In a previous post I shared Henri Nouwen's poignant insight into our busy and bored lives.
In the three posts following, I shared author Ronald Rolheiser's thoughts about why and how we have become such harried, hassled people.
What to do?
How on earth do we clear the dirt from our eyes, jolt ourselves awake, and recover a felt sense of the Divine in our lives?
How do we push away distractions, step off the treadmill, find some breathing room?
There are no magic tricks, no new gadgets we can buy that will cause the frantic, frenetic pace of life to settle.
There are, however, practices we can choose to engage that may - over time - give our souls a new, fresh place to land. A place that feels like rest, that feels centered, and purposeful.
I love Rolheiser's beautiful guidance for us here.
His first suggestion is to develop a sense of gratitude.
I write that word and immediately feel cheesy; like I am suggesting some kind of floral-covered journal, some hyped-up, self-help exercises that eventually fall flat.
There is a reason the disciplined, practice of gratitude has gone mainstream, though.
It is one of the ancient keys for jolting us awake to the beauty and joy, to the sense of the Divine enshrined in our very ordinary days.
" ... the first exercise we must do to restore our contemplative faculty [our ability to see and feel God] to its full powers is to work at receiving everything - life, health, others around us, love, friendship, food, drink, sexuality, beauty - as gift.
Becoming a more grateful person is the first, and most important, step that there is in overcoming practical atheism [saying we believe God exists, but acting as if God does not] that besets our everyday lives.
To the extent that we take life for granted we will never see the Giver behind the gift.
Conversely, though, once we stop taking life for granted we will, soon enough, begin to feel it as granted to us by God [or a Divine Presence].(Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern)
Rolheiser then suggests we:
- Live in deep gratitude,
- Count blessings,
- And see whether God is absent from [your] ordinary consciousness.
These actions are accessible to all of us.
We don't need to purchase anything, we don't need to alter our schedule or become either a monk or a minimalist.
We can just start.
We don't have to directly "thank God," we can just be grateful. God won't be offended, promise!
Start simple, but do start. This is the tricky aspect of some of these practices. They seem so simple and easy. SO simple and SO easy that we don't do them. We think about them, we know they might hold promise, but we see them as having little import.
Don't be fooled by the ease of this. Start, and watch what happens ...
Three things you are grateful for before you get out of bed - a decent sleep, a pillow, the promise of a hot shower.
Three things you are grateful for as you head into your day - food for breakfast, the first sip of coffee, a hug from your kiddo.
Three things you are grateful for as you put your head on your pillow - work well done, a few big belly laughs, the sun on your face.
And see if life doesn't open up a bit.
See if the hard shell around your heart starts to soften.
See if the ordinary things of life don't seem a little more enchanting.