Father Richard Rohr, prolific writer and teacher, has a daily e-mail missive that is published by him and his organization, The Center for Action and Contemplation. One of my daily practices is to read something motivational in the morning and inspirational in the evening. Sometimes, actually many times, one reading can prove to be both. Father Rohr’s writings often fall into the dual category. Father Rohr is a Franciscan friar and much of his theology and philosophy stems from the writings and practices of Saint Francis. I have also been told his approach to religion can be somewhat controversial. He has a very inclusive approach to God and spirit; you wouldn’t think that would spark any controversy but it does. He doesn’t follow all the rules. His focus is on one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He speaks a lot about non-dualistic thinking and the non-dualistic mind. He encourages his readers and followers not to judge. He encourages simply observing, not labeling. I find his advice to be so very refreshing, also quite yogic, also very Zen.
One of his exercises in The Naked Now directs one to focus his or her attention on a single object and just to observe it. What purpose could that possibly serve you might ask? A dear friend of mine is part of my church study group and we are presently reading The Naked Now. She wasn’t too enamored with Father Rohr’s teachings but she is a good student and followed his suggestion. She found a chair on which to focus in a doctor’s waiting room. Her eyes settled on it and she shared that her first thought was, “That is the ugliest chair I have ever seen!” She’s quite a remarkable woman, a searcher, looking to increase her faith and grow to know God better. She shared how powerful that moment was for her. If she couldn’t even focus on a chair without judgement, how was she approaching the really important things and especially the people in her life? It’s a very challenging practice to learn to simply observe and not to judge. It may be even harder according to some studies to judge something in a positive light than a negative light.
This is one of the reasons I write in my daily journal three joys from the previous day and one joy to which I am looking forward for the present day. It forces me to concentrate throughout the day on those things that bring me joy so that I can remember them for the next morning. Today a Blue Heron swooped as I sat to begin my mediation and then a Pelican came along and finally before I closed my eyes one of the two Osprey that seem to be nesting close by soared above me. I just sat and absorbed the awe I felt as these amazing creatures flew by. If you assumed I am somewhere close to the sea at this time, you would be correct.
Now comes the part where I have to decide if I’m going to focus on that abandoned car and Christmas wreath or the fresh flowers and chocolates the owner put everywhere or the heated pool out back or the views from the windows out of the back of the house, the views that allowed me to sit quietly and watch the Blue Heron, the Pelican and the Osprey soar gloriously through the air and bring me one or maybe three of my joys to record for the next day. Dan O’Grady is right. That negative stuff stuck to me like Velcro. It took quite a few days to get it off of me and to come to the point where I could focus on the positive, on the joys that were available to us in this VRBO adventure. It’s good we have the power to choose. It’s good I’ve been practicing for quite a while. I chose to find the joy, the grace and the blessings of a husband and a family that wanted to celebrate this life of mine of which I’ve been so blessed to live.