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A jump into space

On October 14th 2012, Felix Baumgartner jumped to earth from an altitude of 24 miles, breaking the speed of sound (Mach 1.24) during free fall.

He said after his successful landing: "Let me tell you - when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble. You don't think about breaking records anymore, you don't think about gaining scientific data…”

Starting a life of renunciation feels – as I have experienced it (and still do) – very much the same. Naturally, the similarities between the two may not seem very great. But the inner space one confronts from the very moment of a vocational decision feels as vast and deep as outer space. The field ahead is of numberless possibilities and the speed … well, it’s one’s life.

Answering the question, “How am I going to live?” is one more choice that I will make every day; it includes the integrity and plenitude of all that I’ll do. I may not feel the thrill and excitement of a free jump from 25 miles above earth, but the feeling of living with meaning and moving in a space of continuous spiritual unfolding is a permanent one.

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My reason for being

Taylor, a former student at our preschool, came to visit before he headed off to college to pursue a music career playing the French horn. Reminiscing about his time at the school, I told him I remembered when his appendix burst. Then he said something about his brush with death that made me really start to think about life. “I remember it, too,” he said. “ I think of it sometimes when I am tired of practicing. I think there is a reason for me to be here. That helps me to go back to practicing.” The childhood experience of coming close to death helped him to reflect on his reason for being. He wants to make the most of his life and do the best in what he was meant to do.

All of us have a reason for being, although we may not be so dramatically reminded of it. Some of us may have discovered it and committed ourselves to it, while some of us are still looking. The lesson I learned from this aspiring musician was that the fulfillment of my life’s mission isn’t made in some grand accomplishment, such as playing with the philharmonic, but is made up of the everyday acts of life. It is how we fulfill these everyday acts that takes us to our reason for being. Instead of thinking of them as repetitive or boring, I can look beyond the specific acts and tasks that I do each day and see what is important. What could the real meaning be?

Community life helps me to do this. Routine, instead of being avoided, is seen as a way to get to the real meaning of life. It is not what we do, but how we do it. Doing the same things help me to stay centered on doing these everyday jobs like they really matter. And they do really matter. Besides the tasks fitting into a larger mosaic of human effort, the effort and attention I put into them helps me to grow spiritually. I no longer look to get something from them, but simply to give my best effort.

Community life helps me to stay focused and not look for distractions. Then I am invited to look at my real intention. When I clean a room, it’s not to be recognized as the best homemaker. It is rather to have a clean room that contributes to a better environment for the whole group. In this way, a simple task becomes a way of connecting to others. It’s not about me and my mop; it’s about everyone.

Intention is the essential piece, isn’t it? So discovering and perfecting my intention is for me like Taylor’s practicing the French horn. Simple everyday acts done with an intention of connecting with others will take me to my reason for being.

Recent Comments
Patricia Colleran
Thank you, Diana, for the uplifting thoughts. Wishing you happiness, love and new friendships in the New Year!
Saturday, 05 January 2013 2:02 PM
Linda
How reflective! A meaningful experience for all of us who are searching within.
Saturday, 05 January 2013 2:02 PM
Adam G
Thanks, Diana, for sharing!!!
Saturday, 19 July 2014 6:06 PM
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Relevance

Part of our responsibility here in the Community of Tivoli is to administer and take care of the Retreat Houses.

These facilities are used by the members of Cafh that don’t live in Community as a place to host their retreats and other activities and are used throughout the summer months for this purpose.

This year some members of a group that is not affiliated with Cafh, a non-profit group called “Common Fire”, asked if they could use the space for their Board of Directors’ meeting.  Common Fire has a housing coop just down the street from us.

We have known Jeff and Kavitha, two of the directors, since they began building the coop, and on occasion have shared meals there and talked about living in “Community”.

Their original plan in using our retreat space had included  time for meet and greet between Common Fire board members and Tivoli Cafh Community members. However, since their members had come from all over the country and they had many issues to resolve in their meetings and limited time to do so, we were only able to get together for lunch on Sunday afternoon.

We all contributed different dishes to make up a buffet meal and gathered on the patio of our Community house.

It’s hard to get to know people or have a deep conversation sitting at a long table, for an hour or so, over a meal with little kids running around and in danger of falling into the pool, but it was fun and interesting and enjoyable.

At some point I sat down next to Kavitha. She remarked that she found it very inspiring that some of us had lived in Community for 40 years. This was refreshing to me because although in general, most people respect the Community members as individuals, they tend to see living in a Community as a bit “weird”. 

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Diana S
I agree with Kavitha that to see a long life of commitment is inspiring. To see someone's life unfold and become the fruit of his... Read More
Saturday, 05 January 2013 2:02 PM
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Reflections on meaning

I have made an effort to make a daily gratitude journal. Each night I write down one thing that I am thankful for, being careful not to repeat myself. Many days it is something mundane, like air conditioning when the outside temperature soars to the triple digits. Or looking to the past, I am thankful for my education and all those who helped me on the way. However, the very first entry was “finding meaning in my life,” and I am truly grateful to have found a reason for being.

I think that everyone shares the same destiny that gives life meaning: to develop ourselves spiritually. Everyday life provides us with all we need to grow and find life’s meaning. But how each one of us responds is unique and individual. We all have our lives to work with, but each life is different and each circumstance has many choices which yield many different consequences.

Life will go on whether I see the meaning in it or not. I need not travel far or seek exotic experiences. Community life with its schedule of work and prayer, working on relationships and finding inner resources provides the direction I need to see beyond the superficial and find the spiritual. I learn patience, self discipline and having an open mind. And all this, I do by living everyday life fully.

Coming home from food shopping this Saturday, my companion commented, “Shopping this Saturday and next and next, for years to come.” But that is how life is, a repetition of activities, and most activities are activities that all human beings participate in: those based on survival, work, and relationships. It is up to each one of us to see their meaning beyond their mundane aspects. Of course, I can be thankful for a car to be able to go to the supermarket, a supermarket full of clean, safe food, and money to pay for it. That makes me more privileged than many. I can also think of all those who made this possible, from the merchant, trucker, farmer, and all related to the food industry. I also give what I am doing all the attention it deserves so I can do it as well as possible. When everyday activities take me outside of my personal sphere, they become a spiritual practice and therefore have meaning. Living in community helps me to do this and keeps me on track.

Therefore, when I come to the end of my life I will be able to see my life not as a series of activities. I will see my life with opportunities to unfold spiritually, and this unfolding I can offer to the well being of humanity. Then I can say, “It was worth it. What I did had meaning.”

 

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Isabel
Thank you for your blog! It seems to me so important to be grateful, because we are blessed in so many ways! If we lose sight of h... Read More
Saturday, 05 January 2013 2:02 PM
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