Archive for September 19th, 2009

There is certainly a right time and place for gravitas. But, today, there is a lot of reason for grave thoughts and seemingly incessant worry. The Sufi see the Beloved in a dance, in song and in laughter. Jesus said “be again as little children. ”

The one thing about little children is their spontaneous play and laughter ( assuming a reasonably normal childhood and wholesome circumstances). There is much to make us somber, so the proper spiritual tack to take lies in finding ample cause to smile and laugh.

What makes me laugh is absurdity: statements intended to make deep sense that say nothing at all, or the many paradoxes of life (e.g., only through prudent law and regulation can a society be truly free). I also find the level of seriousness that we bring to play as adults hilarious.

Where is the spiritual lesson in this? When I get intense, preoccupied and locked into obsessional rounds of worry, I take ten steps back, so to speak, and do what seems at the time ludicrous: I go find the funniest movie to watch and laugh my way back to sanity. I also look for the quirky in the moment, the funny turn of phrase, or the melodrama in the drama that makes me chuckle.

Today, for example, I played baseball with members of my family. My 8-year-old nephew was next at bat and he made two demands before going to the plate with bat in hand: (1) this is going to be a fantastic hit so go ahead and applaud now, and (2) remember, no strikes or outs for me; I am a little kid!

These sage comments came right after a debate about whether the last runner was tagged out or slid into second base safely. All the competitive adults were of mixed opinion as we became very serious indeed. My nephew broke through all that need to win, severity and argument, replacing it instead with the simpler need to just play, and a chance to laugh.

May your day and night bring you both a little play, and some hearty laughter.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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We are, without question, creatures of tenacious habit. We get comfortable with a certain look and ritual, and we replicate it with impressive consistency.

There is a learned order to things and we thrive on that replicability and predictability.

I awaken in the morning to the gong of my Blackberry alarm and, within less than 5 minutes, I turn on my favorite early morning news channel, put on the coffee, shower, shave, and dress. In choosing what to wear, I lay out a set of choices the night before, and I hold off on putting things on until after I’ve had breakfast to keep from spilling something on my shirt, tie or suit jacket. It’s a very comforting ritual.

We need the rituals. They set a rhythm for mind and body. Good health and an organized life process, rule of life and rule of contemplation all correlate strongly . They matter. At the same time, though, change is everywhere. Sameness appears from day-to-day until something shakes us out of the “matrix,” and we catch a glimpse of seemingly sudden discontinuity.

While ritual is an essential aspect of humanity, it is equally crucial to recognize that it is all an illusion; everything is in motion, everything is tending. In fixating on the static surfaces, we miss the reality of constant unfolding. So, what to do to balance our wholesome disciplines and rituals with continuous attention to what’s actually changing?

A small thing that I sometimes do is to shift an aspect of my daily practice in some small way to quicken my alertness to the real.

For example:

1. Wearing a watch on the other wrist every so often.
2. Combing my hair differently.
3. Wearing a symbol of a particular spiritual tradition unobtrusively, just so I know it’s there.
4. A wardrobe of cologne fragrances.
5. Making daily use if differently scented body washes ( including coconut, chocolate, almond, etc. ).
6. A selected talisman of sorts that I simply enjoy holding, packed in my briefcase ( meteorite, other mineral, symbolically rich bookmark, alternative special pens, special photograph).
7. A screen saver change using my own photos mixed with favorite stock photos from the internet.
8. A changed playlist on my Ipod Touch.
9. Different and fresh potpourri for the large ornamental basin in my home office.
10. Rotation of artifacts, figurines, and paintings on my home office wall.

The only limit is imagination.

Such a practice of ritual change joins with the continuities in our daily round to honor the yin/yang of the soul, the need for a dynamic rebalancing of the constant and the flux. I find that, by doing these things, I am better oriented and ready to appreciate and more fully experience the surprise, the variances, and the times of seemingly “out of left field” occurrences.

All the best to you as you consider the change-ups that keep you just off-balance enough to be really alive and to better hear the “still small voice”.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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