What If

I had a frustrating couple of days. In an attempt to fix a problem I had been having since getting my new computer at the law school (we lease computers and they are replaced every three years), IT managed to accidentally eliminate all of my e-mail archive folders. Since I use those folders like a file cabinet, they are not really “archives;” rather, many of the thousands of messages and attachments stored there contain material I currently need.

Fortunately, by the middle of the day yesterday, my files were restored, so my only loss was the loss of almost two days of working time at my computer while IT sought to solve the problem. But my anxiety ran high, fueled by various other, albeit smaller, things that were not going smoothly.

At one point yesterday, while Kelly was working on my computer, I was standing outside of my office looking at something I had taped to my door. An excerpt from Bandon Bays book Freedom Is, it was exactly what I needed to read. Here it is:

What if you realized that everything that is taking place is happening for a reason and a purpose that you can’t fully understand yet?…What if you were to fully, completely, and utterly just accept what’s here?…

What if it is entirely the will of grace and is out of your hands?…What if there is nothing you can do, should do or ought to do to fix it?…What if you finally felt what it feels like to completely and totally relax and accept that what is here is what is meant to be, in this moment?…

What if, in absolutely accepting, you chose now to stop struggling…give up…relax…just relax…let go?…

What if, as you let go, you felt yourself deeply releasing, falling, opening, relaxing into a spacious embrace of infinite presence?…What if this presence was surrounding you, suffusing you, pulling you ever deeper…opening…relaxing… trusting…trusting…trusting?…

How would it feel to rest in an ocean of trust…just being…effortless being?…

What if you gave up the need to figure it out, find the answers, fix it, change it, make it right? What if you just accepted totally that what is here is what is here?…

Reading those words helped me to breathe a little easier, reminding me that this was what was. I could do nothing to change the situation. All I could do was stop struggling and let go.


The Guesthouse

At this week’s session of the Buddhist Christian Interspirituality Discussion Group I facilitate, we discussed equanimity. Yesterday, one of the participants in the group shared with me this poem of Rumi’s, which our discussion reminded her of. The poem, which I had read many years ago but was happy to be reminded of, is titled The Guesthouse.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Be grateful for whatever comes. As St. Ignatius would say, it all has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper repsonse to our life in God.

Me and My Computer

I don’t tend to be attached to things. There is little I own that I could not part with fairly easily, by which I mean I might be initially a bit upset if it were destroyed, but would get over reasonably quickly.

The exception is my computer. I sometimes joke that if Jesus said drop everything and come follow me, I’d ask, “Could I back up my computer first.” Everything I am working on is on my computer, although I do try to back-up things reasonably frequently (kind of).

I’ve now been without my laptop for two days. Some weirdness began on Friday, affecting some of my operations and preventing me from backing anything up. I brought the computer into the law school IT folks Monday morning and by Monday afternoon, it was in worse shape than in the morning. IT worked on it all day yesterday and will continue working this morning.

I think it is pretty fair to say my behavior Monday was pretty unimpressive. I was practically unable to focus on any work as I fretted over not having my computer and not knowing what was that status of all that was on my computer. Seriously, you would think some major tragedy was at hand as I paced unhappily around my office. Monday afternoon I wrote to a friend of mine, “At times like these I wonder how much progress I’ve made from years of meditating, as I sit here trying to focus on my breath and reach a state of calm when what I really want to do is climb the walls (or jump out the window).”

As soon as sent the note I realized the craziness of allowing myself to get crazy over this. Was some horrendous tragedy going to occur as a result of my being without my computer for a couple of days? True I had a set of projects I had planned to get substantial work done on this week, but was the world really going to suffer if they were delayed by a couple of days? And even if the worst happened – that everything that hadn’t been backed up was lost, would that really be a the end of the world?

No, no and no. I took a few more breaths. Yes, this was (is) annoying. Yes, it was (is) frustrating. Yes, it affected (and continues to affect) my work. But it is what it is. A few more deep breaths. It will resolve itself and no worrying on my part will affect how that resolution occurs. So let go the anxiety. Let it be. It worked – yesterday I was much calmer about the whole situation.

I, of course, still hope that when I get into the office this morning I will hear some good news indicating that I will soon have a functioning computer back. But I go in with peace in my heart and an ability to accept whatever news I am given.

Show no partiality

The first reading for today’s Mass comes from the Letter of Saint James and it instructs us to show no partiality in our dealings with others. “For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person with shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil design….If you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we quite frequently do what St. James instructs us not to do. It may not necessarily be on the basis of rich and poor (although there is also a lot of that), but, I think we make distinctions all of the time in how we feel about and how we react to people who seem different from us in one way or another. There is a tendency to define ourselves in certain ways that exclude other people who do not share either the characteristics we have or the characteristics we have view as desirable. And so we value some people more than others and we are not as solicitious about the problems and needs of those we have defined as other and different.

Sometimes this operates consciously, but I think it operates just as (if not more) often at an unconsious level. So it is worth reflecting on our reactions to others and to try to grow in awareness of when we make the kind of distinctions that St. James is talking about.