#BlogElul 7: Be

This summer I have been meditating almost every morning in our backyard. I knew the meditation would have many merits, but I didn't realize how wonderful it would be to be outside every morning. I have lived here for 12 years, but only through this practice have I really come to know our yard and all who live and grow in it.

The meditative practice that I use most often includes a line, "The world then goes about its business." I love this line, and it fits well with all that I witness outside -- the bees and the flies, the tomatoes and the lettuce, the berries and the birds. These living things all have such clarity about their "business," and somehow that helps give me clarity about what it means to be. 

I hope to be like the bee, intent on gathering nectar from the flower, like the fly resting on a leaf, like the tomato ripening in the sun, like the baby lettuce growing rapidly. I hope to know my business, to live it with intent and purpose, to be exactly what I am here to be.

#BlogElul 6: Search

Today was one of those days when I search for stamina, patience, and perspective. There's too much to do. My attention is needed by many people in many capacities. I won't ever get everything done. I can't possibly meet everyone's needs. Frustration and fear lurk, but I know they will only make everything worse.

So I search for a different way. I find a deep breath, and I try to dig deep, to find my sense of humor, and to plug away. I just keep telling myself a line I read by Gretchen Rubin recently, "By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished." I may not be able to cross anything major off my to do lists, but I am getting lots of little bits done. I have to have faith that by plugging away I will somehow get done what is truly important. 

And I give myself permission to make this Elul practice a priority. I trust that this time, this practice, this turning inwards is essential to my search not only for stamina, patience, and perspective but also in my bigger search, the one that I can't even quite articulate about meaning and purpose. The one that Elul and the High Holidays so generously invites us to explore.

#BlogElul 5: Know

My teenage son and I like to joke about a few "universal truths" about the nature of our relationship:

  1. He knows everything.
  2. Everything is my fault.
  3. I am an embarrassment simply because I exist.

These lines help us laugh through some of our harder moments, and while they are certainly not true, they also contain a certain truth. They reflect his ability to step outside the teenage mindset, however briefly, and to tap into a deeper knowing.

I remember a time when I too thought I knew everything. Or at least I was so certain about everything I knew. I think that attitude peaked somewhere during my college years and ever since then, I've been on a journey of knowing less and less. I recognize how little I know, how complex everything is, how many different points of view there are, and how much is simply unknown. And then, even that recognition becomes too certain, and I learn once again how much I simply do not know and cannot imagine.

At the same time, I am growing into more and more of the deeper kind of knowing. The knowing that isn't quite knowledge. Maybe it's wisdom. Maybe it's humility. Maybe it's just a willingness to be open to the vast unknown. It is in those spaces that once in a while I know that it is possible to catch a glimpse of knowing God.

#BlogElul 4: Accept

At the end of a meditation session this morning in our backyard, I open my eyes and see a beautiful array of water droplets on some crab grass.

These dewdrops invite me to shift perspective. On another occasion, I might be pulling up that same crab grass, treating it as an unwanted weed. Yet, there it is taking my breath away with its unexpected beauty.

Meditating outside invites lots of these kinds of moments. Young osprey circle overhead crying out for attention. A pair of mockingbirds come and go in the nearby tree, eating berries. A flicker shows up on the play structure calling repeatedly. A fly lands on my dark pants such that I can see the pads at the end of each leg. Fluffy clouds float by on an impossibly blue sky.

I notice all sorts of particular qualities that I often miss. When I pay attention to the qualities of each thing around me -- or in the case of the crab grass, the beauty in an often-rejected place -- I also find a greater capacity for accepting my own particular qualities and circumstances. I accept, and even rejoice in, who I am at this moment, knowing that I am a part of this much larger web of life.