Blink Blink

You know, it just doesn’t seem like it should be a new year. Again. Didn’t we just have one of those last week? I swear, with every passing year the time seems to scream by with increasing speed. Remember when we were kids and an afternoon seemed to last an eternity? Nowadays, it is gone in the blink of an eye.

And isn’t that just scary as hell? Because, if you think about it, we blink our eyes a lot. A lot. Blink – another week past. Blink – another starry night sky ignored. Blink – another opportunity to build a snow fort with your kids lost. Blink – another chance to say “I love you” gone. Blink … blink … blink. We don’t get it back. Ever.

Think about this. There are 8,760 hours in one year. If you work 40 hours per week, sleep 8 hours per day, commute 1 hour each way to work, spend 3.5 hours preparing and eating meals each day, and an average of 27 hours per week on laundry, grocery shopping (and storing), cleaning, showering/dressing and other assorted tasks you do regularly, that leaves you only 559 hours free every year. That breaks down to about an hour and a half each day to do with as you please. And that’s only the average things that most of us do; it doesn’t count the other tasks that find their way into our schedules. Blink, blink, blink.

Gurdjieff taught that most people are basically asleep at the wheel, so to speak. They don’t notice what is going on around them because they are lulled by the regular rhythm of everyday mindless tasks, and the stupor of living up (or down) to others’ expectations. We all know the sensation of driving along, suddenly becoming aware of the fact that we have no recollection of the last 10 miles of road. Where were we?

On the other hand, we also know the excitement of anticipation when we are engaged in or about to begin some task or activity that is truly meaningful or enjoyable to us. That’s when we’re really awake.

The question is this: would we rather sleep our time away? or would we rather be awake, alive and excited about the next moment?

Granted, there are some things that can’t be escaped. We must eat. We must sleep. We must clean and care for ourselves and our surroundings. But how much of our time is spent satisfying the expectations of others? And how does it compare to that spent doing what is most meaningful and fulfilling to us as individuals?

We all have a limited amount of time in this life to do what we came here to do. Those hours we waste will not be regained, nor will some opportunities reappear if we pass them by. If we sincerely wish to gain spiritual development and growth, we must recognize what it is we should be doing with our time, and spend that precious resource wisely.

Drema Deòraich (from January 2005)

Prayer

Years ago, I visited a Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Woodstock, New York. It was my first visit to a Buddhist temple, and it was glorious — the designs and decoration on the temple itself, the many essentials in its construction (it must face a specific direction; it must have an unobstructed view; there must be running water nearby; etc.), the massive golden Buddha at the far end of the worship space, the multiple full offering bowls across the altars, the hangings, every detail was memorable. But through it all, there was one bit that stood out. My husband and I were among a small group of visitors being guided around the site by a friendly, somewhat distant Buddhist nun. Among the visitors was a Buddhist monk from another temple in another city. I don’t remember his name; I do remember that he was dressed in the saffron and burgundy robes I have always associated with that faith’s clergy. I also remember that he held a string of beads, running them smoothly through his fingers throughout the entire tour. He never spoke, nor asked any question, but simply listened to the nun with a peaceful half-smile on his face the entire time. Finally, at the end of the tour, our guide asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand, and when she called on me, I turned and addressed my question to the quiet monk: “Do you use those beads to pray?”

“Yes,” he smiled, fingering another bead.

“Are you praying now?” I asked.

“I am always praying,” he responded, moving to the next bead without hesitation.

“Even when you sleep?” I queried, astounded.

“Even when I sleep.” Next bead. He must have heard this question before.

As a child, I knew prayer was an important part of my relationship with God. But as an adult, when I converted to Wicca, I began to question that perception. If the Gods are greater than I, surely they knew my thoughts, even before I did, I reasoned. And I stopped praying.

Years later, I found myself in the midst of a period of doubt and longing in my faith. (What serious seeker has not experienced such a time, at least once?) In my frustration, I found myself spontaneously talking to the Divine as if She were a close friend and not a parental figure.

“Look,” I began. “I’m really stuck here, and I could use your help. Where the hell have you been?” And it was as if She was truly there. I felt some of the answers I sought coming, slowly but definitely; and I knew that the rest would follow when it was time. That moment of unplanned prayer brought me a great sense of peace, one I desperately needed at the time. Thinking back on that moment, I was reminded of the poem about the seeker who asked God to speak to her, and a lark began to sing, but she did not hear; she complained that she could not see God in her daily life, and a flower opened at her feet, but she turned away; she cried because she could not feel God’s presence, and a soft breeze caressed her cheek, but went unnoticed.

To this day, I still talk to the Divine in everyday conversational tones as if She is an old friend. I figure She knows me best, so why put on airs? She doesn’t always answer in ways I expect, nor in ways I want. And even silence, or a lack of obvious response is a reply, is it not? Some things we have to learn on our own; the lessons cannot be handed to us any more than we can ride a bicycle simply by watching someone else do it. And for some life circumstances, the only way out is through. In those times, I speak to God as if I am speaking to myself, working out my problems aloud to an “empty” room or van, and knowing She hears. It always helps.

Talking to God, whether aloud or silently, is indeed one way to feel a closer connection to that divine energy. But it is my firm belief that this is only one form of prayer. My mother always taught me that our actions speak louder than our words. With that in mind, I try to live my life as if it were a prayer. After all, what better form of gratitude can we possibly show the Divine than to walk our talk and demonstrate our growth? There seems to me no better way to inspire ourselves to continue along what can be a difficult path than to see for ourselves that we can be taught and, in seeing this, realize that the difficult times have meaning and purpose.

— Drema Deòraich (from April 2008)