Wednesday, April 10, 2024


    Yesterday, during what for me was a pressure-cooker, stressful situation, I experienced a mysterious, wonderful surprise. For mothers, especially grandmothers, this would have been 'no sweat,' but at least some men would empathize with my predicament. I was left to look after my 3 grandchildren: a 19-month old wanting a snack in her high-chair; a 4-year old who wanted to watch 'Paw Patrol' on his iPad (for which I had forgotten the password), BUT who needed an impressive poop in his pants cleaned up; AND I had to walk both of them in a stroller to pick up a 9-year old on a play-date near-by - all within 30 minutes. My initial panic melted into a miraculous 'namaste' connection & wondrous collaboration with the two little ones, resulting in both of them being cared for lovingly, smoothly, effortlessly.
joyful connection we shared was a peak spiritual experience for me, and it happened not during a silent meditation retreat, but during what started out as a 'real shit-show.' This direct experience was transformational, affirming the truth of many mystics' sayings, perhaps the most relevant one being, 'Only have no preferences.

    We automatically judge everyone (ourselves included) & everything as good or bad. But what if everyone & everything is exactly what we need not just to accept, but something FAR MORE RADICAL, to love & nurture like our beloved grandchildren? Our entire life could be miraculously transformed. It takes a while to de-armor & liberate our heart-mind, BUT THAT is ENTIRELY the meaning of our life!

    Below, David Steindl-Rast, a wise 97-year-young Catholic monk and Zen master, has spent a lifetime skillfully putting experiences like mine above into words: 

    “Whenever Mystery or the Great Mystery is mentioned ... remember that this does not refer to something vague or mystifying, but to something we encounter at every turn, with a minimum of mindfulness. Mystery is a power that affects us and everything there is, yet we cannot grasp it intellectually. We can, however, understand it to the extent to which we interact with it from our heart.

    In everyday speech, we tend to use the words ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ interchangeably. Such careless speaking can lead us to muddled thinking and, in turn, to unfocused doing. Therefore, a more precise use of the terms is important for our orientation.
    Purpose relates to work; meaning, to play. We work in order to achieve a purpose, but playing is meaningful, without aiming at any purpose beyond itself. As soon as work achieves its purpose, it comes to an end; to continue would be meaningless. But play can go on and on; it is meaningful in itself.
    To achieve a well-balanced life, we need to balance purpose and meaning. But we will not reach this goal by jumping back and forth from working to playing. We need to integrate the two – to do our work, whatever it may be, with a playful attitude. Any work that you can perform with full presence and with the intention of serving others will be meaningful and, in this sense, playful and worth doing for its own sake. If, considering all this, we ask for the meaning of life, we find a highly surprising answer: a meaningful life must be a playful life. Hinduism speaks of lilathe Great Mystery playing in us and through us. We have called it the Great Dance.

    Lila is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘play.’ In Hinduism, ‘lila’ refers to the idea that we can ultimately recognize, in all that happens, the Great Mystery at play – the Great Sacred Dance of the universe. Not only for Hindus but for all of us, this image is worth pondering. The meaning of our life, we may discover, is learning to stay in step with the cosmic dance.

    T.S. Eliot speaks of the Now as ‘the still point of the turning world.’ That Now is the moment when the dancer is ‘still and still moving,’ perfectly in step with the cosmic rhythm.

    What ‘this whole show is all about’ – the central Mystery of the Great Dance – is Love.”
David Steindl-Rast. “You Are Here. Keywords for Life Explorers.” Orbis, 2023. A Meaningful Book!

    A wonderful overview of the above pivotal topic can be found in Chapter 1, "Spirituality as Common Sense" p21-30 in: David Steindl-Rast. “Common Sense Spirituality. The Essential Wisdom of David Steindl-Rast.” Crossroad, 2008.

David Wall via Getty Images

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