John O’Donohue

Themes from story of Mary and Martha: being busy, always on the go vs making space for mindfulness and being present

Do you ever feel like there’s just too much to do and that you can’t get it all done?  Do you feel like you don’t have enough time for the things that really count? — Mary Stephens

Help me find a way to be a perfect blend
of Mary’s heart and Martha’s hands

— from song: Mary’s heart and Martha’s hands
by Carlene Thissen & Martha Christian


SONGS about BEING:


MARTHA and MARY Annie Johnson Flint

Martha was busy and hurried,
Serving the friend divine,
Cleansing the cups and platters,
Bringing the bread and wine;
But Martha was careful and anxious
Fretted in thought and in word.

She had no time to be sitting
While she was serving the Lord,
For Martha was “cumbered with serving,
Martha was “troubled” with “things”—
Those that would pass with the using—
She was forgetting her wings.

Mary was quiet and peaceful,
Learning to love and to live.
Mary was hearing His precepts,
Mary was letting Him give—
Give of the riches eternal,
Treasures of mind and of heart;
Learning the mind of the Master,
Choosing the better part.

Do we ever labor at serving
Till voices grow fretful and shrill,
Forgetting how to be loving,
Forgetting how to be still?
Do we strive for “things” in possession,
And toil for the perishing meat,
Neglecting the one thing needful—
Sitting at Jesus’ feet?

Service is good when he asks it,
Labor is right in it’s place,
But there is one thing better,
Looking up in his face;
There is so much he can tell us,
Truths that are precious and deep;
This is the place where he wants us,
These are the things we can keep.


A BLESSING for PRESENCE John O’Donohue
May you awaken to the mystery of being here
And enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift
And find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift, Woven around the heart of wonder.


THE BUSYNESS EXCUSE — Beverly Joy

Mary had finished her daily chores
When Jesus came knocking on their door
Come in, come in, Martha welcomed them
They often stayed there to eat and rest.

Martha decided to cook up a feast
For Jesus and friends at the day’s end
Mary sat and listened, at Jesus’ feet
A rare opportunity, the dishes could wait.

Martha was seething in the kitchen
Angry at Mary for not helping
Nobody noticed how hard she was working
Cooking the feast, so perfect and quick.

She’d forgotten that her work was for God’s honour
Not to receive the honour for herself
That she was the servant to serve her Lord
She lost her true purpose in her work.

Jesus would have been happy with takeaway
Allowing time for Martha to spend time with Him
He would be gone the next day, travelling far away
But, she chose the busyness of chores over time with her Lord.

She accused Jesus of not noticing
But Jesus has seen the dark kitchen scene
“Martha, you’re always so busy
You choose busyness over me.”

Is our agenda more important than God’s
What matters to our Lord is our attitude to work
Yes, it’s important to do our chores
But it’s more important to love our Lord.

We rush about doing this and that
While Jesus sits under the tree and waits
For us to stop and sit with Him
To listen and learn, to chat and relax.


MARY, sister of Martha, at your feet for the first time — Andrea Skevington

You came in search of rest
away from the road,
that bright, shadeless road,
where so many came,
and you gave so much.

You came and sat down
in the cool room,
the shutters pulled
against the heat,
and Mary sat, too,
and it was enough.
Just sat, quietly, at your feet,
her face turned up to
yours as she listened.
And you saw how the light
fell across her,
as if for the first time.

And this is what you want,
what you long for.
Not the elaborate
preparations we would make,
not ourselves swept and
scrubbed to perfection,
our acts and our
thoughts impeccable
in lifeless rows,
but to be,  here in this light,
to be, here at your feet,


MARY, sister of Lazarus, at your feet a second time — Andrea Skevington

She sits in the shuttered room,
the room where her brother had laid,
dying, dead, the messengers sent out
returning empty, with no reply,
like prayers that bounce  off ceilings
or stick to the roof of the mouth,
choking with sorrow.
When you stay by the Jordan
that shuttered room is where Mary stays.

This is her shadowed valley, the dark forest of her path,
foreshadowing yours, it is all foreshadowing you.
The room where her brother had laid,

how can she ever leave it now?

But leave she did, at last, when you called for her,
she came quickly, running, trailing darkness behind
her weeping.  Mary, once more at your feet,
and when you saw her weeping, you wept too.

You know us in our grief.  You come to us, call to us.
In our darkest, most shuttered places,
your spirit moves, breaks with ours.
Death lay heavy upon you, too, and all the sooner for
this, what you do now, standing before that tomb.

For now, you who are Life,
Word made warm and beating flesh,
and weeping,
call Lazarus out,
You, who are life, and will rise,
call out one who is dead from the cold tomb.
You watch as they run to free him from the graveclothes,
pull darkness from him, calling in strange bewildered delight,
and you see Mary’s face as she sees now,
her brother, who was dead, once more in light,
astonished, seeing your glory, part of your glory,
as she weeps again, is weeping again
breathless with joy.


MARY, of Bethany, at your feet a third time — Andrea Skevington

And so you come once more to Bethany,
and share a meal with Lazarus,
a resurrection feast,
foreshadowing, foreshining
all those kingdom feasts you told of:
wedding banquets with long tables
set wide with good things,
with room enough for all,
welcome at your table.

Now, in Bethany, the house is ablaze with light,
shutters and doors thrown open,
all wide open with joy unspeakable,
music, laughter, dancing, wild thanksgiving
for one who was dead is alive again,

And all night, while crowds pour in from Jerusalem,
the feast goes on, and on,
as Mary enters now, cheeks glistening with joy,
past her brother at your side, back from the grave.

She kneels at your feet again,
pours out extravagant nard,
scandalous anointing of your warm, living feet,
unbinds her hair and lets it flow like water
over them, wiping them in such reckless
and tender thanksgiving.
Fragrance fills the room, the house, the night,
as more people pour from Jerusalem to you,
to you, who comes to us in our weeping,
who shares our bread with us,
and brings us to such joy as this.


To LEARN From ANIMAL BEING — John O’Donohue

Nearer to the earth’s heart, Deeper within its silence: Animals know this world In a way we never will.

We who are ever Distanced and distracted By the parade of bright Windows thought opens: Their seamless presence Is not fractured thus.

Stranded between time Gone and time emerging, We manage seldom To be where we are: Whereas they are always Looking out from The here and now.

May we learn to return And rest in the beauty Of animal being, Learn to lean low, Leave our locked minds, And with freed senses Feel the earth Breathing with us.

May we enter Into lightness of spirit, And slip frequently into The feel of the wild.

Let the clear silence Of our animal being Cleanse our hearts Of corrosive words.

May we learn to walk Upon the earth With all their confidence And clear-eyed stillness So that our minds

Might be baptized In the name of the wind And the light and the rain.


The SONS of MARTHA — Rudyard Kipling

The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, ” Be ye removèd” They say to the lesser floods ” Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd – they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill tops shake to the summit – then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden – under the earthline their altars are
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that !
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd – they know the angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons !


ON MARY and MARTHA: A Sermon— Nadia Bolz-Weber (article: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2013/08/sermon-on-mary-and-martha/)

Just to get it out there, this story about Mary and Martha has always irritated me, because I think Martha is awesome, and she’s always made out to be a busy-body and a whiner.

 

See, Jesus is welcomed into the home of Mary and Martha and the thing to understand is that Jesus didn’t exactly travel alone.  Dude had an entourage – so to welcome Jesus is to welcome who Jesus brings in with him.  And to extend hospitality to that many people, takes a lot of work, so Martha becomes understandably overwhelmed by her tasks and tries to get Jesus to talk her sister Mary into helping her, since Mary up until this point has only been sitting at Jesus’ feet listening. Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.

Now, you guys know I’m not one to lay on the guilt trip – I never really mastered that technique employed by clergy since time in memorial – so when I tell you that at our last leadership meeting we found ourselves once again trying to figure out how to get the monthly jobs covered I am not saying that to shame anyone except myself – because, in the end, I honestly got a little bit snarky and slightly self-righteous (even for me) and said the following of which I am not proud: I said, “It’s like I really want to say to folks that every week they show up here at 5 after 5 SOMEONE has set the chair up that they get to sit in, and SOMEONE has baked the bread for the Eucharist they receive, and SOMEONE has greeted them at the door and handed them a bulletin and when they leave right after the dismissal, SOMEONE will sweep up and wipe down the counter and that maybe it’s their turn to be that SOMEONE for others”

Now all of this is well and good, and yes of course we need people who are willing to serve, who are willing to do the sometimes thankless tasks of making hospitality and community work since to welcome Jesus is still to welcome all who Jesus brings in with him…

And yes, I spent several days this week distracted by how much work it is to keep this community running and how Martha gets a bad rap, and that all felt really satisfying until Saturday when I went to my 12 step meeting…the one I’ve gone to for 15 years and I arrived 5 minutes late like I so often do. I took my seat on a folding chair and sipped at the light brown coffee in my hand before realizing: oh dang it.  SOMEONE had set up all these chairs and SOMEONE had made the bad coffee and when I leave right after the Lord’s prayer, SOMEONE will clean it all up and in a decade and a half that SOMEONE has never been me. Wa-wa.

So try as I might this week, I could not find a comfortable place to land in this story when I was trying to make it into a moralism about the relative merit of doing or not doing tasks. …of action versus contemplation. Because it felt bad to be snarky about people not doing the work and it felt bad to realize in another situation of my life I was the one not doing the work.

Honestly there is merit to action and there is merit to contemplation and I really don’t think that was Jesus’ point.

When Jesus said to her Martha, you are distracted by many things Mary has chosen the better part it will not be taken away I wonder if he meant not that we are distracted by work itself, but that we are distracted from the better part when we judge the actions or inactions of others through the lens of our own personality.

Here’s a small example – when I am sitting in the turn lane waiting for a green arrow…I take it upon myself to consider the people behind me and to leave as short a distance as safely possible between me and the car in front so as many of my fellows as possible can also get through the turn signal. Inevitably, when someone leisurely leaves 4 car lengths between them and the car turning  in front of them allowing only 2 cars to get through a green arrow instead of 6, I assume that they are not a team player, only out for themselves and either just selfish or lazy. Wow. That’s a lot of judgment on the personhood of someone based solely on how quickly they turn on green.

But that thing we do where we judge the actions of others based on how we ourselves move through the world – that is a distraction from the MAIN THING.

If the reason you help set up chairs is because you value this community and are grateful that others have set up chairs for you, that does not mean that those who don’t set up chairs do so because they don’t value community or because they are ungrateful to others.  And the more we live our lives in these kinds of judgments about the actions of others, the more distracted we are from the better part – from the MAIN THING which will not be taken from us.

When we think the main thing is who does what and why, when you think the main thing is whatever you get out of this, or the main thing is that your friends are here, it all is just busyness and distraction and all of it will eventually be taken away. The main thing – the thing that will not be taken away and that we (myself included) so easily forget is our sacred story.   It’s a simple story, really. Even as it is unfathomable in it’s beauty…So here it is again…since I too often forget – there is a God who created us and all that is, this same God spoke through prophets and poets, claimed a people to be God’s own and freed them from the shackles of slavery. This same God led those people through the wilderness to a land of milk and honey, and told them to always welcome the stranger and protect the foreigner so that they could remember where they came from and what God had done for them. Then in the fullness of time, and to draw ALL people to himself, God came and broke our hearts like only a baby could do and made God’s home in the womb of a fierce young woman as though God was saying, from now on this is how I want to be known. And as Jesus God kissed lepers and befriended prostitutes and baffled authority. Jesus ate with all the wrong people and on the night before he died held up bread and told us to do the same thing and he promised us so much: that he would be with us, that forgiveness is real, that we are God’s, that people matter and that grilled fish makes an awesome breakfast.  And from the tree on which Jesus hung he pronounced judgment on us all. “Forgive them Father, they know not what they are doing”.

We never do, really, we never seem to know what we are doing and sometimes we think the Bible is going to solve that for us…that a story like Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary is going to give us a clear moral lesson so we can know what we are doing. And then we think we’ve got it down and then we begin to judge the actions of others and the moment we do this we’ve once again lost the plot.

So maybe choosing the better part isn’t about choosing between action and contemplation, maybe it isn’t about working or sitting at Jesus feet, since the Christian life has always been a combination of the two. Maybe choosing the better part is not judging the actions of other through the lens of your own personality. Because when we do so it is just a distraction from the Main thing – and this story around which we gather…this MAIN THING, can never be taken away because it is always forming who you are and like water on rock, it slowly and sometimes imperceptibly shapes us into the glory of God.

That’s why we come here.  It’s not to see our friends or to take advantage of free popsicles, it’s to remember our story. And the story of God and God’s people will stand. And unlike so much else in life, It will not be taken away.


BEING vs DOING: The Difference Between “Being” and “Doing” — This article was adapted from Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, by Zindel V. Segal, Ph.D., C.Psych., source: https://www.mindful.org/difference-between-being-and-doing/

How our goal-setting mind causes us to fixate on one track, and how we can become more responsive to the richness and complexity that each moment presents.

The activities of the mind are related to patterns of brain activity. Different mental activities, such as reading a book, painting a picture, or talking to a loved one, each involve different patterns of interaction between networks of nerve cells in the brain. The networks involved in one activity are often different from those involved in another activity. Networks can also be linked together in different patterns. If we looked into the brain, we would see shifting patterns in the activity of networks and in their connections with each other as the mind moves from one task to another (being vs doing). For a while, one pattern predominates, then a shift occurs, so brain networks that previously interacted in one pattern now do so in a different configuration. Over time, we would see the different activities of the mind reflected in continually shifting and evolving patterns of interaction between brain networks.

If we looked long enough, we would see that a limited number of core patterns of brain activity and interaction seem to crop up as recurring features in a wide variety of different mental activities. These core patterns reflect some basic “modes of mind.”

We can think of these modes of mind as loosely analogous to the gears of a car. Just as each gear has a particular use (starting, accelerating, cruising, etc.), so each mode of mind has its own particular characteristics and functions. Over the course of a day, as the mind switches from one kind of activity to another, the underlying mode of mind changes—a little like the way that a car, driven through a busy city, there will be a continuous series of changes from one gear to another. And in much the same way a car can only be in one gear at a time, when the mind is in certain modes, it will not be in other modes at the same time.

Our continued dwelling on how we are not as we would like to be just makes us feel worse, taking us even further from our desired goal. This, in turn only serves to confirm our view that we are not the kind of person we feel we need to be in order to be happy.

The fact that a limited number of fundamental modes of mind underpin a wide variety of mental activities has important implications. It opens a way for us to use aspects of everyday experience to learn new ways to relate to the kind of mind states that lead to rumination. We can think of mindfulness training as a way to learn how to become more aware of your mode of mind (“mental gear”) at any moment, and the skills to disengage from unhelpful modes of mind and to engage more helpful modes. We might describe this as learning to shift mental gears. In practice, this task often comes down to recognizing two main modes in which the mind operates, and learning the skills to move from one to the other. These two modes are known as “doing” and “being.”

Being vs Doing: The “Doing” Mode

The ruminative state of mind is actually a variant of a much more general mode of mind that has been called the “doing” mode. The job of this mode of mind is to get things done—to achieve particular goals that the mind has set. These goals could relate to the external world—to make a meal, build a house, or travel to the moon—or to the internal world of self—to feel happy, not make mistakes, never be depressed again, or be a good person. The basic strategy to achieve such goals involves something we call the “discrepancy monitor”: a process that continually monitors and evaluates our current situation against a model or standard—an idea of what is desired, required, expected, or feared. Once this discrepancy monitor is switched on, it will find mismatches between how things are and how we think they should be. That is its job. Registering these mismatches motivates further attempts to reduce these discrepancies. But, crucially, dwelling on how things are not as we want them to be can, naturally enough, create further negative mood. In this way, our attempts to solve a “problem” by endlessly thinking about it can keep us locked into the state of mind from which we are doing our best to escape.

How the Discrepancy Monitor Works:

  1. First we create an idea of how we want things to be, or how we think they should be
  2. Next, we compare that with our idea of how things are right now.
  3. If there is a difference between how things are and how we want them to be, then we generate thoughts and actions to try to close the gap.
  4. We monitor progress to see whether the gap is increasing or decreasing, and adjust our actions accordingly.
  5. We know we have reached our goal when our idea of how things are coincides with our idea of how we want them to be.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this doing mode. In fact, quite the reverse: This approach has worked brilliantly as a general strategy for solving problems and achieving goals in the impersonal, external world—whether those goals be as humble as buying all the items on our weekly shopping list or as lofty as building a pyramid. It is natural, then, that we should turn to this same doing mode when things are not as we would like them to be in our personal, internal worlds—our feelings and thoughts, or the kind of person we see ourselves to be. And this is where things can go terribly wrong.

But before we go on to describe how, it is important to forestall any possible misunderstanding. We are in no way suggesting that the doing mode necessarily causes problems—it does not. It is only when, doing mode “volunteers for a job it can’t do” that problems arise. In many, many, areas of our lives, doing mode volunteers for a job it can do, and our lives are the better for it. To make the distinction clearer, we call problematic applications of this mode driven–doing, as opposed to the more general doing.

In being mode, the mind has “nothing to do, nowhere to go” and can focus fully on moment-by-moment experience, allowing us to be fully present and aware of whatever is here, right now.

If action can be taken straightaway to reduce a discrepancy, and the action is successful, there is no problem. But what if we cannot find any effective actions, and our attempts to think up possible solutions get nowhere? With an external problem we might simply give up and get on with some other aspect of our lives. But once the self becomes involved, it is much more difficult simply to let go of the goals we have set.

For example, if we are upset because a long-standing relationship has just ended, there will be many potential discrepancies between our current reality and how we wish things to be. We may wish for restoration of the relationship, or for the start of another relationship. Most likely, we also wish we were not so upset. There may be solutions we could find. But what if we begin to feel that we are bound to end up alone, concluding that there is, in us, some basic failure, a person that caused the relationship to fail? This conclusion suggests no ready solution, and the discrepancy remains. And yet we cannot let go because we have such a central need not to be this kind of person—what could be more important to us than our own sense of identity?

The result of all this is that the mind continues to process information in doing mode, going round and round, dwelling on the discrepancy and rehearsing possible ways to reduce it. And our continued dwelling on how we are not as we would like to be just makes us feel worse, taking us even further from our desired goal. This, in turn only serves to confirm our view that we are not the kind of person we feel we need to be in order to be happy.

The mind will continue to focus in this way until the discrepancy is reduced or some more immediately urgent task takes the focus of the mind elsewhere, only to return to the unresolved discrepancy once one has dealt with the other task. When the doing mode is working on internal, self-related goals like this, we can more accurately call it the “driven–doing” mode.

If we look closely, we will see the driven–doing mode in action in very many areas of our lives. Whenever there is a sense of “have to,” “must,” “should,” “ought,” or “need to,” we can suspect the presence of doing mode.

In doing mode, by contrast, this wonderful multidimensional complexity of experience is boiled down to a narrow, one-dimensional focus: What does this have to say about my progress in reaching my goals?

How else might we recognize the driven–doing mode subjectively? Its most common feature is a recurring sense of unsatisfactoriness, reflecting the fact that the mind is focused on processing mismatches between how we need things to be and how they actually are. Driven–doing mode also involves a sense of continuously monitoring and checking up on progress toward reducing the gap between these two states (“How well am I doing?”). Why? Because where no immediate action can be taken to reduce discrepancies, the only thing the mind can do is continue to work on its ideas about how things are and how they should be, in the hope of finding a way to reduce the gap between them. This it will do over and over again.

In this situation, because the “currency” with which the mind is working consists of thoughts about current situations, desired situations, explanations for the discrepancies between them, and possible ways to reduce those discrepancies, these thoughts and concepts will be experienced mentally as “real” rather than simply as events in the mind. Equally, the mind will not be fully tuned in to the full actuality of present experience. It will be so preoccupied with analyzing the past or anticipating the future that the present is given a low priority. In this case, we are only aware of the present in a very narrow sense: The only interest in it is to monitor success or failure at meeting goals. The broader sense of the present, in what might be called its “full multidimensional splendor,” is missed.

Driven–doing underlies many of our reactions to everyday emotional experiences—we habitually turn to this mode to free ourselves from many kinds of unwanted emotion. It follows that we can use such everyday emotional experiences, and other reflections of the general driven–doing mode of mind, as training opportunities to learn skills that enable us to recognize and disengage from this mode.

Let us consider an alternative mode of mind, “being.”

Being vs Doing: The “Being” Mode

The full richness of the mode of “being” is not easily conveyed in words—its flavor is best appreciated directly, experientially. In many ways, it is the opposite of the driven–doing mode. The driven-doing mode is goal-oriented, motivated to reduce the gap between how things are and how we think we need them to be; our attention is narrowly focused on these discrepancies between actual and desired states. By contrast, the being mode is not devoted to achieving particular goals. In this mode, there is no need to emphasize discrepancy-based processing or constantly to monitor and evaluate (“How am I doing in meeting my goals?”). Instead, the focus of the being mode is “accepting” and “allowing” what is, without any immediate pressure to change it.

“Allowing” arises naturally when there is no goal or standard to be reached, and no need to evaluate experience in order to reduce discrepancies between actual and desired states. This also means that attention is no longer focused narrowly on only those aspects of the present that are directly related to goal achievement; in being mode, the experience of the moment can be processed in its full depth, width, and richness.

Doing mode involves thinking about the present, the future, and the past, relating to each through a veil of concepts. Being mode, on the other hand, is characterized by direct, immediate, intimate experience of the present.

Doing and Being differ in their time focus. In doing, we often need to work out the likely future consequences of different actions, anticipate what might happen if we reach our goal, or look back to memories of times when we have dealt with similar situations to get ideas for how to proceed now. As a result, in doing mode, the mind often travels forward to the future or back to the past, and the experience is one of not actually being “here” in the present much of the time. By contrast, in being mode, the mind has “nothing to do, nowhere to go” and can focus fully on moment-by-moment experience, allowing us to be fully present and aware of whatever is here, right now. Doing mode involves thinking about the present, the future, and the past, relating to each through a veil of concepts. Being mode, on the other hand, is characterized by direct, immediate, intimate experience of the present.

The being mode involves a shift in our relation to thoughts and feelings. In doing mode, conceptual thinking is a core vehicle through which the mind seeks to achieve the goals to which this mode of mind is dedicated. This means, as we have seen, that thoughts are seen as a valid and accurate reflection of reality and are closely linked to action. In doing mode, the relationship to feelings is primarily one of evaluating them as “good things” to hang on to or “bad things” to get rid of. Making feelings into goal-related objects in this way effectively crystallizes the view that they have an independent and enduring reality.

By contrast, in being mode, the relation to thoughts and feelings is much the same as that to sounds or other aspects of moment-by-moment experience. Thoughts and feelings are seen as simply passing events in the mind that arise, become objects of awareness, and then pass away. In the being mode, feelings do not so immediately trigger old habits of action in the mind or body directed at hanging on to pleasant feelings or getting rid of unpleasant feelings. There is a greater ability to tolerate uncomfortable emotional states. In the same way, thoughts such as “do this, do that” do not necessarily automatically link to related actions, but we can relate to them simply as events in the mind.

“Allowing” arises naturally when there is no goal or standard to be reached, and no need to evaluate experience in order to reduce discrepancies between actual and desired states.

In being mode, there is a sense of freedom and freshness as experience unfolds in new ways. We can be responsive to the richness and complexity of the unique patterns that each moment presents. In doing mode, by contrast, this wonderful multidimensional complexity of experience is boiled down to a narrow, one-dimensional focus: What does this have to say about my progress in reaching my goals? Discrepancies between actual and goal states then trigger fairly well-worn, general-purpose habits of mind that may have worked well enough in other situations. But, as we have seen, when, in the driven–doing mode, the goal is to be rid of certain emotional states, these habits can backfire and lead to perpetuation rather than cessation of unwanted mind states.

Clearly, doing vs being are fundamentally different modes of mind. Before drawing out the implications of this difference, it is important that we be very clear on one point: Being mode is not a special state in which all activity has to stop. Doing or being are both modes of mind that can accompany any activity or lack of activity. Recall that we gave a particular name to the type of doing mode that causes problems— “driven–doing”—and this point may become clearer.

For example, it is possible for one to try to meditate with so much focus on being someone who gets into a deeply relaxed state that if anything interrupts it, one feels angry and frustrated. That would be meditating in a driven–doing mode rather than a being mode because the meditation is “driven” by the need to become a relaxed person. Or take another example: It is your turn to do the dishes and there is no way out of it. No one is going to rescue you from this chore. If you do the dishes with the aim of finishing them as quickly as possible to get on to the next activity and are then interrupted, there will be frustration, since your goal has been thwarted. But if you accept that the dishes have to be done and approach the activity in being mode, then the activity exists for its own sake in its own time. An interruption is simply treated as something that presents a choice about what to do at that moment rather than as a source of frustration.

A Mindfulness Practice to Shift out of “Doing” Mode

Try this guided mindfulness practice called “‘Two Ways of Knowing” to take a moment and examine how it feels to disengage from a busy mind and shift into “being” mode:

Begin this practice by settling yourself in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. If it feels okay close the eyes.

Part One: Connect with Your Thoughts

  • In this first part of the practice you’re invited to take a few minutes to think about your feet without looking at them.
  • What thoughts come to mind when you think about your feet? Perhaps there are judgments about your feet. How much you like them? How much you dislike them?
  • Perhaps there are thoughts about how you’d like them to be different. Maybe thoughts come to mind about the places your feet have taken you. Perhaps thoughts about problems they may have caused you.
  • What thoughts come to mind for you?
  • There’s no need to control your thoughts in anyway. Just let the thinking unfold naturally. Taking your time. Taking a few minutes now simply to let thoughts arise.

Part Two: Shift into Being vs Doing

  • And now, for the second part of this practice, the invitation is to gently bring your attention down the legs into the feet, sensing your feet directly without looking at them.
  • Allowing your awareness to sink into your feet and fill them from the inside to the outside, from the bones, right out to the surface of the skin, perhaps sensing the many small bones within the feet, maybe feeling the sensations of touch on the skin, the sensations in the soles of the feet, the sense of touch and pressure where the feet make contact with the floor. Perhaps exploring with your awareness the boundary between the feet on the floor.
  • And now, if you will, clenching your toes, drawing them in as close as you can, being aware of the sensations in the toes, the soles, and the body of each foot. Directly sensing the pressure in the toes, feeling the tightness in the muscles, the coming and going of sensations throughout the feet, ankles, and legs.
  • And now, just relaxing the toes, keeping the awareness in your feet and noticing any changes in the sensations in the feet and toes as they relax.
  • Before changing your position, taking a few moments to get a sense of the body as a whole.

Songs by Irish performers, bands, and musicians or songs about Ireland:


At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions — John O’Donohue

What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
When could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations hd I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

ST PATRICK’S PROTECTION PRAYER
Full text may be found here: https://parish.rcdow.org.uk/greenford/wp-content/uploads/sites/127/2020/03/St-Patricks-Breastplate.pdfAbbreviated version: St Patruck’s Breastplate or The Lorica

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.


Instructions to make the St Brigid’s cross;


PRAYER of ST BRIGID
May Brigid bless the house
wherein you dwell.
Bless every fireside,
every wall and door.
Bless every heart
that beats beneath its roof.
Bless every hand
that toils to bring it joy.
Bless every foot
that walks its portals through.
May Brigid bless
the house that shelters you.


St Brigid’s Cloak (one legend of St Brigid)

She approached the King of Leinster requesting the land on which to build her monastery. The place she selected in Kildare was ideal. It was near a lake where water was available, in a forest where there was firewood and near a fertile plain on which to grow crops. The King refused her request. Brigid was not put off by his refusal. Rather, she and her sisters prayed that the King’s heart would soften. She made her request again but this time she asked, “Give me as much land as my cloak will cover.”
Seeing her small cloak, he laughed and then granted this request. However, Brigid had instructed her four helpers each to take a corner of the cloak and walk in opposite directions – north, south, east and west. As they did this the cloak began to grow and spread across many acres. She now had sufficient land on which to build her monastery. The King and his entire household were dismayed and amazed. They realised that this woman was truly blessed by God. The King became a patron of Brigid’s monastery, assisting her with money, food and gifts. Later he converted to Christianity. It was on this land in Kildare that she built her dual monastery c.470.


THREE STORIES about St Patrick  (from salt+ … full article: https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2019/3/12/a-brief-theology-of-st-patricks-day)

… And so in honor of St. Patrick’s Day this year, three ancient, delightful stories — but first, a little background.

St. Patrick is one of the patron saints of Ireland. He died just over fifteen hundred years ago, reportedly on March 17, and he is closely associated with the growth of Christianity throughout the Emerald Isle, the rise of Celtic styles of Christianity, and of course that famous shamrock (more on that in a bit).

He first encountered Ireland as an enslaved young man. Patrick was born in the Roman imperial province of Britannia (today known as Great Britain), and as a youth he was captured by Irish raiders and forced to serve as a sheep herder. After six years of captivity, he escaped and made his way home — only to return to Ireland years later as a bishop and missionary

St. Patrick’s Walking Stick
Patrick was an itinerant preacher, and it is said that he carried a walking stick made of ash wood. In his travels between Britannia and Ireland, whenever he would stop to preach, he would plant the stick beside him, upright in the ground. At the English site now called Aspatria (“ash of Patrick”), he preached so patiently, the story goes, that when at last he finished, he couldn’t remove the stick. It had sprouted roots, you see. It was already on its way to becoming a tree

St. Patrick’s Bell
In his life as an enslaved sheep herder, St. Patrick was quite familiar with the sheep bell: a simple bell of hammered iron with a small handle on top. As a bishop, that bell continued to have great meaning for him, perhaps because it reminded him of his youth, or of the ringing good news of the gospel, or of his ongoing role as a pastor (from the Latin pastorem, “shepherd”). Whatever the reason, he was laid to rest with one resting on his breast: the dead shepherd, buried with his bell.
Sometime later, the bell was removed from the tomb as a precious relic. And in the eleventh century, artists intricately covered the bell in bronze, gems, and Celtic designs of crosses and birds — not to make the bell appear more holy, it is said, but rather to shield the eyes of onlookers from the brilliant holiness of the iron original. Now on display in Dublin’s National Museum, St. Patrick’s Bell is considered one of Ireland’s signature treasures.

St. Patrick’s Shamrock
The Christian idea of the divine Trinity — God’s simultaneous threeness and oneness as Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit — has always been a great challenge for preachers to grasp and explain. St. Patrick did it this way: he looked around, and then plucked a shamrock from the ground at his feet. Three leaves, he said, and yet one stem, one life. Add to that the shamrock’s vibrant shade of green, the color of growth and vitality — and while it’s easy to imagine a more technical, lengthy explanation of the Trinity, it’s hard to imagine a better one.

 

Meditation on seeing and blindness: themes from Mark. To what are you called to bear witness? When and how have you been blind in your life, and what or who opened your eyes?

I think we all suffer from acute blindness at times. Life is a constant journey of trying to open your eyes. I’m just beginning my journey, and my eyes aren’t fully open yet. — Olivia Thirlby

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind … — William Shakespeare

Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. ― Joan Halifax

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart. — Pope John XXIII


Songs about ‘Blindness’:

Songs about Sight & Seeing:


There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.
― Mary Oliver


I said: What about my eyes?
God said: Keep them on the road.
I said: What about my passion?
God said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
God said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow?
He said: Stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
attributed to Rumi


PRAYER by Richard Rohr
God of all Light and Truth, just make sure that I am not a blind man or woman.
Keep me humble and honest, and that will be more than enough work for you.


PRAYER by Nadia Bolz-Weber
God of desert prophets and unlikely messiahs, humble us.
Show us that there is more to see than what we look for.
More possibility. More love. More forgiveness …
Restore our sight so that we may see you in each other.


PRAYER by St Augustine
Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new.
Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out,
and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and
have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance,
and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you.
I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you.
You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.


At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions — John O’Donohue
What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
When could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations hd I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?


On Seeing

Knowing it and seeing it are two different things. ― Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

After all, the true seeing is within. ― George Eliot, Middlemarch

The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love. ― Meister Eckhart, Sermons of Meister Eckhart

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ― Pema Chodron

Rachel Carson said most of us go through life “unseeing.” I do that some days … I think it’s easier to see when you’re a kid. We’re not in a hurry to get anywhere and we don’t have those long to-do lists you guys have. ― Jim Lynch, The Highest Tide

The Eternal looked upon me for a moment with His eye of power, and annihilated me in His being, and become manifest to me in His essence. I saw I existed through Him. — Rumi

What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them. ― John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live in


I look at the world
— Langston Hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.

I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!

I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.


NOBEL SPEECH (excerpt)
by Toni Morrison
“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures. “Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”
In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.
One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, “Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”
She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”
Still she doesn’t answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.
The old woman’s silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.
Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. “I don’t know”, she says. “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”
Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.
For parading their power and her helplessness, the young visitors are reprimanded, told they are responsible not only for the act of mockery but also for the small bundle of life sacrificed to achieve its aims. The blind woman shifts attention away from assertions of power to the instrument through which that power is exercised…

On Blindness

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. — Mark Twain

Blind don’t mean you can’t, you know, listen. — Stevie Wonder

Hatred is blind, as well as love. — Oscar Wilde

You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle. — Paulo Coelho

As a blind man has no idea of colors, so have we no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things. — Isaac Newton

What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed? — Michelangelo

Each of you, as an individual, must pick your own goals. Listen to others, but do not become a blind follower. — Thurgood Marshall

Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. — Lyndon B. Johnson

The superpowers often behave like two heavily armed blind men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision. —  Henry Kissinger

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it. — Malcolm X

There is an orderliness in the universe, there is an unalterable law governing everything and every being that exists or lives. It is no blind law; for no blind law can govern the conduct of living beings. — Mahatma Gandhi


Sonnet 19: When I consider
how my light is spent
— John Milton
When I consider
how my light is spent,
Ere half my days,
in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent
which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless,
though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker,
and present
My true account,
lest he returning chide;
‘Doth God exact day-labour,
light denied?’
I fondly ask.
But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies,
‘God doth not need
Either man’s work
or his own gifts;
who best
Bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best.
His state
Is Kingly.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and
Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only
stand and wait.’


Doing as others told me,
I was Blind.
Coming when others called me,
I was Lost.
Then I left everyone,
myself as well.
Then I found Everyone,
Myself as well.
― Rumi

About Physiological Blindness: Commentary
According to a recent survey, most Americans fear blindness. In fact, they fear it more than losing their hearing, speech, a limb or their memory. Nearly 88 percent of people surveyed considered having 20/20 vision vital to good overall health, while 47 percent believed that losing their sight would have the gravest effect on their daily lives. Loss of independence and quality of life were the top concerns for respondents. — The Chicago LighthouseAs someone who has successfully adapted to vision loss, I know that there are excellent resources, services and adaptations out there that can make it easier to live life without sight. There’s no doubt that blindness can present challenges and inconveniences in our everyday lives, but thanks to the countless services and resources available in the United States, it is possible for people with vision loss – like me – to lead equally fulfilling lives. Most of the fears and misconceptions about blindness and visual impairments are surmountable, and we should all work to help people understand that losing one’s sight does not have to mean losing independence. — Sandy Murillo



Asking, seeking, knocking … beyond binaries and either/or scenarios … the door, the gate, the Way, the narrow path is love. Themes from Matthew 7.

This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not “what does it say?” but “what am I looking for?” I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” — Rachel Held Evans

Why are you knocking at every door? Go, knock at the door of your own heart. — Rumi

On the other hand, ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? — C.S. Lewis

The moment we begin to seek out love, love begins to seek us out. And to save us. — Paulo Coelho

Always the beautiful answer / who asks a more beautiful question. —e.e. Cummings

Contextually speaking, love is the narrow gate. — Jayson Bradley

We often remain exiles, left outside the rich world of the soul, simply because we are not ready. Our task is to refine our hearts and minds. There is so much blessing and beauty near us that is destined for us, and yet it cannot enter our lives because we are not ready to receive it. The handle is on the inside of the door; only we can open it. Our lack of readiness is often caused by blindness, fear, and lack of self-appreciation. When we are ready, we will be blessed. — John O’Donohue

SONGS about KNOCKING & ASKING:

Resource for more listening and studying: Podcast about Ask and You Will Receive (from BibleProject)


Blessing the Door — Jan Richardson (link to poem)

First let us say / a blessing
upon all who have / entered here before / us.

You can see the sign / of their passage / by the worn place
where their hand rested / on the doorframe
as they walked through, / the smooth sill
of the threshold / where they crossed.

Press your ear / to the door
for a moment before / you enter

and you will hear / their voices murmuring
words you cannot / quite make out
but know / are full of welcome.

On the other side / these ones who wait—
for you, / if you do not / know by now—
understand what / a blessing can do

how it appears like / nothing you expected

how it arrives as / visitor,
outrageous invitation, / child;

how it takes the form / of angel / or dream

how it comes / in words like
How can this be? / and lifted up the lowly;

how it sounds like / in the wilderness / prepare the way.

Those who wait / for you know
how the mark of / a true blessing
is that it will take you / where you did not / think to go.

Once through this door / there will be more:
more doors / more blessings
more who watch and / wait for you

but here / at this door of / beginning
the blessing cannot / be said without you.

So lay your palm / against the frame
that those before you / touched

place your feet / where others paused / in this entryway.

Say the thing that / you most need
and the door will / open wide

and by this word / the door is blessed
and by this word / the blessing is begun
from which / door by door
all the rest / will come.

Text from which we’re drawing this week’s themes: MATTHEW 7: 7-14

Ask, Seek, Knock
– ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’

‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’

The Golden Rule – In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’

The Narrow Gate –  ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’

REVELATION 3:20
 
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

COMMENTARY on ENTERING through the NARROW GATE

It’s a life long “finding,” of surrendering to the process of God at work in us. But WE choose that posture of surrender. We choose to open the gate and walk upon the narrow road. And really, what other choice is there to make? —Elisabeth Elliott (full article)

Do for others what you wish others would do for you. Do you want to be treated with respect? Respect others. Do you expect compassion and the benefit of the doubt? Extend it to others. Do you want to be served? Serve others. He then tells us this one principle sums up the entire Old Testament. … Contextually speaking, love is the narrow gate ... All the destruction, pain and turmoil in life comes from our inability to put others first. Love leads to life, both here and in the world to come. —Jayson Bradley, Patheos (full article)

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we’re examining, more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites, and sometimes forces, the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way…. This is when you need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening your controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” … In moments of insecurity and crisis, shoulds and oughts don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep yesses that carry us through. It’s that deeper something we are strongly for that allows us to wait it out. — Richard Rohr (full article)

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form, without filters, judgments, and commentaries. Now you see why it is so rare and, in fact, “the narrow road that few walk on” … The only way you can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing your own compulsive mental grids—your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything… When your mental judgmental grid and all its commentaries are placed aside, God finally has a chance to get through to you, because your pettiness is at last out of the way. Then Truth stands revealed! You will begin to recognize that we all carry the Divine Indwelling within us and we all carry it equally. That will change your theology, your politics, and your entire worldview. In fact, it is the very birth of the soul. — Richard Rohr (full article)

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside. — Rumi

ON KNOCKING at DOORS
 
If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you’re sure to wake someone up. — Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Go to your bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know. — William Shakespeare

Even when opportunity knocks, a man still has to get up off his seat and open the door. — Douglas MacArthur

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. — Proverb (attributed to Milton Berle)

A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks. — Oscar Wilde

The most sacred invitation that a person can extend to us is to invite us into their pain. But that means that we have to choose to knock on a door that we often prefer to pretend is not there. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Rain puts a hole in stone because of its constancy, not its force. Just keep knocking on doors until the right one opens — Joseph Gerber

Opportunity may knock only once but temptation leans on the door bell — Oprah Winfrey

The first time when I was organizing, I went out and started knocking on doors to see if people were registered to vote. I was a door knocker. I didn’t even have the confidence that I could register people, so I just was out there door knocking. That was my first experience. — Dolores Huerta

Guest House — Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

SEEKING

Love seeks only one thing: the good of the loved. It leaves all other secondary effects to take care of themselves. There, love is its own reward. — Thomas Merton

There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself. ― Lemony Snicket

I go to seek a Great Perhaps. That’s why I’m going. So I don’t have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.― John Green

And I shall seek you endlessly, for
I am a moth, and you’re my flame
Knowing that I’ll burn at your touch
I return, for you’re a fire; untamed …
― Zubair Ahsan

…there was no point in sighing after what I could not have. It only distracted me from what I did have. ― Robin Hobb

Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. ― Albert Camus

Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds — justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can’t go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner. ― Anne Rice

Thus Gotama [Buddha] walked toward the town to gather alms, and the two samanas recognized him solely by the perfection of his repose, by the calmness of his figure, in which there was no trace of seeking, desiring, imitating, or striving, only light and peace. ― Hermann Hesse

WHEN TRUTH KNOCKS: Buddhist Story

A young widower was devoted to his little son. But while he was away on business, the whole village was burned to the ground by bandits, who also kidnapped the little boy. When the father returned and found only ruins, he was utterly heartbroken. He thought that the charred remains of a little child were of his son, so he organized a full cremation, collected the ashes, and carried them with him always in a special bag.
     One day, his son managed to escape from the bandit kidnappers and made his way back to his home. In the meantime, his father had rebuilt the house. When the little boy arrived late one night, he knocked on the door. His father, kneeling at the altar he had made to memorialize his son called out, “Who’s there?”
     “It’s me, your son; please papa, let me in!”
     The father, still burdened by his grief thought this must be some wretched boy making fun of his grieving and shouted out, “Go away! Leave me alone! My son is dead!”
     The boy knocked again and again, calling for his father to open the door and let him in. The father, refusing to answer the door kept calling out, “Go away! Leave me alone!” And at last, the boy gave up and went away, never to return again.
     After he had told this story, the Buddha added: “If you cling to an idea as the unalterable truth, then when the truth comes and knocks on your door, you will not be able to open the door and accept it.”
Udana Sutta

COMMENTARY on KNOCKING & ASKING

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It seems to me that Jesus’ words are a clear directive. Ask, Jesus says. Seek. Knock.
     And then, if I’ve got this right, Jesus follows up a few verses later by saying that God will actually respond … To me. To you. To, oh, anyone who asks. And God will do it without discretion or conditions. Without caution or prudence. Without making a list first of who has a right to which truth or who will handle the answers the best.
     The revolutionary, almost subversive, thing about asking is that it goes beyond making it OK to have secret questions and inner doubts and gives us permission to raise our hands in God’s classroom with a “Pardon me, but I don’t get it.” Or “Really, God? Can you explain further?” Or “I just can’t bring myself to believe what the rest of your class is telling me.”
     I suspect … that we’re somehow expected to keep asking. Out loud. And to keep seeking. And to keep knocking …
     … questions fall out all over the place, raw and beautiful in their authenticity … making people uncomfortable – or giddy … the way we engage our conversations may be more important than our conclusions, for if we abandon love, kindness, forbearance and gentleness in favor of fear, self-righteousness and anger, what have we gained with a mere conclusion? And the second thing she said is I wonder if we trust Jesus to be enough?
     …. “What if the root word of aspiration isn’t only to aspire to? What if the root word of aspiration is also to aspirate? To expel or dislodge the things that make people choke? To tell a truth that is so wild and so free that it helps people learn to breathe? What if you’re called to be that kind of aspiration?” And I thought, by God, if this life is about helping people breathe, I can do that.
     Ask. Seek. Knock. Breathe.
     I used to prefer for God to live in a box. Neat and tidy. Quiet and nice. Now my life is full of questions. It’s messier and louder, more disruptive and fulfilling, than I imagined. And I? I can finally breathe. — Betth Woolsey (full article)

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?
     … He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ I know. Does that make it easier to understand?    
     … Of course it’s easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent — non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it frankly, we don’t ask for Him?
     … And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually come to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help … Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear. — C.S. Lewis (article)

Mystery is what happens to us when we allow life to evolve rather than having to make it happen all the time. It is the strange knock at the door, the sudden sight of an unceremoniously blooming flower, an afternoon in the yard, a day of riding the midtown bus. Just to see. Just to notice. Just to be there. There is something holy-making about simply presuming that what happens to us in any given day is sent to awaken our souls to something new: another smell, a different taste, a moment when we allow ourselves to lock eyes with a stranger, to smile a bit, to nod our heads in greeting. Who knows? Maybe one of those things will open us to the refreshing memory of pain, a poignant reminder of glory, a breathless moment of astonishment, a sense of the presence of God in life. — Sr Joan Chittister (full article)

ASKING

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. — Brene Brown

Ask for help. Not because you are weak. But because you want to remain strong. — Les Brown

I was looking for myself and asking everyone but myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. — Ralph Ellison

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change. — Warren Berger

Don’t be afraid to look again at everything you’ve ever believed … I believe the more we search, the more we delve into the human teachings about the nature and God of life, which are in fact are the teachings of all the great religions traditions, the closer we come to a mature understanding of the Godself … In other words, doubt, questions, drive us to look at how we ourselves need to grow in wisdom, age and grace.  The courage to face questions is the first step in that process. — Joan Chittister

Instead of anxiety about chasing a passion that you’re not even feeling, do something a lot simpler: Just follow your curiosity. — Elizabeth Gilbert

A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea. — John Anthony Ciardi

We live in the world our questions create. — David Cooperrider

Ask me not what I have, but what I am. — Heirnrich Heine

… Ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now? — James Allen

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. — Oprah Winfrey

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. — Deepak Chopra

To ask the right question is harder than to answer it. — Georg Cantor

Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner. In the Gospels Jesus asks many more questions than he answers. To be precise, Jesus asks 307 questions. He is asked 183 of which he only answers 3. Asking questions was central to Jesus’ life and teachings. In fact, for every question he answers directly he asks—literally—a hundred. Jesus is the Question considers the questions Jesus asks—what they tell us about Jesus and, more important, what our responses might say about what it means to follow Him. Through Jesus’ questions, he modeled the struggle, the wondering, the thinking it through that helps us draw closer to God and better understand, not just the answer, but ourselves, our process and ultimately why questions are among Jesus’ most profound gifts for a life of faith. — Martin Copenhaver

Meditations on blindness and sight, perception and awareness: songs, prayers, poems and brief commentary on themes that rise up in John 9

I think we all suffer from acute blindness at times. Life is a constant journey of trying to open your eyes. I’m just beginning my journey, and my eyes aren’t fully open yet. — Olivia Thirlby

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind … — William Shakespeare

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart. — Pope John XXIII
Songs about ‘Blindness’:
Blind Leading the Blind by Mumford & Sons (rock)
Blind Fools by Megan Davies & Curtis Peoples (country)
I Am Free by Newsboys (Christian rock)
I Go Blind by Hootie & The Blowfish (rock)
I Wish I Were Blind by Bruce Springsteen (rock)
Seeing Blind by Niall Horan & Maren Morris (country)
Sky Blue by Peter Gabriel with Blind Boys of Alabama (ballad/gospel)
Blind Boy by Musical Youth (pop)
Loving Blind by Clint Smith (country)
Love Is Blind by David Coverdale/Whitesnake (rock)
Lord You’ve Been Good To Me by 5 Blind Boys (gospel)
He Saw It All by the Booth Brothers (Christian country)
If You Me To by Ginny Owens (Christian)
Live Music with Blind Boys of Alabama (gospel)
Blind Man by Aerosmith (rock)
Blind Love by Tom Waits (country)
You’re Blind by Run/DMC (rock/rap)
Blind by Dababy (rap – includes explicit lyrics/some cursing)

Songs about Sight & Seeing: My Father’s Eyes by Eric Clapton (rock)
Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedance Clearwater Revival (country/rock)
Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne (rock)
Look at Me by Sarah Vaughan (jazz/blues)
I Only Have Eyes for You by The Flamingos (rock/soul)
The Light In Your Eyes by LeAnn Rimes (country)
When I Look at the World by U2
I Look to You by Whitney Houston (rock)
The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra (jazz/big band)
Eyes Open by Taylor Swift (pop)
Close Your Eyes by Meghan Trainor (country)
Fresh Eyes by Andy Grammer (pop)
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel (rock ballad)
Don’t Close Your Eyes cover by Tim McGraw
In Another’s Eyes by Trisha Yearwood & Garth Brooks (country)
In My Daughter’s Eyes by Martina McBride
Sue Looks Good to Me by Alicia Keys (pop)
Look It Here by Public Enemy (rap)
Look Me In the Heart by Tina Turner (rock)
Look at Me Now by Kirk Franklin (rock/rap/gospel)
Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Frankie Valli (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Peaches & Herb & again Close Your Eyes The Five Keys (soul/rock)
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (rock ballad)
When I Look in Your Eyes by Firehouse (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Michael Buble (pop)
Close My Eyes Forever by Ozzy Osbourne & Lita Ford (rock ballad)
Take a Look at Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (pop ballad)
Angel Eyes by the Jeff Healey Band (rock)
My Eyes Have Seen You and I Looked at You by The Doors (rock)
Sight for Sore Eyes by Aerosmith (rock)
Look at Me Now by Charlies Puth (pop)
Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish
The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson (pop ballad)
The Eyes of a Woman by Journey (rock)

PRAYER by Richard Rohr
God of all Light and Truth, just make sure that I am not a blind man or woman.
Keep me humble and honest, and that will be more than enough work for you.

PRAYER by Nadia Bolz-Weber
God of desert prophets and unlikely messiahs, humble us.
Show us that there is more to see than what we look for.
More possibility. More love. More forgiveness …
Restore our sight so that we may see you in each other.

PRAYER by St Augustine
Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new.
Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out,
and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and
have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance,
and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you.
I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you.
You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.

At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions — John O’Donohue
What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
When could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations hd I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

RICHARD ROHR COMMENTARY   (from Center for Action & Contemplation)
Finally, the great theater-piece Gospel is about a man born blind. … We can only touch upon the surface here, but enough to point you beneath the surface, I hope. Let me list in quick succession the major themes so you cannot miss them: 

  • The “man born blind” is the archetype for all of us at the beginning of life’s journey.
  • The moral blame game as to why or who caused human suffering is a waste of time.
  • The man does not even ask to be healed. It is just offered and given.
  • Religious authorities are often more concerned about control and correct theology than actually healing people. They are presented as narrow and unloving people throughout the story.
  • Many people have their spiritual conclusions before the facts in front of them. He is a predefined “sinner” and has no credibility for them.
  • Belief in and love of Jesus come after the fact, subsequent to the healing. Perfect faith or motivation is not always a prerequisite for God’s action. Sometimes God does things for God’s own purposes.
  • Spirituality is about seeing. Sin is about blindness, or as Saint Gregory of Nyssa will say, “Sin is always a refusal to grow.”
  • The one who knows little, learns much (what we call “beginner’s mind”) and those who have all their answers already, learn nothing.

Doing as others told me, I was Blind.
Coming when others called me, I was Lost.
Then I left everyone, myself as well.
Then I found Everyone, Myself as well.
― Rumi

COMMENTARY on the STORY of the BLIND MAN

… Of the two choices, Jesus picked a third, unbinding sin from the body, deformity from purity.  Before sight was restored, God’s presence was invoked in this marginal space, this “inappropriate” body.  God’s presence was invoked within the blind man – within the “imperfect”, within the “other”.  And when his eyes were opened, God’s light came pouring out from this man, casting into stark relief the social and religious ideas that had kept him out for so long. — Eliza (UCC minister see full posting on her blog)

Jesus doesn’t ask the blind guy when he heals him what he’ll be looking at for the rest of his life. — Anne Lamott

It will make a weak man mighty. it will make a mighty man fall. It will fill your heart and hands or leave you with nothing at all. It’s the eyes for the blind and legs for the lame. It is the love for hate and pride for shame. That’s the power of the gospel. — Ben Harper

It was here in the midst of my own community of underside dwellers that I couldn’t help but begin to see the Gospel, the life-changing reality that God is not far off, but here among the brokenness of our lives. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

ON SEEING & BLINDNESS as STATES of SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION

It’s not like ‘I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Optimism does not mean being blind to the actual reality of a situation. It means maintaining a positive spirit to continue to seek a solution to any given problem. And it means recognizing that any given situation has many different aspects—positive as well as problematic. — Dalai Lama

We are only as blind as we want to be. ― Maya Angelou

Spirituality doesn’t mean a blind belief in a spiritual teaching. Spirituality is a practice that brings relief, communication, and transformation. Everyone needs a spiritual dimension in life. Without a spiritual dimension, it’s very challenging to be with the daily difficulties we all encounter. With a spiritual practice, you’re no longer afraid. Along with your physical body, you have a spiritual body. The practices of breathing, walking, concentration, and understanding can help you greatly in dealing with your emotions, in listening to and embracing your suffering, and in helping you to recognize and embrace the suffering of another person. If we have this capacity, then we can develop a real and lasting spiritual intimacy with ourselves and with others. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. — Ralph Ellison

Blindness is an unfortunate handicap but true vision does not require the eyes. — Helen Keller

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. — Mark Twain

Our very eyes, Are sometimes, like our judgments, blind. — William Shakespeare

There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments-and it is we alone who desecrate them by our blindness and lack of reverence. It is one sacred universe, and we are all a part of it. — Richard Rohr

Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know. — Ayn Rand

An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

NOBEL SPEECH (excerpt from FULL LECTURE) by Toni Morrison
“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures. “Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”
      In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.
     One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, “Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”
     She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”
Still she doesn’t answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.
     The old woman’s silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.
     Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. “I don’t know”, she says. “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”
     Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.
     For parading their power and her helplessness, the young visitors are reprimanded, told they are responsible not only for the act of mockery but also for the small bundle of life sacrificed to achieve its aims. The blind woman shifts attention away from assertions of power to the instrument through which that power is exercised…

I look at the worldLangston Hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space   
Assigned to me.
 
I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!
 
I look at my own body   
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent — John Milton

When I consider
how my light is spent,
Ere half my days,
in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent
which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless,
though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker,
and present
My true account,
lest he returning chide;
‘Doth God exact day-labour,
light denied?’
I fondly ask.
But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies,
‘God doth not need
Either man’s work
or his own gifts;
who best
Bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best.
His state
Is Kingly.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and
Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only
stand and wait.’

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