“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." [Thomas Merton]
The most powerful, and at times most self-sabotaging word in the English language is "yes". Our hyper-connected world tugs at our heart as we bear witness to catastrophes, atrocities, and injustice that call to our humanity and awaken a "frenzy of activism". Thomas Merton reminds us of the importance of not over committing ourselves, and of the need for the time and the space to nourish that within us which ultimately brings forth the fruit of our humanity.
"Sometimes I feel like my life is a wild beast trapped in an unlocked cage, and it is awfully afraid of what lies on the other side. That is what hell is like; having something viciously brilliant inside of you, but not believing in it enough to set it free." [R.M. Drake]
One of the greatest tragedies in this world is an unfulfilled life. I want to go to my grave a hollow spirit with every last ounce of love, passion, and strength squeezed out of me and cast into the world. Find that restlessness trapped inside of you--the part of you that scares you most. Nurture it, coax it into being, "believing in it enough to set it free."
“Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” [Mary Oliver]
I pray for only one thing every day, and that is to be present in my life -- to wholly embrace the joy, the suffering, and the mundane. Our soul is not a byproduct of our faith, but rather, it is forged by each and every one of us as we clear our minds and open our hearts. What more could we hope for than the "sweet emphatic ping and swell" of a blossoming soul.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. [1 John 4:18]
The antidote to fear is not courage or determination. But rather, it's found in the reassurance and calm of love. When we are loved, we are by no means immune to adversity, but we have faith that entwined in the communion of love, is the belief that although we may bend at times, nothing will break us because love keeps us afloat even when we don't have the strength to keep going. Where is the love that "drives out your fear?"
"Beauty comes from a number of places. One is learning to sit and listen, letting the other person become whoever they're becoming: and not put your ego and stories into the scene as much as we tend to do." [Cathie Borrie, author]
The ephemeral nature of beauty is that it can arise from the most unlikely of places. Most of the time we are so preoccupied with getting our own opinion out that we silence the voices around us. Beauty can unfold if we allow ourselves to "travel through Wonderland" like Alice, letting go of any expectations and simply listening to where the uninterrupted dialogue can transport us.
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."
[Ursula K. Le Guin]
It's easy to get hung up on the ideas of arriving, achieving, and completing, but most of the time the sense of accomplishment quickly wanes, and we are left with that hollow feeling again. The most valuable lessons we learn happen on the pursuit to our dreams—It is along the way where we learn the art of forgiveness, encouragement, and love. Next time you plan a goal in life, write down the three things you want to ensure you carry inside you on the path to that goal.
"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." [Carl Jung]
How many times have you told yourself, I just need to put my head down and get through this? It's as if we spend much of our lives trudging through, desperately waiting for the next thing to arrive. By continually looking outward and ahead, we remain in a dream state, as we desperately try to insulate ourselves from any discomfort. But is there a better way? What if you spent the next five minutes looking inside? What would your soul whisper to you? Are you ready to be "awakened"?
“Since you left there's been a you-shaped space beside me, all the time. It never goes away.” [Marisa de los Santos]
So what exactly is a soulmate? If we defer to the daytime talk shows and to the everyday fodder of the latest romantic comedy, we see it as that magical moment when you find that special someone who "completes you". I've never subscribed to that fairytale belief, and in fact, I believe perpetuating that notion does a disservice to romantics around the world. Start from the belief that you are already "complete", and you are less inclined to feel inadequate or lacking. Don't search for someone to "complete you", but rather search for that special person who challenges you, who understands you even when you don't understand yourself. Find the person who recognizes the difference between being there for you and being there with you-- Once you've found this person, you'll understand why you were never missing anything in the first place.
“Let the hard things in life break you. Let them affect you. Let them change you. Let those hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.” [Pema Chödrön]
How much of your day do you spend insulating, isolating, and anesthetizing yourself, all in the hope of moving away from fear and discomfort? Like a muscle grows stronger under increased strain and demand, so too do we grow stronger by meeting adversity head on. By embracing the hard moments in life, we tap into our greatest teacher and learn that we are not only stronger than we think but also beacons of hope for others.
“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.” [Tahereh Mafi]
We all need that one person in our life who is always there, reverberant in the background—at times, our sounding board, our launch pad, our anchor. The one person who patiently awaits you to become a different version of yourself each day. Who is the "moon" in your life? Who waxes and wanes as you go about the uncertainty of life, "cratered by imperfections"?