.

May you find the compassion and gratitude for yourself as you drive to work and make your family's meals, as you scan the monitor and hoe the weeds. We may never know the healing impact of our actions. But something mysterious and loving is growing here on earth.

May you find the Beloved Loving power of this One Sacred Life in your ordinary acts of being human.


(c) Rick Sievers, April 2011. All rights reserved.