Generally, I look forward to reading the Opinion page of the GD Times.
It’s always interesting to see what folks think, especially when it comes to those two subjects we’ve all been warned to steer clear of in our often vain attempt to keep conversation civil: religion and politics.
More often than not when I read the page, there is a letter with some sort of complaint about something that is somehow wrong somewhere with someone. In fact, it seems that a large percentage of any conversation takes that tack, and I confess that I am as guilty as anyone (not just with religion and politics; please, don’t get me going on the lack of courtesy on our roadways).
So following the prescription of the Gospel’s own doctor, Luke, who described Jesus quoting the ancient proverb “physician heal thyself” I will share what’s worked for me.
I actually learned this little remedy from my favorite contemporary teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, in his wonderful work on mindfulness titled “Peace Is Every Step.” It’s a simple meditation called “What’s Not Wrong.”
To do this meditation you simply stop, take a breath and think about “what’s not wrong.”
When you think about it, there is a lot that’s “not wrong” in our lives. Most of us wake up each morning warm and dry in our own cozy bed (something I’ve been thankful for during this past week of rain and drizzle). When we’re hungry, most of us can simply walk downstairs and open the fridge for food.
Even the simple act of breathing goes unnoticed until we come down with a cold or suffer an asthma attack. Most days we just assume the breath will come, our lungs will fill, and our hearts will continue to beat just the way they have since we took our first breath.
And how about our cars? Isn’t it amazing that they sit out in the rain all night long and yet start right up with the turn of a key – most of the time. Of course, it is very upsetting when the car won’t start or a tire goes flat, but how often do we pause to appreciate the countless times the battery cranks over and the tires survive yet another thrashing on our pothole riddled roads.
Thay even suggests in his book that we pause to give thanks when we are driving and come to a red light; it is a moment when we can stop and do nothing except breathe. This simple practice has totally transformed my anger at that darn car in front of me that didn’t speed up to make it through the yellow light – not only a good thing for my peace of mind but also my own disposition as a courteous driver!
All of the great religious traditions teach that genuine worship begins with gratitude and that we approach God in the spirit of thanksgiving. I have found that this simple meditation, easy to practice in small things, can help keep us centered when bigger more difficult things happen.
Peace be with you.
The Rev. Michael J. Duda is a Rockport resident and pastor of the First Church in Wenham. Visit http://www.firstchurchwenham.org/