What would you think if your boss or your partner sent you on a long trip to do something, but then told you to take nothing with you and just to rely on the help of strangers? I remember years ago, when I was in the seminary, hearing stories of one of the formation directors who used to send college students out on the road in the summer time, having them travel hundreds of miles and only giving them $10.00 to take with them and nothing else. They were to make their way across these hundreds of miles relying on the help of strangers. This, he said, helped them get a real sense of what the poor feel in their lives. Certainly it was a different day and age back then; but a challenging way to learn that maybe we don’t need as much as we think we do.
I wonder if having much holds us from experiencing life’s richness in other ways. I wonder if it holds us from interaction with others and opportunities to be of mutual support, that otherwise we simply don’t see, as each of us is mired within the secure confines of our own homes.
This past week, after a violent windstorm, the residual effects of Hurricane Ike, I was left without electricity for a week. Certainly much less worse than those devastated by the brunt of that storm. Yet even this little “inconvenience” made me not only think of , but feel with those in other parts of the world who never have electricity. It made me get out of my house and interact with neighbors and others in coffee shops and the like. I met more people in this past week than I have in a quite a while. It created within people a mutual inter-dependence that otherwise we rarely experience. Although a little edgy at times due to sinus problems and a lack of sleep, this past week opened a deeper connection with people, many of whom I didn’t even know. It made me realize in a real way that maybe I don’t need all those things I have and, not only that, they keep me from experiencing life at deeper, interconnected levels.
“Take nothing for the journey; neither walking staff nor traveling bag; no bread, no money.” (See Luke 9: 1-6) Perhaps today we could ask ourselves this: how are my possessions holding me from experiencing a richer, fuller life? What can I do live a more inter-dependent life?
Once again, I’m not strictly speaking of finding a boyfriend, but happiness, the ever allusive happiness that we all seek.
Last night at a coffee shop I began reading a book called The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello. Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest and spiritual guide who, in his many books and conferences, brought together Eastern and Western spirituality. He himself was raised in India so was familiar with Eastern concepts. If you have not read anything by him or about him I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! It’s amazing how very much in line he is with the thinking of Tolle, Dyer, Jung, Frankl and many others who speak of being free of ego attachments and realizing the grace of living happiness in this moment no matter what is happening around us. These people, I believe, like the Christ, have keys that can make a tremendous difference in living a happy, more peaceful life. The Way to Love is a very small volume, something you could carry in your pocket, but is packed with lots of insight and practical wisdom that can change the way you go about life! It’s published by Image Books, Doubleday.
Last night, on the heals of yesterday’s meditation, I read De Mello’s take on ever allusive happiness. He says we are programmed from birth to believe that we cannot be happy without things, that happiness lay somewhere in the future when I get this person, thing or place. Or we are programmed to believe that if we just change the situation and the people around us, then we’ll be happy, or when all our desires are fulfilled we’ll be happy. All of these are FALSE. It is only when we stop clinging to these things that we begin to experience what peace and happiness is. It is only when we let go of these things and simply live this moment and accept what is here and now that we can begin to live in a greater state of peace and happiness. For then we won’t waste a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to get this or that or to change this or that circumstance in our lives (See pp.5-12 The Way to Love) It’s difficult for me to put this in words, but I know what it feels like when I stop looking to the future for happiness, or some person, place of thing. I know what it is to experience peace and happiness when I accept interruptions to my day, or when my day hasn’t gone as I had planned, or when something seemingly bad happens. I know what it feels like when I simply accept that and stop resisting it.
I want to continue exploring this. I find myself being lead to read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning which chronicles his experiences when he was in a concentration camp in World War II and how he found that even in such horrible and unspeakably inhumane circumstances, one could still be happy. Imagine the freedom!