Nov 02 2011

Waking Up to Delight

Published by at 6:50 pm under Minister's Musings

It’s 8:45 a.m., and I am stuck behind a car turning left across a busy Willow Glen street. Still sleepy, I am about to be late for a beloved dance class. I sigh, check my rearview mirror: Can I pull around this car? No. I sigh again.

While I’m waiting, a young family rounds the corner on the sidewalk, rushing toward the elementary school down the block. Mom and young son trot hand-in-hand; daughter, maybe seven years old, plods ahead, her backpack bouncing with each step. Suddenly, the daughter bursts into a final half-block dash, her face lifted and shining, her straight black hair flying. She is running with abandon toward her day, her whole body filled with joyful anticipation.

I realize I have just received a blessing. I wonder: What do I run toward with such joyful anticipation?

Five days a week, I begin the day on the phone with my spiritual buddy Alicia. We check in—“how are you, really?”—then we lift up the “holy moments” from the day before. The little girl running to school becomes one of my holy moments for that Monday. Telling Alicia about it helps me to set my intention for this new day: to be in the present moment, to notice and receive the small blessings.

A few minutes later, I park my car across from Mi Pueblo grocery story and walk around to drag my own heavy backpack from the front seat. The trunk of the palm tree at the curb stops me in my tracks. Where the bark on the bottom three feet has worn away, thin fibrous roots poke out like a colony of dried-up worms. It’s unlike the innards of any other tree I’ve seen. “Oh, you are strange,” I marvel, “strange and beautiful!”

Next, an evergreen bush flings a branch in my direction. I’m awake now, so every spiky dark green leaf seems etched against the sky. “Wow! Thank you!” I say to the bush.

As a minister, I talk with brokenhearted people most days, and most days the world breaks my heart, too. But when I am awake to wonder and gratitude, then I see the strange, strong root system in each person, and the green spiky leaves, and the longing to run toward life with joyful anticipation, if given half a chance.

So what does it take to wake up to gratitude and wonder? Practice, that’s for sure. A spiritual practice, and a community that reminds us, coaxes us, checks up on us. For example:

The Partner Church for my first Unitarian Universalist congregation was only fifteen blocks uptown. To visit the Church of the Resurrection, United Church of Christ, I just had to walk up First Street from the Upper East Side into East Harlem. During Joys and Sorrows on a Sunday morning, we’d hear about all the hard things that often accompany living below the poverty line in the U.S.A. But always, always, someone would stand up and say, “I woke up this morning, and I thanked God I was alive!” The congregation would holler their support and agreement: “Amen!”

I confess: too often I wake up with my to-do list scrolling through my head, instead of the recognition of “Another day! Hallelujah!”

So this is my intention for the coming month: through worship with you, through the School for Compassion (beginning November 13, 1:00 – 2:30), through my own self-care, I will deepen the spiritual practices that awaken me to everyday delight and simple thanks.  

Won’t you join me?

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