The prayer I fell into this morning at my altar.
I will do my best today to be of service to something larger than me. I’m not talking about organized larger-than-mes out there (the Peace Corps, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army), although they’re perfectly worthy places to serve.
I’m talking about the larger-than-me organism of my marriage. For instance, when was the last time I warmed some lavender coconut oil and rubbed her feet with it just before bed, instead of watching my own TV show in a different room while she read and eventually fell asleep?
When did I last decorate her place mat with a little sprig of green in a bud vase, instead of scrounging around for myself in the kitchen like a zombie, bored and listless? When did I last give her my full attention during a story I already knew by heart?
I’m talking about the larger-than-me community of my family. Really listening to my grandson, not performing for him. Looking for and hearing my daughter. My son-in-law. My sons. My friends. Asking questions, and then (this is so important) leaving space for the answers. And not even once trying to fix or spin it in a ‘good’ direction. This, too, is service.
I’m talking about the larger-than-me world of strangers. Being kind to people I’ll never know, who can never thank me. People I can serve in the moment. Smiling in a snarl of traffic at the guy trying to scootch into my lane, stopping so he can be successful when no one else would do it.
Or speaking with a genuinely caring voice to the customer support guy from Verizon. (I wished one of them a really good night’s sleep and he responded with such tender surprise and gratitude.)
Or stopping to admire someone’s limping, smelly, 17-year-old mutt who’s blind and deaf and takes forever to get around the block — to show respect, and to know that this could be, right now, the only love of that person’s life who’s still around to love.
And I’m talking about the ecosystem. The one that is our planet. And the one that is our mind. How can I serve? I can serve by watching what and how and how much I eat. I can serve by watching what and how and how much I consume goods and services. I can serve by making sustainable choices in not only the world around me,
but the world inside me.
Are my thoughts sustainable?
Do they drain my resources, leave me tired and contracted and afraid?
Or do they feed the ecosystem of my being, bowing to what is
(without craving, aversion, or indifference)?
I will do my best today to open to everything I’ve been given. I’ve been given this human life. A gift from my parents, and/or God, and/or science, and/or the human systems that have been created over millennia. Because of them, I have experienced breathing, crying, dancing, sleeping, rage, confusion, clarity, sex, pregnancy, labor, singing, composing, fatigue, rest, laughter, math, sewing, finding answers, cooking, and on and on and on and on and on into infinity.
Gifts I’ve taken for granted: I get to walk down the street (by myself, if I want to). I get to drink and bathe and wash dishes in clean water. I am allowed to read anything, write anything, wonder about anything. I can drive (by myself, if I want to). I own a slim, metal ‘book’ of magic that can take me anywhere, that can teach me just about anything I want to learn. I can carry it with me anywhere I go.
There are many places on this earth where those privileges do not exist. I live where they do exist. Where they’re just part of the wallpaper. I live and breathe by the grace of these benefits; and, like a fish's relationship to water, I don’t even see them.
I will do my best today to experience everything as my teacher. Couldn’t sleep last night, so I got up and wandered around. At a certain point, I realized I’d been standing in one place for an hour — an hour— just scrolling through Twitter and Facebook. So much hatred there on all sides. It was like seeing multiple car wrecks, layered on top of earthquakes, in an erupting volcano. How does that become my teacher?
Like this: Every single tweet is a sutra, inviting me to notice how sucked in I got. Inviting me to pay attention to my body instead of the roiling reactionaries out there. Inviting me to return to the breath, to remember that on my way to my meditation cushion, I picked up my phone and here I am instead—standing and scrolling. Inviting me to notice that in this moment, instead of meditating, I’m choosing to shovel wheelbarrows full of opinion, belief, snark, mistrust and general shade into my consciousness.
I could have made a different choice. I could have ignored my phone and sat on my cushion.
Every single tweet, every post, every meme is a teacher, a mindfulness bell, a gateway into consciousness. I must stop scrolling (a perfect metaphor for pervasive dissatisfaction), and enter through any one of those gateways into the awakened consciousness that has been there since the beginning.
I will do my best today. It’s all I can do.
And then, tonight, I will do my best to lie down and let it all go.
May all beings benefit. May all beings be happy, and free.