Advent Day 05: Practicing Peace In Times of War …

When you’re like a keg of dynamite just about to go off, patience means just slowing down at that point—just pausing—instead of immediately acting on your usual, habitual response. You refrain from acting, you stop talking to yourself, and then you connect with the soft spot. But at the same time you are completely and totally honest with yourself about what you are feeling. You’re not suppressing anything; patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. If you wait and don’t fuel the rage with your thoughts, you can be very honest about the fact that you long for revenge; nevertheless you keep interrupting the torturous story line and stay with the underlying vulnerability. That frustration, that uneasiness and vulnerability, is nothing solid. And yet it is painful to experience. Still, just wait and be patient with your anguish and with the discomfort of it. This means relaxing with that restless, hot energy—knowing that it’s the only way to find peace for ourselves or the world.
— Pema Chodron from Practicing Peace In Times of War

 

Habits, Differences, and the Light That Abides

In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role. The religious literally wear it. Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day. Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit, by its judicious assistance, but it’s more likely that habits rule us.

The bird in the forest or the fox on the hill has no such opportunity to forgo the important for the trivial. Habit, for these, is also the garment they wear, and indeed the very structure of their body life. It’s now or never for all their vitalities — bonding, nest building, raising a family, migrating or putting on the deeper coat of winter — all is done on time and with devoted care, even if events contain also playfulness, grace, and humor, those inseparable spirits of vitality. Neither does the tree hold back its leaves but lets them flow open or glide away when the time is right. Neither does water make its own decision about freezing or not; that moment rests with the rule of temperatures.

Men and women of faith who pray – that is, who come to an assigned place, at definite times, and are not abashed to go down on their knees – will not tarry for a cup of coffee or the news break or the end of the movie when the moment arrives. What some might call the restrictions of daily office they find to be an opportunity to foster the inner life. The hours are appointed and named; they are the Lord’s. Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. Divine attentiveness cannot be kept casually, or visited only in season, like Venice or Switzerland. Or, perhaps it can, but then how attentive is it? And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach towards the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. I would like to be like the fox, earnest in devotion and humor both, or the brave and compliant pond shutting its heavy door for the long winter. But, not yet have I reached that bright light or that white happiness – not yet.

— Mary Oliver from Long Life: Essays and Other Writings

 

The Gift of Deepening

The deepest place on Earth is not a physical place, but the stillness we enter at the bottom of our pain, at the bottom of our fear and worry. The stillness we enter there opens us to a spacious state of being that some call joy. When we put down our dreams and maps of memory, precious as they are, we can feel the pulse of life. Then all we could ask for is softly between us, when too tired to deny that there’s nowhere else to go. These moments of unfiltered depth are brief. We may only experience a handful of such openings in a lifetime. But like the strong chorus of stars that watch over us, we can navigate our way through the dark by following them.
— Mark Nepo from Things That Join the Sea and the Sky

 

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