Time, God and the Cold
We’ve nearly run through January and part of me has barely woken up on New Year’s morning. In my day-to-day experience, time seems to proceed at the same pace it always has, but every now and then I am startled by the calendar – how quickly the days and months are passing. Or I am amazed by the rising sun’s rapid journey north – already its jumped from one rooftop to the next one up the street – heading toward the long days of summer solstice here in the middle of winter.
Then there are moments of the opposite – sitting in the meditation hall with a mind that is bleary and unfocused, an eternity passes before the timer strikes the bell for us to stand up. A slow evening spent reading blog posts about whether American Buddhism is real Buddhism or if we are simply saying we are Buddhist. My mind caught in this internal sectarian debate, then waking up this morning and wondering what that all has to do with opening to the truth of our lives – opening to God.
I have a dear friend who strenuously objects to my use of the word ‘God.’ To him, it feels exclusionary and reminds him of being forced to sing hymns in chapel at prep school. He says: ‘You don’t believe in a God with a white beard sitting up on a throne do you?’ I reassure him that when I say God, I am referring to the great mystery, the Tao that cannot be named.
But secretly, sometimes I do talk to God. I know it’s not ‘correct’ and that God is not a plain fellow like me, or a souped-up version of me. But when times get tight, I offer up a prayer, a call for help in a very personal way. My usual prayer is ‘You got me into this mess, now you better figure out how to get me out of it.’ I often say this to myself when I am headed out of the house to present to a group – to preach or lead a workshop or read from my book. I’ve worked with so many groups and I have some confidence in my capacity to make something interesting happen, But almost every time, I am viscerally reminded that I don’t know how to do what I do.
I do my planning and figuring. But the connection in the moment that I seek happens on its own. It’s not about my notes and plans, but rather something that arises in the moment. I have come to trust this arising more and more, but I still don’t understand it. I am certain that it is more than me, that I am tapping into some source that is not domesticatable. Certain things I experience, say and do can help, but I cannot create this connection of myself – it is simply what arises when we stop doing some of the things that get in the way.
But it’s cold this morning. The thermometer outside the kitchen window says minus nine, but it’s usually a bit over-dramatic. It’s probably only minus two or three. My friend in Minnesota says they were predicting minus seventeen there this morning. I guess it’s not so cold here after all.