“It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us.” – Thomas Merton
“Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two my life flows.” -Nisargadatta
We have moments when we experience or glimpse this oneness, this deep connection with God, with one another and with all of life. We may notice it in the connection many of us have with animals and the ways they pull us out of our self-centeredness and into communion with them. We may get a flash of the way God sees us all of the time when we see a new baby born, a sunset, a spring bloom, when we hear an honest word spoken, when we feel a deep connection with someone we love and in those intimate moments of quiet and union with another. We may experience a glimpse in prayer, in receiving the sacraments or reading the Sacred Word and participating in our religious tradition. God is touching us in hopes of turning us toward Him. We have real, concrete moments when we experience the reality of God’s presence, the depth of who we really are. This truth resonates in our being.
These moments or glimpses are our invitation. We are constantly being invited by God, the Sacred Reality that grounds us and loves us all. If we only would allow ourselves to receive the invitation and then respond, our spiritual journey would take root. Each day we step outside on our way to work, school or to meet a friend, there is a moment when we can stop and notice the sacredness of this very second. Nature is such a divine teacher here. The flowers blooming almost force us to stop and look and listen. Our dogs, cats and non-human beings, have a way of reminding us of their presence and of Presence in the largest sense. Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher and writer at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, often tells this brief story about our animal brothers and sisters.
If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when loves ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook when people take things out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong.
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
Then, you are probably the family dog.
This is why we love our animals. They remind us of something that feels simple and precious and yet they embody it in their own way quite effortlessly. They are not caught up in our mental and emotional dramas, and they do not proceed at a pace that seems to get busier and more hectic each decade. Many spiritual writers have addressed this point of busyness and its role in our development as people. Simply put, there is a pace in life that is balanced and grounded. Thomas Merton has written much about the “violence of busyness” and he offers us this insight:
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence, and that is activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of this innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.[i]