Beauty seen makes the one who sees it more beautiful.
-Br. David Steindl-Rast

Reading for today's meditation:

“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”-Buddha

Talk given at The Unitarian Church, Great Barrington
Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012

My first born, Dan, got married several weeks ago.
As I sat in the church watching Dan and Jen preparing to state their vows all sorts of emotions and memories bubbled up: the day he was born and when I first held him and looked into his eyes-his first day of school-graduation from High school-that day he left for college.
Then I thought of my folks-both gone now, but once very connected to Dan. I knew they’d be happy. In the midst of this joyful moment was a bittersweetness- a sense of the years and the people gone-by.

Like so many families today, ours is scattered around the country. The last time we’d gathered a funeral had brought us together. It was good to be celebrating the start of something rather than an ending.
And in our coming together to celebrate we were “re-membering” both in where we have been, but also in “who” we are in relation to one another

Each Persons’ life consists of moments –just seconds really: one stacked on top of another. If we pulled out one of these seconds at random it would probably appear insignificant, it might not look like anything at all is happening.

Unless of course it happens to be a major moment. Sometimes you recognize these yourself and at other times someone else is witnessing it for you:
The first breath taken, those first steps and words, that first kiss, the “I do” moment. The last breath exhaled.

Too often we miss MAJOR (or MAGIC) moments, at least in the time they are happening.
Much of life it’s like we’re racing down the highway, focusing on the road ahead. And then we catch a glimpse in the rearview mirror, and have an “OH!” moment. But it’s gone, and it’s on to the next thing.

That’s why it is
so good to remember-especially when you can remember together with others. This is re-membering in both memory and being. We “join with”-return to that of which we are “a part” but have been apart from.

But why wait for a wedding or a funeral or a graduation or a “major” moment? Life is a series of moments, each significant - each connected to “where” we have come
from and leading us on, to where we’re going. Each moment is a bridge, and if we allow ourselves to notice, we’ll see we’re always on this bridge even if our attention is elsewhere.

There’s a story of a young boy who sees a farmer building a stone fence and he stops to watch. He sees that the farmer is using mostly smaller stones with a few large ones every so often and that it is taking a l-o-n-g time to do a small section. So he walks over and asks the man, “Wouldn’t it go faster if you used only the big rocks?” The farmer smiled and said to the boy, “If I used only the bigger ones the fence wouldn’t be very stable-you see, it takes all the small stones to hold the few big ones in place”.

Life’s the same way: The big moments are held by all the small ones-and each is precious and vital and important to the bigger picture.

What might life be like if we allowed our self the chance to see the moment as it happens? To be present in that moment!

Well, that’s not an easy thing- it takes a whole lot of discipline and practice, and even with this, you will probably miss more than you see. But here’s the thing: If you make the effort, and try this whenever you “remember” to do it, you will find your life changes.

You will see the preciousness in the simplest of things.
And when this does happen-
and it will if you allow it-you will realize it is well worth the effort.

OK – I’m sure someone is thinking, “what about the really bad moments-the pain and suffering and loss?”

No life is free from pain or suffering.
We do our best to avoid what hurts.
But here’s the thing: many times, as we try to avoid the painful feelings and emotions and experiences, we develop destructive habits and patterns of behaviors.
Then, if we’re fortunate-either because things get so painful, or they fall apart-we get into treatment or therapy, or whatever, and we find ourselves having to go back to experience whatever the pain or the injury was that we’d tried so hard to avoid in order to heal it and let it go.

There is a saying: the only way “to” is through.
There is no way “around”.
I have learned this from the many people I have served as they approached death.

While it is not something we like to acknowledge, it is never-the-less true: without light there can be no shadow. We would not appreciate the sunshine without the rain…
Those sublime moments of life can only occur because we experience the other moments. If we refuse this, life leaves us and we merely exist.

I know this state of living because I once was there, trying to keep everything "safe" and protected.

Thomas Merton wrote:
The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt”

The great benefit in paying attention is that you get to choose how to respond. You “catch” yourself in those negative moments, those judgmental moments, and those moments when you so often have reacted in ways you don’t particularly feel good about after the fact.
And in this seeing of “the moment” you become aware and conscious, and that allows a choice! You can do it differently this time.
And that can change everything!
Life deepens and takes on meaning in ways we might not have imagined when we remember to see in these tiny, insignificant moments that a Greater Story is unfolding!

Let me take a moment to briefly address the issue of those who can no longer remember. Before I began my work with the dying, my mother was diagnosed with dementia. As she descended deeper into this forgetting, finally at a place where my name was no longer known and there were no shared memories or things we could talk about, she taught me a very valuable lesson that has helped me immeasurably in the work I do today.

She taught me that in that place with no memories and none of the things that had “anchored” her personality, we could still be in relationship. She taught me how to be present in that moment alone; that to hold her hand and simply sit, wordless, could be an incredibly rich place. I learned that there, in that scary place where she no longer “knew” who she was, there was a part of her that did. And it came through as we held hands. In the years since she taught me this I have experienced similar things with many others.

Re-membering is about much more than memory.

So, the first step is noticing the moment BUT the second step is equally important: let go.
Trying to grasp or hang onto things causes suffering-because they cannot be held on to. Everything (including ourselves) in this world and in this life is passing. When we recognize this, I mean deeply recognize this (which is rare but possible the more we practice), the more sublime the moments become and the richer our life is.

All it takes is practice…all it takes is “Remembering”.
This will be the work of an entire lifetime. And well worth the effort. After all, you’re here anyway so why not experience it ALL?
Thank you.


I am not I.
I am this one walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and who at other times I forget;
Who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.
-Juan Ramon Jimenez (translated by Robert Blye)
*(From the book "Prayers for Healing"
Conari Press)

May the blessings of all that is good and true and Holy surround you and guide you
May your eyes and your ears, your heart and your mind always remain open
May your presence be a blessing to All those you meet-both this day and always.