Cultivating amazement

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a YouTube video of a flash mob that grew over the course of the performance into a full orchestra (including timpanis!) and choir. I love watching videos of flash mobs like this one as much to watch the reactions of the surprised audience as to hear the quality of the performance.

As with many of these that I watch, I am struck by the number of adults who exhibit little expression even though they may stay to watch and listen to the performers. I do see a few people smiling, and there is one gentleman at about the 4 minute mark whose whole face lights up with delight and clearly mouths an amazed “Wow!” as he arrives on the scene, but there is much less reaction than I would expect from suddenly finding a full orchestra and choir doing an impromptu performance in the middle of a public space.

The children, of course, are a different story.

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Joy enough

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” ~Emily Dickinson

For most of my life, I’ve believed that at some point I would arrive  someday at some magical set of circumstances that would allow me to be happy. I had moments of attaining this kind of happiness, but they never lasted because the conditions that caused the happiness always changed.

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Choosing beauty over undue practicality

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ~William Morris

I am nothing if not a practical person. In fact, I’m often practical to a fault. And yes, there is such a thing. As I’ve been working through this process of releasing the weight of excess “stuff,” I’ve been realizing how often I convince myself to purchase or keep things because they are practical, not because I truly love them. These leaves me surrounded by things that leave me vaguely dissatisfied, but that function just well enough that I can’t justify replacing them.

I allow my “practicality” to squash my love for beauty in all its various forms time and again. The irony is that my “practicality” usually comes into play by urging me to select an option that is less expensive than the one I truly love, but because I’m never quite happy with the result, it usually winds up costing me more in the long run than if I had selected what I truly wanted.

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Risking curiosity, wonder, and delight

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~e.e. cummings

I waited many years for someone to reveal that what was inside me was valuable—and I’m sure there were those along the way that tried, but there were always so many other negative voices, both within and without, that drown them out. And so I could not receive the message, even if it was there.

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Sincere but not simple

“There are many people who are sincere without being simple: they are ever afraid of being seen for what they are not; they are always musing over their words and thoughts and thinking about what they have done, in fear of having done or said too much. These people are sincere, but they are not simple: they are not at ease with others, and other people are not at ease with them. There is nothing easy about them, nothing free, spontaneous, or natural. People who are imperfect, less regular, less masters of themselves, are more lovable.” ~Francois Fenelon

It is late tonight, and I don’t have the energy for a long post, so I will share this quote that I found a few months back that has made a profound impression on me. I have lived my life as one of these sincere but not simple people that he describes.

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The detox period

“When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don’t magically disappear. Over the years, I’ve come to call resting with the discomfort ‘the detox period,’ because when you don’t act on your habitual patterns, it’s like giving up an addiction. You’re left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that.” ~Pema Chödrön (from Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, page 36)

I get a weekly email with Pema’s Heart Advice of the week. The above quote was the one I received today. (It can also be found in blog form on Shambhala Publications website.)

I know this feeling of being in the detox period well. As I have been working on shifting patterns in my life that are no longer helpful, I frequently encounter these detox period where my emotions have been triggered but I’m choosing not to engage in my usual coping behaviors. Instead, I am left to sit with those feelings that I normal try to escape, minimize, or at least distract myself from feeling.

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The cycle of forgetting and remembering

“Funny how much of life feels like remembering & forgetting & remembering again. Perhaps if we did not forget what was essential we would miss out on the great AHA! & joy of all those moments of remembering.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

The quote above is one from a Facebook status that Oriah posted quite some time ago. I saved it because it sums up my experience so well, and I was reassured to know that I’m not the only one who seems to keep forgetting those essential things I’ve learned along the way, requiring me to keep learning the same lessons over and over again.

I was reminded of this quote the last few days as I’ve been going back through and looking at old posts on my blog. It’s a bit embarrassing sometimes to see how many times I keep having to relearn some of the same lessons.

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Revolution underway

“There comes a point in life when you get tired of feeling, doing and looking bad. Take responsibility for what ails you. Find out what you are doing that is not good for you and stop.” ~Iyanla Vanzant

I’ve worked hard the past few years in learning to be a better observer of myself and my patterns. I’ve gradually learned to increase my ability to watch myself through detached and curious eyes even as I go about my daily life. I’m learning to recognize my patterns not just after they have run their course but sometimes now even in the midst of them.

Some of the easier ones I’ve already managed to shift enough to create healthier patterns in place of the ones that were no longer serving me. Others, however, are more deeply ingrained and often feel like deep holes in the road that I fall into time and time again without ever seeming to learn my lesson.

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Simplicity and letting go

I mentioned earlier this week the discussion at Sunday’s worship sharing about simplicity. Afterwards, one of the members of the worship group shared the following quote (from Inward/Outward) and suggested that using the word “simplicity” in place of the word “poverty.”

“The true rule of poverty consists in giving up those things which enchain the spirit, divide its interests, and deflect it on its road to God–whether these things be riches, habits, religious observances, friends, interests, distastes, or desires–not in mere outward destitution for its own sake. It is attitude, not act, that matters; self-denudation would be unnecessary were it not for our inveterate tendency to attribute false value to things the moment they become our own.” –Evelyn Underhill

Simplicity does indeed involve giving up those things that ensnare us and get in our way in our spiritual lives rather than giving things up just for the sake of denying ourselves. In fact, self-denial for its own sake can be a snare in itself.

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Acceptance of not knowing

“Maturity, one discovers, has everything to do with the acceptance of ‘not knowing.’” ~Mark Z. Danielewski

I think the hardest thing for me to cope with over the last few years of so much constant change has not been the change itself; it’s been the constant ‘not knowing’ of where I am headed or where each change is going to lead me.

Of course, none of ever know what tomorrow brings. Everything in life is uncertain. But most of the time, we can shield ourselves from facing that uncertainty because there is enough in our lives that is stable to make the chances that we know where we are headed (at least short-term) reasonably high. For most of my life, I’ve had a fairly well planned out trajectory through my education and career goals. Although those did change from time to time, they were more course adjustments than radical departures from the planned course.

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