“I spend most time wondering if I should be somewhere else. Instead, I’m learning to shape the words “thank you” with my first breath each morning. My last breath each night. So when the very last breath comes, at least I will know I was grateful for all the places I was so sure I was not suppose to be. ”
– Sarah Kay, Poet, from The Paradox
We spend so much time in disappointment. We worry we’re missing out. We long for something better. Focused on how imperfect or incomplete our current situation is, we hunger for elsewhere.
And if not embodied in disappointment, we at least try our best to live in that place called “on our way.” We tell ourselves that the current situation is only temporary; we’re better than this and meant for something bigger. This current embodiment is only a stepping stone.
And, of course, any good psychologist, smart life coach, or savvy talk show host will tell us that, by doing this, we’re missing out on peace. Striving for that “perfect life,” we miss out on the solace of the present moment. It’s a good message to pay attention to.
But religion wants to push us a bit harder. It wants us to see how we are out of touch, not only with the present moment but also gratitude itself. The way back into real embodiment, it says, is not just through the skill of attention but also Sarah Kay’s skill of “shaping the words ‘thank you’ with our first and last breath.”
And not just the skill of ‘thank you,’ but the skill of listening as well. Every religion worth its salt will tell you that the reason to pay attention to the present moment is so that we can better hear what life and our hearts are trying to tell us! Embodied living is not simply about being grateful for the unnoticed gifts in front of us; it’s also about noticing that every moment and every context –- no matter how imperfect, messed up and incomplete – is trying to talk to us! The reason we are called to sink into and care for our bodies is not just to relieve stress; it’s so that our body’s voice no longer gets drowned out by all the other noise. The reason we are called to allow nature to embody us is not simply so that we can feel our interconnectedness; it’s so that we can allow that interconnectedness to tell us its wisdom. The reason to stop trying so hard to change our current circumstances is not simply to “be here now;” it’s so that our current circumstances will finally be able to get a word in edgewise about where it thinks we should go!
And if we do this friends – if we shape our ‘thank you’s’ and take listening seriously – then that elusive gift of embodiment will be ours: that sacred sense of being exactly where we are supposed to be!
May this month’s work help all of us stumble back to and better embody that wonderful space!
Excerpt from the UU Soul Matters Curriculum.