It’s been a year this week since I began this little exercise called “Nun Tuck’s Almanac.” I can’t believe it, it started off fast and furious with posts almost everyday and gratefully, much traffic. Then life did it’s little John Lennon thing, you know the “Life happens while you are out busy making other plans” thing as it is wont to do, and so this little venture has been gradually being whisked out to the fringe of my daily activities.
But whenever I am away for a week or a wee bit more, I miss this kind of spiritual writing and more importantly, thinking about the essence of who we all are, attempting to draw out with the use of language, feelings and understandings that we all share deep down where the heart resides. In addition, it continues to be my pleasure to share what little I know about world religions. Islam seems to be the one most people want to learn about and there is no surprise there, world events rapidly unfolding as they are.
Birthdays and anniversaries of various kinds are great milestones for us to take stock. And we Christians (Unitarian ones included!) are in the first steps of our annual Lenten journey; another invitation for us to engage in more self-reflection and to employ discipline, not as a punishment, but rather as a tool that chips away at the excesses, compulsions, and indulgences that lead us away from our truest selves.
Thomas Merton, a well-known modern mystic and Trappist monk, spoke these words which have been resonating or more aptly, percolating with me for a time now: “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 the activist neutralizes his or her work for peace.”
OK, wow and ouch. No one has categorically summed me up so succinctly before…you can just put a ribbon on it and there you go. The three words in particular that shout out in neon to all those with an addiction to doing to PAUSE or HALT or STOP are “FRENZY” and “VIOLENCE” AND “NEUTRALIZES”.
As Mark Nepo in “The Book of Awakening” writes, “Merton wisely challenges us not just to slow down, but, at the heart of it, to accept our limitations. We are at best filled with the divine, but have only two hands and one heart. In a deep and subtle way, the want to do it all is a want to be it all, and though it comes from a desire to do good, it often becomes frenzied because our egos seize our goodness as a way to be revered.”
So when I ask myself what is at the root from my seemingly inability to say no to another great cause, event, another tug on my time and resources (even while the endeavor may be a great one), it is the sneaky ego. People who have difficulty saying no, often say that it is because they don’t want to let anybody down. So then I ask question, why don’t I want to let anybody down? Is it because I don’t want anyone to think I am less than this wonderfully compassionate human?
Being compassionate enough is (in cases of the activist) probably more than enough. Saying no to one more thing is self-compassion and self-care, which allows one to walk in the world PRESENT to it.
Pray daily for all the worthy causes out there that you would like to grow and flourish in their goodness, but devote your time to the one or two that speak most closely to your soul…for today. The old adage to ‘do one thing and do it well’ applies here. Wherever I cannot bring my entire being, I am not there.
What a remarkable gift I have received on this birthday edition of Nun Tuck, to take a day to reflect on my pursuit of the good, to choose to pour my energy into the redemption of my own heart, and then I can perhaps help the rest of the world a little more effectively, and that is to say, more peacefully.