Is 63: 16b – 17; 19b; 64: 2-7
1st Sunday in Advent
I spent the weekend hanging out with some Buddhists. More specifically, I attended a “Zen for Christians” retreat. I don’t think that you could say I took to it like a fish to the water (more like a wounded wildebeast, maybe) but I did come away from the experience with a few reasonably profound insights. One of them is the importance Buddhists place on paying ATTENTION to the present moment. You could say – in fact our instructor did say – that the essential point of Zen is to clear the mind of everything except the experience of the present moment.
I was struck, therefore, by Jesus words from this week’s gospel – “Be watchful! Be alert!”. While Buddhism and Christianity do not seem to me to have the same end game, there’s an obvious parallel here. How much more peacefully would our lives flow – how many more opportunities to really touch people’s lives would we take advantage of – how many more opportunities to experience joy would we experience – if we only just paid attention?
Having spent the better part of a weekend trying to do this, I can vouch for myself at least for the evidence that this is REALLY HARD TO DO. I kvetsch all of the time – to my wife, mostly, but also to whoever happens to be around at the moment – about how noisy my life is and about how if I only had some quiet, then I could really be in touch with God and with myself. Well, I had plenty of quiet this weekend – and I was shocked at all of the noise in my head! That constant stream of conversation I was having only with myself (it was a silent retreat) that abated from time to time but never really stopped. And most of it seemed rather trivial.
Advent’s a good time to practice this kind of “Mindfulness” as the Buddhists call it. What can you do – better – what can you NOT do – this Advent season in order to simply sit and notice God’s presence in your life. Start with a five minute break today – five minutes of total and complete silence. (Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to do so.) See what comes up.
And, if you’d be so inclined, Id really like to hear about it.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)