A Window is Where the Wall is Absent

The life impulse to express and to connect arises in me and in all of us. This blog is a celebration of these life impulses. Please feel free to join in the conversation or to just visit. There is a Family Photo Album beneath the posts so you can "meet" my family and I. Welcome!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Enough

I was making the bed, smoothing the duvet across the bottom, and suddenly found every ounce of attention flowing freely into the task. Almost a kind of abandonment, like a swan dive off a high dive, as I disappeared into the ordinary bed-making moment.

Attention streams into the world through small tasks.

My husband Greg today read to me out loud an article by Thomas Keating about a disabled child named Sarah. (Here's the link to the article if you're interested:
http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/site/PageServer?pagename=articles_newsletters)
Greg and I read aloud to each other often, kind of like a modern day version of telling stories around the tribal campfire. I had met Sarah back in 2002 at a retreat. The article talks about living one breath at a time. I used to get very bored paying attention to my breath, and I still find it boring sometimes. Yet other times when I tune into the flow of air in and out of the lungs, a keen sense of being alive arises. Brain clutter gradually disperses. The fact of being alive turns out to be the most stunning fact of all. A bottomless well of wonder arises at the very fact of existing. No further entertainment needed, thank you.

Absolute attention to small ordinary moments- just breathing, or engaging in a routine task- makes a kind of chute for consciousness to slide down into the world. What difference does this make? I don't know. No measurable difference, anyway. But I have this crazy notion that the universe tilts on its axis by an invisible fulcrum when attention is unified with present reality.

We're taught that in order to make a difference, to be somebody, we need to stand out in some dramatic way- be a hero and get rid of the bad guys, stuff like that. Sarah mostly just breathed. Did she make no difference, was she nobody?

Is there anybody who doesn't matter, is there anybody who is nobody? Many of us feel like we haven't made much difference, we haven't solved the great problems of the world. I certainly have felt that way many times and continue to feel that way at times.

But I'm also surprised sometimes in the most mundane moment, that in an anonymous, unspectacular way, full attention to present reality does matter, does make a difference. I don't know how exactly. But I'm heartened and emboldened to give myself wholeheartedly and without restraint to making that peanut butter and jelly sandwich (for the ten-thousandth time) and looking clearly into the eyes of my nine year old son Jack as I hand it to him. It is enough. It is more than enough.

4 comments:

Cindy said...

Beautiful Colleen. I've been using breathing as a way to fall back asleep at night since it makes me feel like an amazing machine that is able to take air into and out of itself - I find it prevents the midnight story-telling from keeping my mind focused and unable to drift to sleep.
I also have thought about what you say in your journal books about everyone matters (as you mention here), regardless of exterior accomplishment, and it makes me more interested in everyone. Thank you Colleen!

Val said...

Such a core struggle - to be "important" or not to be "important"? Up here all the transplants are artists and accomplished. As 48 year old, my work as administrative assistant is shameful. If I iron my work clothes and pick up papers off the floor at night it's a major feat. Sometimes I wonder why I feed myself? Especially such healthy food? Yet when I get tempted by storylines of grandeur, I shy away knowing that it's a trap as foolish as failure. Ya know? :)

Colleen Loehr said...

Thanks for your comments Cindy and Val, I read them avidly and find them very interesting. Val, is it a major feat for you to do a few things in the evening because you're so worn out from working at your job all day? When you say you wonder why you feed yourself- is that because everything looks so pointless? To me it's not shameful to work as an administrative assistant at any age- especially in support of such a worthwhile organization such as you are working for. To me administrative assistants are wizards of organization, keeping track of amazing complexities. From my point of view you are a Renaissance woman who has done everything from help hundreds of young children to spend countless hours in worthwhile activities, to helping a professor publish a book, to designing a website for our family, to designing and building a house, to collaborating with me on writing projects, and on and on. The stories and self-images we each carry around are the source of so much suffering... but it seems so hard to stop believing the painful stories and images...

Cindy said...

Yea Val, what a dork! :) Juz kidding. But I hear you. I think you might mean also that all of us are questionably fed. I think Colleen's talk of how everyone is important - is like - it's all the tiniest gestures that resound loudly, not the big ones. When you can't resist smiling for instance. Or laugh at the faces I'm making at the pizza shop.

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Greetings. I am a psychiatrist working at a state hospital, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at University of Missouri Medical School. I am also a wife and mother of three grown children. Qigong has profoundly changed my life for the better. I am interested in connecting with other people interested in qigong.

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Mary (14), Chris (15), Jack (9)

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