“The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.”
~Margaret Storm Jameson,
“Word of the Day” in Facebook by The Network of Grateful Living, 9-18-18
Yesterday, my friend Vince and I went on a short hike at the Shafer Butte Trail just outside Boise. We took a right at a fork which took us on a walk we hadn’t planned. The journey was better for not having been what was planned. We weren’t “lost”, but we weren’t where we thought we were. The view along the way was stunningly beautiful.
I don’t know what was on the path we were supposed to take.
Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide To Getting Lost says that getting lost is pretty much a state of mind. “The question”, she says, “then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery” (p. 14).
I love Solnit when she says, “Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go” (p. 4). Sometimes that door opens when we miss a turn, sometimes when we push it open, looking to stretch ourselves and to experience something that will penetrate mystery or expand our awareness, and sometimes even when we realize the door resides in our mundane, daily tasks of getting through life.
This morning I finished reading liturgy of the ordinary: sacred practices in everyday life (sic), by Tish Harrison Warren. She takes her readers through a day – waking, making the bed, brushing teeth, losing keys, sitting in traffic, and so on – and demonstrates how those moments, which most of us just try to get through so we get to the best part of life, have within them the same potential for opening doors and windows as getting lost or taking wrong turns have. She comes at this from the Christian perspective her vocation as an Anglican priest grounds her in, but in many ways this is not much different than the daily “gathas” (short verses which can be said during the day) that someone like a Thich Nhat Hanh offers in Present Moment, Wonderful Moment as one goes about washing one’s hands, getting dressed, using the toilet, or taking the first step of the day.
This “quotidian-ness”, this just-being-fully-in-the day, this daily and continuing practice of honoring and experiencing the present moment during both the ordinary tasks and during unexpected paths which open before us, is what makes my life – when I can manage to do this well – so much richer. I don’t worry too much these days about getting through the day or the week or the month in order to get to some big trip or something special, because – for the most part, I have a long ways to go – each day seems just about as good as it gets.
Experiencing the quotidian-ness – that is, the fullest, special-est, most extraordinary-est, the meaningful-est-ness – of each day – is what I’m shooting for.
As Thich Nhat Hahn says in his first gatha:
“Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
~Present Moment, Wonderful Moment, p. 3
Nhất, H. n. (1990). Present moment, wonderful moment: mindfulness verses for daily living. Berkeley, Calif., Parallax Press.
Solnit, R. (2005). A field guide to getting lost. New York, Viking.
Harrison Warren, T. (2016). Liturgy of the ordinary : sacred practices in everyday life. Downers Grove, Illinois, IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press.