Being true to the Work,
one is true to all the Work is a gift for.
This Way is
life-giving, life-fulfilling, for all,
in It is no room for regret.
An old monk was sweeping the yard in a monastery under the scorching sun. Another monk passed by and asked him, "How old are you?" The old monk replied, "I'm seventy-seven." "You are so old! Why are you still working so hard here?" "Well, because I'm here." "But why are you working under the scorching sun?" "Because the sun is there."
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Working with the dying and their families teaches me about just doing. Sitting beside a dying person who cannot even acknowledge my presence or reply in any way, what am I to do? Nothing, really. Sinking into the sense of helplessness, or purposelessness, is important to allow something to happen, without sensing control over it.
Often in this work, as life, there is nothing to do, and out of that, something happens, something is done. Doing happens. We could call this purposeless doing, if we wished to, or selfless action, if we wished to. Something is done, and there is no right thing to do and no results to look for. We could say whatever is done is merely a way of loving, or in Christian terms, a Sacrament, a means of Grace. Still, if we add such words, we have labeled a beautiful Gift that needs no explanation.
Sometimes, such moments happen and pass before we recognize them, we look back and see the Beauty. Or, often, possibly, something beautiful could have happened, if we would have only relaxed and allowed a spaciousness.
So, in a practical society, one driven by observable and, yes, in health care, billable results, you truly have to trust this mysterious Movement of Grace in being with others, to sustain your trust not merely in the Giver of the Work, but the Doing itself as a sacred, even if elusive, way of loving others. It is to our own harm to our humanness and life together, that we have so reduced life, work, and love to quantifiable results, when Grace is not quantifiable, even as Love is not. I have seen this, also, in religious communities, where busyness takes over and programs become central. Through such impulsive doing, we seek to prove our existence, as person or group, is working, is a success. The cost is loss of deep joy and immersement in the bliss of Life Itself and Love Itself. We end up moving about quickly on the surfaces. And the speed increases, for the tyranny never really culminates in any lasting contentment. Discontent leads to discontent, and more effort and more effort. This is insane, yet this is seen as normal and healthy. And apparently smart persons cannot seem to see how unnatural and harmful this really is.
I took religious vows, some twenty years ago, to learn this way of spacious openness. I have spent years of silence, solitude, and prayer - mostly in pure quiet - in which there has been the being taught this letting go into the wisdom of purposeless living. Why? Well, partly, I see now, to learn to care for others in the same way, without feeling the impulse or desire to impose a need to prove my worth into caring for others. There is, truly, nothing to prove- I mean that, nothing. Some see the Sun, some would not see It if It came down and looked them in the eyes. That is, for example, I have worked for years under leaders in institutions - as a clergyperson, professor, and chaplain - who had no idea of what I do or why, and who could not appreciate the Doing, while many I served deeply appreciated It and said they were receiving something wonderful they had never received before. So, this is not about proving anything or defending a way of life, or complaining of being not appreciated well - all that is contrary to this wisdom. When oneed with the Doing, you see It is not about you, at all. The Work testifies to Itself, whether recognized for Itself, or not. Grace does not seek applause, does not rely on recognition; Grace is sufficient to Grace. The Doing keeps doing of Its own Being, Being is being, and you are a yielded instrument through which Love plays Its music. You do not claim the music, neither do you know where it comes from, what it does, or where it goes. It comes, it goes, you remain. Yet, your passivity itself is central to sharing with Grace moving in ways you do not control, your action is brought into harmony with Grace gracing.
So, the spiritual contemplative is a prophetic Voice in the insanity, a silent witness through being and Presence. He or she witnesses of a joy in a way of living uncommon, but much needing to be integrated into our shared life, for our common good, including our mental and physical well-being. Presently, contemplatives remain a mysterious, largely misunderstood group, and how they yield themselves from passive openness into Doing is not near understood or appreciated. Egoic, consumeristic busyness is consuming our basic goodness and the longing for deep connection, as well as over-all well-being. Grace waits our "Yes" to a saner, more gentle, and more loving way of living together.
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