Present Moment Ponderings
by Martha Campbell
I awakened from sleep early this morning with a deep awareness: I am immersed in a world, a culture, a life situation in the throes of change. Claiming the anxiety I feel as my truth, I open to prayer. I acknowledge that, everywhere I turn, I see a dying process at work. Structures that I thought were immutable are changing, people I have loved and counted on have died, situations I claimed as secure are falling apart. Reading the morning paper as part of my prayer, I am greeted with more reports of war, political maneuvering and spinning the truth, church violations and betrayals, criminal behavior, corruption and malfeasance by money lenders, investment firms, and government regulators. I know first hand the effects of ethical violation as I witness the diminishment of my savings, my retirement account and a sense of emotional and financial security. I sit in this unrest and witness as well the financial challenges at Shalem and all non-profits. Instability. Everything is shifting and changing.
Immersed in reality, I come to see that the process of dying seems to define much of my living these days. While dying is an emptying process from which new life emerges, it takes a great deal of faith to claim this. As a Christian I believe that death leads to new life and change leads to transformation. My experience supports this over and over again. During the remaining time of my morning prayer, it is this possibility of new life that becomes my resting place in God. As I get ready for the day, my thoughts continue. The challenge I face personally is not simply psychological or economic but spiritual. I do not want to allow my anxiety and lack of trust to paralyze my present or influence my hope for the future. I choose to reclaim the hope that this period of economic distress and insecurity offers. In hope, I realize that there are other ways of being rich beyond the financial and material. I turn to God for help. Peace.
Arriving at work, I am aware of the personal suffering of several members of our staff. It is my practice that day to send blessing to everyone I meet. “The blessing and peace of God be with you.” Painfully aware of my own vulnerability and fragility, it’s so much easier for me to appreciate the vulnerability of others. The words of Lao-Tzu are on a card on my desk: “Stay in the center of the circle and let all things take their course.” God. Center. Stay there. Yes. I am reminded of Jesus’ words as I live out my day, “Remain in me and I in you.” I sense more peace welling up from within. I am in God in the midst of the day, in the change all around me. Joy.
At the end of the day, I read about a Hopi elder who gave this message at a Summer Solstice gathering: “There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves; banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
I am touched by the image of living in the river with everyone else. It speaks to a deepening awareness—the river has its destination. I am not alone on this journey. I am in God with you. I want to “push off into the middle of the river, keeping my eyes open and my head above water.” I want to follow the course of the river as it rushes to its destiny—the Ocean—and to let go of any fear. I want to find myself in a ship with everyone as we awaken to wholeness, knowingly or not. I want to live into Thomas Merton’s awareness of God’s message, “Why worry about shipwrecks if I am the ocean?” I want to learn to sail the ocean of God with you … or swim ship-less if we are so fortunate, to rest knowing deeply that God is all in all and that because of this, all’s right with the world. “So many ‘wants.’ So many desires,” I observe in critique. And I hear a whispered message from deep within, “I am at the root of your desires. I am your deepest desire.” I lean back into God, letting go of my cares, critiques and judgments. My heart is praying …
God of my journey, help me to let go of old ways of security.
Allow me to fall into your presence and find there my only security.
Help me to do all in a sacred way.
Give me joy in discovering that all I’ve been waiting for is here because you are here. You in me and I in you.
Help me to discover, with all my brothers and sisters, the peace that comes in acknowledging
that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. You in each one and in everything.
In this realization, may we embrace your gift to us, the gift of change as transformation as you form us anew in your image.
Together. No fear. Just you.
May it be so.
I rest in a new security, my heart filled with gratitude. Silence. Deep silence. Peace. Profound peace. Joy. Unrelenting joy. All is gift.
Martha, Director of Shalem’s Spiritual Guidance Program for the last five years, will be leaving the Shalem staff after completing work with the Class of 2010.