For better or worse, we have pushed a collective pause button. Our world just got narrower on the outside. Perhaps this is the time to broaden it on the inside. Enjoy the moments. Reach out to people to check in and tell them you care. Savor the little things. Pause and reflect.
Amid a country-wide quarantine in Italy, a beautiful voice sings out into the empty streets, only to be joined by more voices, until their chorus warms the entire world. Enjoy this reminder that, even as we struggle. we belong to each other.
What do you think heaven looks like? Certainly, if we can see there, it is a place of great beauty and marvelous complexity where we marvel at God’s creation. If we can hear there, music that stirs the soul must be the score. And so on through our senses
But what if we are not corporeal in heaven and don’t have senses per se? What then? Perhaps it is a place of harmony, of communion, with everyone different but united in common purpose.
These are good things, yes? Appreciating beauty in God’s creation, enjoying music that stirs the soul, being so present in our bodies that we marvel at its systems? And, of course, communion, harmony, peace? These are good things.
Perhaps, today, we can take time to bring a bit of heaven to earth. Pause to admire the beauty around us, savor, marvel, be astonished. And then with our senses full and renewed, have courage to bring peace and harmony to our day.
In this beautiful film set to the words of Brother David Steindhl-Rast, you can’t help but see much of what makes life good and affirming. What if we learn to appreciate each day as if it is our first day…and our last? What if we appreciate each miracle as it presents itself to us throughout the day…the miracle of sight, of running water, of food, of laughter? What then?
When your weary head fills with all the things you need to do or all the things that have gone wrong and keeps you from sleep, consider instead your present blessings. Let the negative thoughts drift from your focus like clouds blowing across a starlit sky, and turn your attention to the things you are grateful for, right here, right now.
For inspiration, consider this poem, Three Gratitudes, by Carrie Newcomer:
Every night before I go to sleep
I say out loud
Three things that I’m grateful for,
All the significant, insignificant
Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
It’s a small practice and humble,
And yet, I find I sleep better
Holding what lightens and softens my life
Ever so briefly at the end of the day.
Sunlight, and blueberries,
Good dogs and wool socks,
A fine rain,
A good friend,
Fresh basil and wild phlox,
My father’s good health,
My daughter’s new job,
The song that always makes me cry,
Always at the same part,
No matter how many times I hear it.
Decent coffee at the airport,
And your quiet breathing,
The stories you told me,
The frost patterns on the windows,
English horns and banjos,
Wood Thrush and June bugs,
The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond,
An old coat,
A new poem,
My library card,
And that my car keeps running
Despite all the miles.
And after three things,
More often than not,
I get on a roll and I just keep on going,
I keep naming and listing,
Until I lie grinning,
Blankets pulled up to my chin,
Awash with wonder
At the sweetness of it all.
What do you feel entitled to? Your life, job, spouse, happiness, health, good weather? It’s remarkable how we can feel that we have earned our stations in life and are entitled to all the good things.
Until something happens to take it away.
A diagnosis, job loss, natural disaster, and then we realize we weren’t entitled to any of it after all. It was a gift, and we hadn’t been grateful.
Think of all you have been blessed with and be grateful.
Smells can shortcut the synapses and connections in our brain or body and take us straight back to the past. A certain perfume, the ground wet after a gentle rain, cherry tobacco in a pipe, a campfire in the woods, whatever it may be, and our mind flashes to a different time we smelled that smell. Sometimes it takes us right to a time when someone we lost was still with us. Sometimes the smell can calm us or give us courage. Sometimes that smell takes us to a place where we can remember something or someone we once loved. When this happens, we can pause and be grateful for that person or thing. If the smell takes us back to an unpleasant memory, we can pause and be grateful that we survived that particular obstacle and moved on, and we can celebrate our strength.
For a lovely instance of a mother’s smell calming a crying baby, take a look at this video:
Today is a gift. Soak in the beauty all around you. Treasure the people in your life. Hold on to gratitude that you are able to be here, now, with all that there is.
In the words of e.e. cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
And then take just a moment to watch this beautiful video. Happy Today!
So much of our suffering is invisible. Loneliness, sorrow, depression, not fitting in. We can bind up our own cuts and scrapes, but how do we bind up those kind of wounds?
There is an old parable about heaven and hell. In both, people are forced to eat with spoons that are too long to feed themselves. In hell, they are starving. In heaven, they feed each other.
When it comes to these invisible hurts, we are healed by kindness, one to another. We don’t know when we are being kind that it may help someone, but it certainly can’t hurt. And it may be just the long-spooned nourishment that someone else needs.
To inspire acts of kindness today, watch this video of a poor baby elephant stuck in a muddy hole. The gratitude its mother shows its rescuers will melt your heart.
Without the rests and pauses, music would just be noise. The pauses add shape and definition to any composition and allow the rise and fall of the melody to stand out. In order to hear the music that is our life, we need to pause. Between tasks, before we react, when others are speaking. We need to rest when we are weary, to conclude that not everything needs to be done today, now, or maybe even at all. Sometimes less is more.
And as we pause, let us give thanks. For this life, these opportunities, these people (including those who vex you), and the abundance of life all around us.
Thanks for it all.