Time & Mindfulness

August 8, 2015 | Reflections From Sr Mary

Michael Meade says:

Time is the measure of things that come to an end,
but where time itself ends, eternity begins….
In the end, there is no end.
The ends of time are near the roots of eternity,
and the ends of the earth touch on the other world
or the world behind the world.

marthaWe so often find ourselves saying: “I haven’t got enough time to get everything done!”
I know that I certainly say it and I am sure that many of you do also. This kind of panic to get things done or to be somewhere quickly plays itself out often in our lives.

I think that this attitude can invade the precious time of Holy Week and instead of being present to the ceremonies, our minds are racing ahead onto
what has to be prepared for the next ceremony
or the next meal
or the next order…

We are all suffering from time-poverty in a culture that worships productivity and accomplishments.

We all thought that life would become so much more efficient and leisurely with the introduction of the computer. We were also going to save so much on paper but….we all know that we now spend a great deal of time in front of our computer screens and our printers churn out more paper than ever before.

We are tempted to multi-task to get as much done as possible at one time with the end result being that we are never truly present to anything we are doing.

I came across an article the other day, discussing this poverty of time, and referring to a book called Time and the Soul by Jacob Needleman, in which he writes that “most of us are like what the Tibetans call hungry ghosts” – meaning: “we are not really existing, we are not present to life, we are obsessed with hurrying and doing things right away:
But right away is the opposite of the lived present moment in which the passing of time no longer tyrannizes us.”
He goes on to say that our “hungry ghosts continue to starve by hungering after a false illusion of more hours and more days, when all we really need to hunger for….is the present moment.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could chase away these hungry ghosts and allow ourselves to be totally satisfied with the present moment during this coming Holy Week – to really enter into the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord.

At this moment what are your hungry ghosts…. What are mine?
What are the things we are chasing after but never quite catch?
Do we ever stop and deliberately become aware of the present moment…..
listening to the sounds around us…
the wind, the birds, the talking, laughing and the silence?

I’m sure we could all answer,
I do stop,
I am silent,
I do listen”….
However, I think that we would all acknowledge that we seem to do it less and less when there is a lot of work to be done.

The Desert Elders recognized the importance of the present moment in their counseling of the younger monks. They tell the following story:

dessert elders kneel pray“One elder told a restless young novice to simply stay in his cell and pray. The novice came back the next day, reporting that he’d noticed the door to his cell was old and needed replacing. The old man again sent him back to pray. The following day he returned, saying he’d noticed that the roof of his cell was old and needed replacing, too. The master finally told him that what most needed replacing was his wandering mind.”

This wandering mind kept him from being present to God, or to anything else for that matter. Perhaps this is another way of telling us to be full of the present moment and not to become hungry ghosts chasing after everything else but the one thing that can truly satisfy us.

Am I faithful in the small, seemingly meaningless and inconspicuous things of my life?
Am I living in full awareness, in absolute consciousness of everything that surrounds me?
Even the closing of a door, the setting down of a mug, the way I walk along the cloister – all these and more can be a manifestation of grace, an act of peace and consideration, a silent witness to the awakening of my heart to the fullness of the relationship I have to all things.

How many times a day does our bell toll calling out to us to be mindful calling out to us to let go of what we are doing and be present?
Let us pause and take a breath each time we hear the bell toll or when we are about to begin a different activity.

We have many holy pauses during the Office (or as they are referred to in the Directory for the Divine Office – “strong moments of prayer”). Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could carry those holy pauses over into every moment of this coming Holy Week?
This would help us to live with mindfulness and not become hungry ghosts but satisfied to just BE in the present moment. This moment, right now, is what life is about. Let us choose not to miss it.

I think this beautiful feast of the Annunciation that we are celebrating today has so much to offer us and teach us about
being present to the moment,
being still,
being ready to listen.
We speak of Mary’s fiat on this day…and I am certain that her response to the angel and to God was not something born out of a vacuum (a hungry ghost), but rather from a lifetime of practising a deep sense of presence…
to herself,
to her surroundings,
to silence and to her God.

We are fortunate that this feast falls just a few days before Holy Week this year. Let us take Mary as our guide as we begin our journey with her and with her Son through these most holy days.

With her, let us be ready, still and present to hear the words of the Annunciation Angel who comes to us saying:
“Rejoice so highly favoured! The Lord is with you”…..
“so highly favoured!” Wow! Can we hear that?
Yes, we are all, together with Mary, so “highly favoured”
because the Lord is with us.
Let us be in this present moment and not miss the opportunity to respond with Mary’s Yes:
“I am the handmaid of the Lord…let what you have said be done to me.”