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The Sustainable Fuel in My Life

Do you remember the first time in your life that you wrote a to-do list? Before that, it is likely that you had time to play, hang out, think! What happened then? Yes, yes, life got complicated: too much information, too much communication with demands and expectations to match. All our “fuel”, then, is directed to fulfilling these endless tasks. Check off an item of the list just to add another two, or three, or four. When was the last time I had nothing pending and leftover fuel? When did I finish checking off all the items in my list and breathed with deep satisfaction? In all of this complexity, is there time left to pray? Can we pray anymore? Or is it prayer one more item in the endless to-do list, most probably not a priority one? Is prayer even sustainable in our modern world?

In my experience, prayer has become the “sustainable” fuel in my life. Even more, as time went by, the act of praying underwent a transformation: it started permeating my daily tasks, those items in the to-do list, until it became life sustaining. Before, I used to pray while exercising; now, I exercise so I can pray. Before, I prayed while working; now, work gives life to prayer. Before, I prayed while going to study; now, I study so that prayer expands beyond limits. Now, I live so that my life can be a prayer. Prayer is certainly sustainable in our modern world, and as meaningful as we choose it to be.

Do you pray?

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The Domino Effect

Spiritual life calls us to know ourselves; experiences potentially lead us in this process of inner unfolding.

Let’s observe the domino effect. Ever experienced someone blowing up in your face? Or, have you done so to someone else? Maybe that someone plays an important role in your life.

Let’s take an analogy: Setting up dominoes requires how much time, compared to how fast they fall? How long does it take to develop a lasting relationship? And, how much time to destroy it?

Also, when upset, who receives our venting? Or, has another person’s anger, frustration, stress, fallen on us? How did we respond? Did we resolve the problem generated? Or, did the emotions take over, each of us separating in a huff, or worse?

Too often the churned emotions result in a domino effect. Each of us involved parts with an emotional charge.   If that uncontrolled pain vents on still another, who had nothing to do with the initial upset, the domino effect continues. We generate it.

What to do? Let’s now step back, taking some distance, by looking from the outside. Acceptance on our part of what happened; that inner process can be difficult.

However, if thoughts and feelings continue to justify our behavior, alienation and separation also continue. What brings us together?

From acceptance emerges our humanness, our vulnerability. Here we nurture inner life by stopping the next domino from falling. We renounce. In this process, our relationships deepen; our capacity to embrace the pain of others expands.

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The Poet's Desk

Did you ever ask yourself where poets write? Is there a place that inspires them the most? Do they have a formal place, an office let’s say, where they go every day to write? Or do they just write their poems on a notepad wherever they may be and whenever the muse inspires them?

Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets, and a great inspiration to me. Therefore, when I visited Chile recently, I made sure to visit his house at the edge of the ocean.  “Isla Negra” (Black Island), as he called it, is in a place of stunning beauty. His many collections are displayed there for visitors to enjoy: seashells of all sizes and colors, vintage bottles with ships, masks of various cultures, and so much more. They reflect his attention to detail, the interest he had in everything, especially in sailing and the sea.

As I was pacing through the different rooms, a small rustic desk called my attention. The caption read something like this: “One morning, Pablo Neruda was looking out to the sea when he saw a piece of driftwood from a shipwreck. He said: ‘The sea has brought the desk to the poet’ and went to the beach to sit down and wait for it. It is at this desk where he wrote great part of his work.”

The eyes of the poet see the potential in what many of us can easily overlook, take for granted and readily dismiss. I wonder how many times a possibility, an opportunity has gone by without me noticing. How many times did I fail to find beauty, meaning, depth, taking life for granted? All I need to do is to be able to see with the eyes of a poet, find a desk in the piece of wood adrift, the desk where life becomes a poem.

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A Broader Objective in Life

How would any of us describe a typical day in our life? Usually the first things that come to mind are images involving work, our comings and goings, time spent with our family, or similar concerns. The demands that the exterior world places on us are so great that they practically define our self-image. We see ourselves in action, making decisions and working.

Stress and feelings of frustration sometimes come to us when we see our objectives unfulfilled despite all our efforts. 

Thinking about how many times I have gone down this road, I have found that only focusing my mind on a broader objective could take me outside this emotional tangle and frustration.

But, you could ask, what is a broader objective?

I have asked myself that question, too. For me, it’s something that makes me aware of others, their needs, their suffering, their concerns. It is also something that makes me take care of my surroundings. In other words, I could say that a broader objective is to stop thinking about what is happening to me interiorly, and seeing what exists outside of me.

Giving my life a broader meaning has become the answer for me to all these common life worries and demands. In this way, work, sorrow, pain, and efforts take on different meanings for me, as a result of my struggles to do something for others.

Community life has been for me the right place to concentrate on this offering – but this isn’t an easy thing to do! After many years, I’m still struggling to change the things in myself that prevent a good relationship with others, to keep my mind focused, to be patient, to accept others as they are, to learn to be able to serve ....

But as hard as this can be, there is no longer such a sense of being burdened and stressed-out, but rather a possibility of unfolding and making this world a better place to live.

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