Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thursday's Reflection: Steadfast and Awake

During communion on Palm Sunday we sang this chant,
Stay with me. Remain here with me.
Watch and pray. Watch and pray.

These words commemorate when Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray. He asked his disciples, according to the 14th chapter of Mark, to "Sit here while I pray….remain here, and keep awake." Of course, they fell asleep, "for their eyes were very heavy." The disciples intended to fully support their teacher during his time of great need, but they were tired, too, and overwhelmed by the loss that was to come. 

I remember the night my mother died, 12 years ago this Easter, and how the night seemed to go on and on. She didn't seem in distress, but clearly, she was no longer fully with us. I wondered how long we would need to wait till death overcame her. The waiting was hard. I was tired from all the previous days, weeks, and yes, months of watching and waiting, and yet, it didn't seem enough to just be there at her bedside with my father and sister. It didn't seem enough to stay there with her, remain there with her, to watch and pray, watch and pray. And yet, that was what was asked of me, and what I knew I needed to do for her and for myself. 

That was one time I managed to stay awake, to be steadfast, but I wonder about other times I have missed--not just the moment of someone's death, but the more ordinary passages in our life.

When have I not been awake enough to hear what someone is trying to tell me?
When have I not been awake enough to listen patiently and with the ears of my heart?
When have I missed opportunities to be with someone who simply needed a presence?
When have I chosen to end something prematurely, instead of letting events unfold? 
When have I attempted to control and dictate my own timetable, instead of surrendering to the unknown?
When have I not been awake to my own needs and have not listened to my inner voice?

Here's what Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book The Art of Communicating.

          In daily life we're disconnected from ourselves. We
          walk, but we don't know that we're walking. We're 
          here, but we don't know that we're here. We're alive,
          we don't know that we're alive. Throughout the day, we
          lose ourselves. To stop and communicate with yourself 
          is a revolutionary act. You sit down and stop that state
          of being lost, of not being yourself. You begin by just
          stopping whatever you're doing, sitting down, and
          connecting with yourself. This is called mindfulness
          awareness. Mindfulness is full awareness of the present 
          moment. p. 15
          Mindfulness lets us listen to the pain, the sorrow, and
          the fear inside. When we see that some suffering or some
          pain is coming up, we don't try to run away from it. In 
          fact, we have to go back and take care of it. We're not
          afraid of being overwhelmed, because we know how to
          breathe and how to walk so as to generate energy of
          mindfulness to recognize and take care of the suffering.
          If you have enough mindfulness generated by the practice
          of mindful breathing and walking, you're no longer 
          afraid to be with yourself. p. 21

           When the energy of compassion is born, right away 
           we suffer less. When we suffer less, when we have
           compassion for ourselves, we can more easily 
           understand the suffering of another person and of
           the world. Then our communication with others will
           be based on the desire to understand rather than the
           desire to prove ourselves right or make ourselves
           feel better. We will have only the intention to help.
           p. 31.

What does the practice of mindfulness have to do with staying, remaining, watching and praying? It has everything to do with it, I think. Being mindful means being awake and when we are awake, we know what it is we are asked to do for ourselves and for others. We know how to be with one another and with our own suffering. 

Sometimes the chant -- Stay with me. Remain here with me. Watch and pray. Watch and pray. -- is a plea to us from someone we love or maybe know only somewhat. Or it may be a call from people whom we know not at all. Or the entreaty may come from within ourselves. How will you respond?

To listen to the Taize chant Stay with Me, follow this link 

An Invitation
When have you been invited to stay, remain, watch and pray? How have you responded? And when have you needed someone to stay, remain, watch and pray, and how was that need answered? I would love to know.


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