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Happy ever after?

Why do I like movies like Mission Impossible? Well, the impossibility of it all, the thrill, the struggle between good and evil, and the fact that, in the end, all ends well.

In my own life, my Mission Impossible is to attain happiness. And don’t we all take this as our very secret, special mission? In this case, I wouldn’t call it impossible, because some people, and I count myself among them, are happy. But on the other hand, true happiness is not easy to attain since, although we are all at the same starting line of the search for happiness when we begin life, nobody makes it to the finish line without any scratches. . . . For some, to attain happiness is a greater effort than for others. For example: When you weren’t expecting your baby to be born with Down syndrome, or when a four-year-old learns too soon that some people (his parents) can stop loving each other. A 17-year-old can soon know that the world is not an easy place. A bomb maims people, changing their lives forever. And where is happiness? Was it an impossible?

I don’t think happiness is impossible but it does not always express itself as I want it or as I imagine it.  For me, happiness is to make peace with myself and what life gives me: with the dreams I had and could not fulfill, with the people I love who cannot always be like I want them to be, with loss and sickness. When I don’t feel happy because of the things that happen to me, I look at all the good things I have in my life, and at the people who have it worse than me and at all the good I can still do in the world and how much I can love, even if my life is not all I wanted it to be.

And then, I become weightless like a bird. I soar and I am free. Not because life is easy for me but because I am learning as I go--learning how to use the sorrows and the difficulties and to be happy in spite of them.   Happiness is not an impossible. It is just a Mission. It might not come free but is worth the effort.

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Retreat Poem

There is an end to every beginning

The steep and shear tops of mountains

Become the fertile loam of the valleys

The delicate and the robust meet at their ends

 

So it is that every end, in its emptiness,

Becomes the seed of the future.

Light travels in a vacuum,

And is clouded by mass.

Absence is the only real precursor to

Presence.

 

Give me not the Certainty of

Knowledge, nor the Fervency of Faith.

Trap me not in the Snares of Security.

Shake my hand, but do it from within your sleeve ...

 

I do not want to know my Maker

But rather lie down in sleep beside him (or her)

My soul does not reach to the heavens;

It's a button-hole

And the world, life, is the button.

 

And as I fly once more over the snow-covered hills

As the night sky encompasses me, and I, warmly, it

The Earth, a nugget of iron, similar to my hemoglobin,

Protects me. I shield it with my heart.

Snow, it does not chill my bones. Stones and running water

Are streams of love and white hope-drops.

 

It's the end of the world,

Life has just begun ...

 

I pray we may all

Come to that infinitesimal point of disappearance:

Wholeness.

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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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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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Making the World a Better Place

 

We are constantly receiving the news that more marriages break up than stay together, that domestic violence is rampant, that many children don’t talk to their parents, that people fight over inheritances and war over religion, that differences between countries end in tragedy, and so forth.

To me this shows that relationship is a vital area in human development right now. If we don’t learn to learn to work together to live and solve problems, we can end up destroying ourselves just by being together.

In a spiritual community, working on relationship is always present for all of us. We have different ideas, ways of working and approaching a situation. So I have a continuous opportunity to develop the ability to work in a team, to come to consensus, to respect the opinions and ideas of others, and to moderate my desire to prevail so that I can harmonize with the group.

For example, after a community meeting one of my companions approached me to tell me that I interrupted and spoke in a demanding way. My subsequent thought process went something like this: “That can’t be! I’m kind. I will give her a piece of my mind!” “Maybe she’s right. Let me review. Maybe what I said was hard for her. We can talk.” “Actually, I did interrupt. I’ll be more careful going forward.” I’ve changed a little bit. It’s uncomfortable to some extent since my personal way has been challenged but I’ve been made more aware and more open. I open to the discomfort and don’t let it govern me—I let the joy of doing what is really good for the world govern.

From this awareness I see that the combination of community life and my yearning to make the world a better place IS a good match. I find myself daily able to work on myself to unite with my companions in so many situations, to develop the possibility of harmony in humankind. This is the work of expanding my consciousness and making the world a better place.

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Felicitas
Jeanne I like the way you share your experiences. Have a happy New Year full of spiritual blessings.
Saturday, 05 January 2013 2:02 PM
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More on heroes and our mission in life

In my previous blog, Mission Impossible, I shared some of my ideas about one’s mission in life and what it is to be a hero.

Let me add more . . . . Sometimes along the journey of life I fall asleep and forget where I was going. Then, by the time I realize this, I can only say, “I’m stuck”. But to see this and tell myself so is my first step towards getting back on track. If I look deep, deep within myself and at my ideals, the yearning for something high and unique, takes me back home to the source of my life and the best in myself. It is like the phoenix born from the ashes, the hero resurrecting the deep longing of the heart that sometimes becomes forgotten but never dies.

To fulfill one’s highest yearnings is not easy. The hero who has to fight the unbeatable many times would like to just forget who he/she is, what he/she has to do. But there is no way to ignore my mission. It knocks at my door continuously. It haunts my sleep. It buzzes in my brain. It does not leave me alone until I give myself entirely to what I was born to do.

So when I am at a loss in life, I tell myself: “Don’t give up! Get up, look around you and get ready to battle for the best in you and all of humankind. Do something for someone else and don’t wait for rewards. Give freely, with no strings attached.” Is this simple for me to do? No. But who wants what’s easy and the emptiness that goes hand in hand with it? To reach meaning and fulfillment is not a scratch on the surface and it is a continuous challenge. My happiness is in the effort and in knowing that I am not alone. You and many others are with me on this journey. So, for the sake of all humankind, let’s not stop!

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Mission Impossible

When I see an actor jumping from a plane, bouncing off a building, fighting ten bad guys at once, and doing the unbelievable, I laugh and say to myself: “…only in the movies!” But then I look at it from another angle: What is someone like Tom Cruise really saying with all that jumping, falling and then… surprise... he is still alive?! His message is that of the hero: “It doesn’t matter what happens to me, the outcome of the mission is what matters, and I matter only because I am the instrument that carries it out.”

Living with a mission is living meaningfully and with a purpose. The awareness of the mission makes me go ahead even when I am tired; it makes me forget that I am sad or sick. It makes me forget myself and think of others and feel more deeply the beauty of life, of everything that is good and worthwhile.

But the mission does not need to be Mission Impossible. It might be as simple (but not always easy) as doing what I always do: my work at school with the children, smiling at others, not losing patience, cleaning, cooking, making an extra effort or consoling someone. The Mission is to do the best I can do, at every moment. But the sense of mission becomes even stronger in difficult moments. It is then that I tell myself: I must go on. I can’t bury myself in my room with my tears or give up, because there is something important I have to do: my mission. I have to get up, overcome the obstacles, and keep on going.

There is a beautiful Cafh prayer which always reminds me of the mission to be fulfilled, the difficulties to overcome, how to go on, and it always makes me feel stronger. It goes like this: “From the beginning to the end there are obstacles, the seeker knows obstacles until the end. The obstacle knows him well. Rise up seeker, life is struggle after struggle! This is known even by the greatest angels.” Then I tell myself, if even the greatest beings have to overcome difficulties, why should it be different for me?

To fulfill my Mission, I must overcome the obstacles that arise. I am Mission Impossible, the hero, the unbelievable one when, in my small place and in my life, as little and simple as it may seem, I rise above my difficulties with a strength from within that says: “I will never be conquered; I will overcome. I will keep on trying until the day I die.”

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Guest
Everyone's life should have a focus because this gives you a direction or mission to fulfill. Great article.
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 6:06 PM
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Annual Retreat

I have been so waiting for the annual retreat. It becomes evident, almost palpable, how worn out I become; not worn out exteriorly, but interiorly. The everyday hustle, concerns, difficulties, exterior obligations, all weigh down on me. You might wonder where my spiritual life is then, all I can answer is that I am as human as everyone else. Yes, I practice silence, prayer, meditation among the many aspects of my life that are conducive to spiritual unfolding, however, the end of the year comes and I am craving our retreat.

The time came and went. I relished every minute of it as I relish the moment I eat a piece of chocolate. As with the chocolate though, it ended and I can’t help but feel a mix of nostalgia and mourning. The effects of this special time will have to last until the end of 2012, when we begin our next annual retreat. In the meantime, a variety of experiences will come my way, some predictable, others not, and the spiritual nourishment of the retreat will be my fountain of inner resources to draw from.

We finished our annual retreat. The spiritual renewal is powerful, precious, deep. It resonates within and oozes without in subtle vibration. I wish I could keep it forever, but I know it will fade away. Every day that passes will tear it, removing layer after layer. Will it reach others? Will it serve those in need? Even in my best effort I cannot say, all I can do is let it spread: give it away. This is simply renouncement, it seems futile, nonsensical, and yet it leads to such spiritual life…

 

 


 

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Linda
Intriguing about the retreat experience. I feel I need the same.
Saturday, 05 January 2013 2:02 PM
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