Friday, September 28, 2012

Let it Begin With Me

On a recent Sunday at our church, Pastor Cherie chose two readings from the Bible, (The Message translation) one from James the other from Mark. It was a very fruitful service and I came away contemplating how these two passages related to each other.

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.  - James 4:1-3

Yes, deep inside ourselves we find it’s my way or the highway. Isn’t that the way it goes with us? It is “obvious” my way is best and everyone else should follow it. To learn to question yourself on this is a great quality; to learn to live and let live a greater quality still; to learn to serve others is the best.

33 They came to Capernaum. When he (Jesus) was safe at home, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the road?”34 The silence was deafening—they had been arguing with one another over who among them was greatest.35 He sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”   -Mark 9:33-35

Take last place in order to be first. What can this mean? In terms of ordinary living this makes no sense. Were we not taught in school the virtues of competition? Is competition not the bedrock of a free market society? This young Rabbi Jesus is a real radical. But he is talking about one’s own happiness, the kingdom of heaven. And what is this about being a servant? What can that mean? A servant places their own interests second to the person they are serving. What benefit is there to putting your own interests last? It is quite simply freedom from the tyranny of our own egos. Egos consistently create disharmony in our minds. They are always questing for something more, or better. They are never satisfied. And they are always comparing you to others so that you come out looking worse off. When you truly focus your attention on someone else’s interests, bingo, the ego is stilled and you are left in peace. So being a servant of all has nothing to do with gaining brownie points to be holier than someone else. Oh no, that sort of thinking is a recipe for misery. It’s just another way of putting yourself first while pretending to be last. When you truly focus all your attention on what another needs you benefit beyond your wildest dreams. Generally wildest dreams do not include peace of mind, but once you have it you realize you wanted nothing else. Everything else the ego was driving you toward was just a poor substitute for peace of mind. Herein lies the blessing of becoming the servant of all.

Lastly, what about these appalling wars and quarrels? Well if everyone were putting each other’s interests first quarrels and wars would rapidly evaporate. We cannot do this for anyone else but we can do it for ourselves. So why not say “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me”.

Gift of Being Stuck in Traffic

I am the gift of Being for you.

You are the gift of Being for me.

Nothing is given and nothing received

The gift of Being is everywhere free.


“Nothing is given and nothing received” means there is no gain or loss by being yourself, yet being yourself is a gift to the world and the world is a gift to you. It is free and you are free.


The gift of being with yourself is probably the most difficult to let happen. Let’s return to being stuck in traffic, almost immediately thoughts of dissatisfaction with being where you are arise. The desire to be at your destination can be almost overwhelming. Getting frustrated at not being able to get there now? Worried at being late? Pissed at wasting time? The real waste of time is letting these thoughts dominate the mind. So just sit with it. In fact being stuck in traffic there’s nothing else you can do. Instead of grabbing the cell phone or turning on the radio try being with yourself. What would that be like? For a lot of people the idea is horrifying. Our opinions of ourselves are usually so low that anxiety is generated at the thought of spending time alone with one’s self. The whole purpose of life’s distractions is to avoid just such a catastrophe. The whole purpose of other people is to persuade them that we are better than we really think we are, to prop ourselves up with a false image. But this false image is just a cover over the first false image, the one of absolute inadequacy.


But none of this is true. The real you is wonderful beyond words, if only you could find yourself behind all these false self-images, if you could see yourself the way God sees you. Be still and listen to the Love song God sings to you about the blessings that flow between you, of your perfect purity and the sanctity of who you are. That is the point of sitting still in traffic, the point of not grabbing the cell phone or turning on the radio. This is how the false story lines of likes and dislikes, good and bad, opinions and judgments are undone. Just sitting still. Just listening to them. Just asking “Is this true?” The real you is neither good nor bad. You are beyond the play of all opposites. The real you is totally at ease, relaxed in a sense of peace and stillness and joy beyond measure.


“Out beyond all ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing

There is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

The world is too full to talk about

Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”

Doesn’t make any sense”

                                                -Mevlana Jeladdin Rumi  


What a gift it is to be stuck in traffic. How many opportunities like this do we have in our lives? We are so busy getting things done that there’s no time to sit still. But here we are stuck in traffic and there’s nothing else to do.