Sunday, June 29, 2008

06/29/2008, Sermon (Think of a Sermon as a Dharma Talk)

We have to come to terms with our limitations, make our peace with them. I can’t drink as much wine as I want, or eat as much strawberry pie. Neither can you. Now, we can be overweight if we want to, but we can’t be overweight and avoid diabetes, and high cholesterol, and any number of other conditions and maladies that are going to interfere with our living and limit our life. We can’t live without facing the fact of our limitations. Or denying it. Dismissing it. Discounting it. Being delusional is another limitation that impinges upon our living.

Look. It’s like this. Living asks hard things of us. And not just of us, but of every living thing. If you think we have it bad, just try being a coral reef. Or a buzzard. If you haven’t looked lately, check it out. No one is standing in the line to trade lives with coral reefs and buzzards. If you would like to do so, you could just walk right up to the counter and plop your life down, and take up one of theirs. But, you better walk slowly, and think about it. I’m thinking that if you don’t like life as a human being, you’re going to hate it as a coral reef or a buzzard. Talk about limitations. Coral reefs hardly ever go anywhere, and buzzards eat the same old things every day all their lives long. But, don’t let me talk you out of it. If your heart is set on it, go for it. You may learn to love it, over time.

But, that’s the same task that is before you right now, with your life as a human being, learning to love it, over time. To do that, you have to take your limitations into account, come to terms with the terms under which your life is lived, make your peace with them, and choose to live anyway, nevertheless, even so—as well as you can given the nature and circumstances of your life. We live within the limits that restrict our living. That is where life is lived. If we are going to be alive anywhere, we have to be alive exactly there.

“Well, shoot,” you might say. “Why even try? Why go to all the trouble of living? We’re all just going to die.” You could take that tack. Death is quite the limitation. And, it’s a trick coming to terms with that one, making our peace with that one. Maybe we are all “just waiting to die,” but Bill Hamilton says it’s what we do in the meantime that counts. He’s on target with that one. That’s coming to terms with it. We have to live in the time left for living. And, time spent gloomed-up and bummed-out over death and dying isn’t time spent living.

Death is just another limitation that we have to live with, and around. It is one of the terms and conditions of life. Aging is another. How many are there? Past counting, that’s how many, and new ones are discovered every day. New terms and conditions. New limitations. If we are going to live, we are going to live on life’s terms. That means looking our limitations in the eye and living on, with them and around them, in spite of them, anyway, nevertheless, even so.

You have to be one tough cookie to do that, but we all come from the same batch of dough. Tough cookie dough. Look at all we have been through. Wooly Mammoths and Saber-Tooth Tigers and no toilet paper for thousands of years. It gives me the willies to think of it. Talk about limitations. But we did it. We have what it takes. We have the tough cookie gene within us. We have what it takes to pick ourselves up and do what needs to be done, with and around our limitations. It only takes doing it to know that we can. But, the longer we wait, the less time we have to work with.

We’re burning daylight here. We don’t have any time to waste. Life is for living. How are we going to make the most of the time that is ours? What are we going to do with the time left for living? Part of the problem with answering the question is that we don’t know how much time we have left for living. We like to think we have enough time. So that there is no rush, no hurry, no reason to sort things out and pare things down, and, actually, think about it. Just take the path of least resistance, go with whatever comes up, with whatever someone else suggests that we do, because there is plenty of time to work it all in.

Another part of the problem is that there is so much we have to do that we don’t any time to think about what to do with it. Our days are so crammed with duties, and obligations, and responsibilities that we don’t want one more added to the pile, the one that says we have to decide what we want to do with the little time that is ours. We just want everyone to be happy and to leave us alone!

Past all our excuses and objections, comes the question: What are we going to do with the time left for living? That’s the only time we have in which to be alive. I don’t care how much time you think you have, or how long you think you can put off being alive, or how structured and junked-up your life is. If you are going to live, you are going to have to live in the time left for living. How will you spend that time in the service of life? What have you not done, that you want to do, before you die? What have you not done enough of? What do you want to do more of? How soon can you begin working that into your life? What are you waiting for?

We can live all our lives without actually being alive. Being alive requires conscious intention. It does not happen accidentally. We may brush up against life accidentally, but we do not incorporate life into our lives without meaning to do so, without living so as to be alive, without taking up the practice of life.

You’ve heard of spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines? Well, the practice is being alive. We have to practice being alive. We have to engage in the practice of being alive. It is easy to be dead. It is hard to be alive. Dying is easy. Living is hard. Our practice is life, living, being alive. We have to live so that our hearts are in what we do. It’s called being alive.

Our life is where our heart is. When our heart isn’t in what we are doing, we are thinking about something else, or, not thinking at all, just going through the motions, just doing what we are told, just following orders, just reading from the script, memorizing our lines, stepping in the black footprints all the way to the grave. This is not living. This is being dead before we die.

The trick is to live before we die. To find the things that we can do with all our hearts and do those things. But this is not easy, and it takes the right kind of community to enable us to live with our hearts in what we are doing. That’s because heart is the easiest thing to lose. Dying is easy, remember. Living is hard. The culture exists to separate us from our heart. The right kind of community is necessary to re-connect us and to help us maintain the connection. The culture separates us from our heart by asking us to defend, justify, explain and excuse doing the things our heart is in. “What good does that do?” the culture asks. “Why are you doing that?” “How much money are you making doing that?” It all comes down to money in the culture. Money and convention. If it isn’t conventional, expected, normal, and routine, we shouldn’t do it, no matter how much heart is in it. The right kind of community is necessary to off-set the influence of the culture of the dead and dying.

Two watch words for life are authenticity and integrity, that is, living in ways that are integral with what is deepest, best, and truest about us—with our heart—so that inner and outer are one. That’s how we live in the time left for living. Life is for living. Living is experiencing life. Touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing, breathing, dancing, singing, loving life. How long has it been since you had any of those things in your life? What are you waiting for?

Permission? An invitation? Money? How much money does it take, do you think, to touch, taste, smell, hear, see, breathe, dance, sing, love life? How much money do you need in order to put yourself in the presence of life? To be present in the moment of your living?

Life, living, being alive is a spirit, an attitude, an orientation, a perspective, a point of view, a frame of mind. You shift into life. From death to life. Like that. See? And, whatever we do with the time left for living—even if we do the same things we have always done—in the spirit, and attitude, of life, living, and being alive is IT.

We are alive to the extent that we have a spirit of life about us, an attitude of openness to life, an orientation of being present with life. Do the same old things with a new way of seeing and you transform the world. You certainly transform YOUR world! And, you may even work in some things you have never done, or never done enough of, and that would really transform your world!

So, here’s to you and the rest of your life! May you open yourself to and be present in the time left for living! May you touch, and taste, and smell, and hear, and see, and breathe, and dance, and sing, and love life! May you be aware of the time, and do more of what you like, and less of what you don’t like, and understand that you don’t have to get everything done before you do what you love to do! Amen! May it be so! 

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