Last night, as I lying awake in bed and feeling a little frustrated because I hadn’t yet fallen asleep, for some reason the idea of the friendliness of everything came to mind. Strange – I was tossing and turning and getting increasingly upset because of my sleeplessness, and yet at the same time I was being visited by the beautiful sense of the neighborliness of the entire universe! In the midst of my temporary and annoying insomnia, I felt surrounded by the comradeship of absolutely everything. My wife and devoted companion, Delycia, was beside me, but I knew somehow that the air in the bedroom was also showing affection, as were the walls and windows and the easygoing, sociable darkness outside. I don’t know that I have ever felt such vast and saturating congeniality. Somehow, as I lay wide awake in bed, I was absolutely sure that the universe is a totally convivial and sheltering place. I remember thinking of Delycia’s orchids in our living room, and how utterly companionable they always seem as I sit near them – how they lovingly welcome me no matter what I happen to be thinking or feeling. Even worries and sorrows – my lifelong ‘enemies’ – were, I somehow felt, actually full of friendliness and a willingness to assist me in rising up from fear into a sense of the togetherness of all of life.
Yes, I was temporarily sleepless as I lay there beside Delycia, but I was also – I knew – in the center of a completely cordial and comradely universe. I smiled a lot in my wakefulness, and even silently laughed a little.
When I was a boy in a family that attended church regularly, I thought of aisles as being sacred passageways in a church leading to some sort of sanctified experience. At church, I walked up the aisle to my seat, and I always found myself feeling almost scared, as though I was entering a place of vast mystery. These days now, at the age of 81, I often feel, in the most ordinary circumstances, like I’m once again looking down the aisle of a sacred place, but this place is called the present moment. Each moment, I am living in – walking down and up – an aisle in the mystifying and revered cathedral called life. And, what is wonderful is that no matter in which direction I turn, the aisle always leads to the highest and most consecrated experiences possible. When I was a boy, I went to church, usually only on Sundays, but now, in these reverent days of elderhood, I truly know that I am walking down an aisle towards something sacred every moment – even though I am usually not aware of it. Like when I was a restless lad in church, I am still typically distracted by daydreams and musings, and thus I don’t notice the holiness of all the moments. Right now, at 5:23 in the morning, as I’m sitting at my desk in front of my computer, I can look down the aisle of life and see and feel the purity and sanctity of all existence. Yes, I am in a church, but it’s the majestic and cheering church of daily life, and the aisle that I’m always walking down or up is always leading, and arriving at, everlasting acceptance and satisfaction.
Today, I hope to just stay more often. Instead of constantly turning toward something else, something supposedly more interesting, I’d like to stay, always, spot-on in the present moment. Usually, I’m wandering off in my thoughts to something that seems more stimulating than what’s here and now, but today could be different. Today I could consider myself the privileged guest of each present moment, and, being received so warmly, why would I not want to spend some quality time here, in this good-hearted and generous here-and-now? Staying put, right where I am at any moment, could open the fairy-tale doors of a kingdom called The Present. I get free room-and-board here, in every moment, forever, so why not bow in thankfulness and enjoy my endless visit?
Below is a poem about a make-believe guy in the make-believe town of Blessings, CT, USA:
It’s fun to come back, now and then, to the amazing truth that life – including me and all of us and everything – is incredibly and beautifully elaborate. The word derives from old Latin words meaning ‘to work out’, and indeed, the life everything is living is carefully and exquisitely worked out, moment after startling new moment. Each instant is an intricate, inextricable creation of an infinite wizard called The Universe, and I, like all of us, am precisely at the center of this handiwork. Unfortunately, I sometimes am unable to see the radiance of the design, and thus I get lost in what seems to be nothing but puzzlement and disarray. The truth is, though, that at each moment, the virtuoso Universe is embellishing a lovely life for us, including me, and I simply need to see myself as part of this everlastingly fresh and elaborate work of art. When I visit an art museum, I am sometimes lost in amazement at the beauty of the creations, and maybe I should be more often spellbound by the elegant patterns in each commonplace, magnificent moment of life.
I used to think the word ‘glory’ applied only to things like sunsets and distant mountains and misty rainbows, but as my 81 years have passed, I’ve slowly come to see glory everywhere, and in everything. What is more glorious than the softly glowing computer screen on which the words I’m typing now are stepping along in unison? And what deserves more praise than my elderly fingers dancing in their trusty, free-and-easy ways on the computer keyboard, or the soft and splendid music the furnace is making below me in the cellar? I see grandeur beside me in a small glass full of pens and pencils, sitting silently and shining in the lamplight, and there’s a strangely wondrous splendor in the sounds from the washer softly cleansing our clothes down the hall. And nothing should be honored more than this simple but stunning moment, right here and now – a spectacle that never ends, is always with us – this precise moment, right now, in its dazzling light. I look again, and here it is, even now, the present, right here, in all its pomp and beauty. I say let us praise the glory of the ever-present present moment, which is everywhere and everything!
When I feel like I need some inspiration, the greatest gift of all is that it’s everywhere. I can get instant encouragement just by feeling my lungs rise and fall as my body does its amazingly graceful – though elderly – breathing, or by seeing new light laying its freshness across the land each morning. There’s newness everywhere – always – and that by itself can be a stimulant to a seemingly discouraged 80-year-old fellow. Just watching my old legs move fluidly as I walk through the house is quiet encouragement that life is still amazing. Seeing raindrops sitting with ease and elegance on the leaves of a holly bush can be an inducement to stand up and smile and even sing a little song, and listening to our clothes dryer doing its skillful work can boost my incentive to keep my eyes on life itself as it works its daily, delightful miracles. Discouragement comes only when I can’t see the simple but inspiring wisdom that’s always waiting for me to open my mental door and say a sincere and appreciative welcome.
GUIDED WITH GLORY
(about Harrison P., 61, Blessings, CT)
He's often guided with glory,
as if he's a king who's cared for
by servants. Some days, seeing leaves
loosening in a breeze brings him
inspiration about what to do next
and how to do it. Some days,
the sky suddenly darkening
guides him to hold the light
of his life up higher. He can't help
being guided, because goodness
always gathers near him
to show him how to go. You feel
victorious when you have
that kind of guidance, the leadership
of leaves and darkness, and of course
the flow of kindness,
the river that cares and steers.
Paying attention to something always makes that thing clearer and deeper. This is a truth with magical powers. If I am attentive to a book as I read, the book invariably becomes better, richer, more powerful. If I am attentive, really attentive, to my students, they grow stronger and more capable before my eyes. If I am attentive to the present moment, that moment – any moment – grows stronger, more intense, and more exhilarating. Attention is to anything what sunlight and rain is to plants. Attention feeds and energizes whatever it is focused on. Today, I will try to be attentive to each moment, and therefore I will have the pleasure of watching each of them sprout and spread and blossom.
Below, a scene from this lucky morning …
THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT
(Sharon Z.,82, Blessings, CT)
At her age, she says she has
more scraping-the-heavens kinds of days
than she ever had in younger years.
She has little money,
so she’s always surprised
by the grand scale of her life,
the way, over 8 decades of years
she seems to have slowly
come from a cave into sunshine,
and finds herself now
on the spectacular summit
of old age,
with a trove of young talents inside her,
and all her worries fallen
into a silent and bottomless hole.
It happened, she says,
when life, not she,
became the center of attention
and this galloping good life
took her for a ride
This is what it’s all about!
‘Waiting’ is a wonderful word. It implies so many things. If we are waiting for something, then we are expecting it to happen, to come to us. We don’t have to do anything ourselves; we just have to ease up and wait, because we know it will come. If we are waiting, then, in a sense, we are relaxing, because we are totally confident that what we are waiting for will arrive. Waiting does not imply worrying and fearing. Rather, it implies being patient, because we know that what we wait for is definitely coming. Today I want to wait patiently for the power of the infinite universe to exert itself and to control my life. Of course, I don’t really have to wait for that, because it’s already happening at every moment today. What I have to do is resist the temptation to start doing things to bring happiness into my life. The happiness is already in my life, because I am an inseparable part of the peacefulness of this vast and marvelous universe. What I have to do is simply realize that, and wait to see this peacefulness effortlessly disclose itself each and every moment.
WAITING ON THE PHONE
She enjoys waiting
on the phone
for a human being’s voice,
because for her,
nothing is better
She loves waiting
for her breath
to bring a rise to her lungs
and then a comfortable fall,
and she feels fortunate
to wait faithfully for thoughts
to flow into and through
and then out of her,
like an always helpful river.
She waits for wonder
to arrive for her,
as it always does,
and she delights
in waiting for fear
to shrivel up
and float away,
waving and smiling
like a friend.
During the winter months, as my wife and I sleep in our bedroom, a humidifier quietly does its work by softly humming, and every night and every day the dependable universe does its special work with a steady stream of ‘hums’. These are hums that always stay secret and silent, softly behind the scenes, sounds made by work that discreetly does what must be done to keep things always spinning and expanding and advancing. It’s the work my body, for instance, calmly carries out moment by moment – the balanced moving of blood, the falling and lifting of the lungs, the constant re-creation of cells. It’s the silent work the surrounding air always does, sending me humming winds and pulsating oxygen and always a subtle kind of freshness. And then there are the endless ‘hums’ of the wide world I live in – the sounds of the rolling along of rivers, the constant whisper of winds that work their way without ceasing across thousands of miles, and of course the noiseless, steadfast spinning of the stars. It’s reassuring to me to stay aware of this humming, bustling labor – to realize, while I’m working my way through the minutes of a day, that so much silent work is always being done inside and around me, that so much steady and tender effort is being quietly applied to make my 80-year-old life the marvelous thing that it is.
(about Patricia F., 46, Blessings, CT, USA)
it is peace that works inside her,
always steadying her in its graceful way,
and she sometimes feels friendship
performing its good work
in her grateful heart.
She understands that life leads her
in the way that it wants to,
and does the duties it is given
by the stars and winds.
She sees life laboring
in its loving way to help her,
and she holds out her hands
I am fortunate to always be able to watch and appreciate the countless workers in the carefree factory of this universe of ours. All day long, my lungs labor with ease and pleasure to bring me fresh breaths, and my eyes, like true craftsmen, constantly bring sights into my consciousness in the most creative and comfortable ways. The amazing artisan called Thinking is always hard at work, mysteriously making and sending thoughts by the thousands swinging through my mind, and each Moment, in fact, is an artistic toiler in the making of brand-new miracles.
Strangely, the seemingly separate person called ‘me’ is more of a watcher than a worker. My job is to watch and welcome and understand and love what the workers of the universe are quietly accomplishing, moment after moment. How lucky can an 80-year-old dude get?
Today, all day long, I will be soaking in the splendid peacefulness of life, even though I may be totally unaware of it. I may be faraway in my head that’s often full of worries and wonderings and what-ifs, but the boundless life that I’m part of will always be bathing me in the undisturbed endlessness of the present moment. Whether I realize it or not, I’ll be immersed in restfulness all day, because that’s where the universe always is, and I am one of its lucky partners. Hopefully, I can occasionally come out of my reveries and feel the marvelous soaking and rinsing in serenity that is always – always – happening.