Commitment as a spiritual exercise; day 22 of Ramadan

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When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” – Howard Schultz
Earlier today I was hanging out with my bro Mark and we spent a good deal of time being and talking amongst ourselves. One of the things we discussed at length is the nature of commitment and how it seems that sometimes in our culture we sometimes have a reluctance to remain committed to a person, an organization, a place we worship in, and so on.
Commitment to someone or something is a good thing, it causes us to remain faithful and keeps us in check for the long haul. Because it is very easy to stick with something or someone in the good times, but what about the difficult and trying parts of life? Are we going to leave simply because we or it or they are going through a rough season of life? Would we want that to happen to US if we were in their shoes? Probably not and that’s why I think it is so vital to stick to something through all seasons of life- ours as well as theirs!

Now I realize that we all live self-defined busy lives and obviously we cannot commit to all things, which is why I propose we take the time to examine what’s on our plate of things we do and start clearing it; while it might all be good, it’s prudent to find the great and commit to that.

Why some and not all you might ask, very simply; time management and personal health. We are not defined by our jobs, our labels, our doings as well as our beings. And subsequently the multitude of things we might undertake feed into a false sense of who we are. Plus everyone who lives is given 168 hours of life per week, and if we’re fully committed to a LOT of things where’s the time we can call our own?

We should want to give of our time and our lives to others and causes we align ourselves with, but we also need to find space within all that to recharge our batteries lest we fall prey to compassion fatigue.
I work a job in the behavioral health field and I see compassion fatigue all around me, and if I am honest with myself I am in the throes of it myself, but I have learned (and relearned) over the years to detach myself from it all when I am not there.

Otherwise I am prone to think that my coworkers aren’t able to do as good of a job as I can and that shit will hit the proverbial fan in my absence. This is unhealthy to my coworkers and residents alike, and it fuels my ego in the most perverse of ways. So when I am not at work, I am not at work period! Life will go on without me, and all I can do is hope that all is well and if it’s not it will be rectified by those who are working when I am not.

So examine your life, your plate, and start the process of clearing it. Figure out what are the good things in your life and weed them out and commit to those great things instead! It might be frustrating to get to the place of identifying and pursuing the great things in life, but trust me it is well worth it to get to that place in life.
So with all that being said, commitment is my keyword on this 22nd day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God, The Committed One, who is faithful and loving and compassionate to all of mankind. May we take time to figure out what’s worth committing to in our lives, to our personal benefit as well as to the benefit of others.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Living life as a spiritual exercise; day 18 of Ramadan

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” – William Wallace (Braveheart)
How terribly sad it was that people are made in such a way that they get used to something as extraordinary as living.” – Jostein Gaarder

Yesterday was my 31st birthday, the start of my 31st year of life, and so I decided that I would go to Lake Geneva Wisconsin. Lake Geneva Wisconsin is a place I have been going to nearly my entire life, and even on my mother’s side of the family they’ve been going there for a long time.From where I live to where Lake Geneva is is about 70 miles. So I loaded up some stuff (no food mind you!) and I headed there for a day of swimming, relaxing, having fun, and being at Lake Geneva…


I knew I wouldn’t be the only there; gorgeous weather paired with Independence Day falling on the weekend, yeah it was quite crowded. But still I was able to find a spot for my stuff, and once I we as settled I jumped into the water.
Now the thing about bodies of water and I is this- I will not tiptoe, go slow, gradually get in…but I will run full force head on into the water. And so, I did! It was cold but not unbearably so, and once my body grew acclimated to it I had a fun just floating and swimming around, being tossed about by the little waves.

As I floated in the serenity of it all I found myself offering up thank-you’s to God; thank you for another year of life, thank you for the capacity to work and do what I love, thank you for the opportunity to go swimming, thank you for the ability to swim, thank you for warm summer days, thank you for little glimpses of heaven found in nature, thank you…and so on, and had I not been swimming I could’ve been sleeping as the ebb and flow was calming to me, calming all the way to the center of my being.

After several hours of swimming, I dried off and made my way to town. Not a shopper, but as a reprieve to my feet for the time spent swimming as well as the time spent driving back to my apartment. Another facet to why I like Lake Geneva Wisconsin so much is there’s a good deal of design architectually-speaking as well as manicured gardens. My apartment isn’t anything fancy, so to see good examples of architecture and gardens whets my appetite for when I am to have some resemblance of the “American Dream”.



It, as my coworker is quick to prompt students and staff, was a great day to be alive! I recognize within my being that sometimes I let the world go by me as if I was stuck on autopilot, stuck in cruise control, and if I am not mindful of time passing I will be passed up by time.
I don’t want to live that kind of life, and so I need to fight against the current that tries to drag me back to a place of complacency, a place that says ‘why fight it? Just do nothing and you’ll won’t have so many hardships.’ But it’s not true, to me doing nothing means not living, not living means merely existing, merely existing means I will never enjoy life to the fullest because the time I am allotted to has become a countdown timer until I have shuffled off my mortal coil. I want to live life, not merely exist!

So with all that being said, living life were my keywords on the 18th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God who the giver and sustainer of all life. May we be mindful of the time given to us because none of us really know how long we’re going to be alive. And may we be alive than simply exist, may we give in to rejoicing than rambling, may we share the life we’ve been given with others.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Being present as a spiritual exercise; day 16 of Ramadan

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“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

All too often in my life I am constantly on the go without truly being aware of what I am doing in the now, and a good deal of the time I am able to dial back into myself and be present, this act is known as mindfulness.

I first learned about mindfulness as I helped assist in a Dialectical Behavior Therapy with some of my former residents. We discussed as a group the power of presence, and to a certain extent being aware of the here and now all while being present. So for instance, I am in my kitchen in my apartment typing up this post. I am slightly chilled because I went swimming earlier and my central air has done its job at keeping my house cool for the summer. I am smiling because I’ve had a good day spent mostly outdoors enjoying the Independence Day parade in my hometown…and so on. This act, which I do think of being a spiritual exercise, helps me keeps things in perspective, and so I practice mindfulness frequently and add it to my style[s] of praying as well.

Being present has helped me become more intuitive, that after a period of go go go, I am able to start filtering out what’s been said and what has really been said. Because, and not all the times mind you, this is actually about that; the reason someone became upset and stormed may have been this thing, but perhaps what led up to that one thing setting them off was finding out their mother wasn’t doing well, that they have a quarterly review coming up, etc. And so we get a part of the story but not all of it, and those individuals need grace just like we all do.

So with all that being said, mindfulness was my keyword on the 16th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God who is ever present in all our lives! May we learn to take things at a slower pace so that we might become more in tune with ourselves and with each other and what the will of God looks like in our lives.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

P.S. 5 Steps for Being Present

Being present to suffering as a spiritual exercise; day 10 of Ramadan

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Earlier this week I got a text from one of my best friends and he hit me with some hard news; his mother, whose health has already been up and down, had unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse and as a result she was in the hospital. He filled me in on the details and he and I worked out a time for me to visit her in the hospital.
To be honest, I don’t like visiting hospitals because my associations with hospitals have more to do with hurting than healing. I have spent a good deal of time going to and from hospitals and every time I go I have a sense of foreboding. Yet my bro is my bro, I love him and out of love and not moral obligation I went to visit his mom in the hospital with him and his wife.

When we got to her room she happened to be up and happy to see those she knew. Her oxygen machine was running pretty strong, and unfortunately it was causing her throat to ache and it felt internally scratchy to her. We all talked with her and she with us, and it was encouraging to see her so upbeat and talkative despite her suffering a bit more than usual.
One thing I noticed while spending time with my bro and his wife and his mom (and even me) is that we were all present, we were all there, and were all mindful of the pink elephant called suffering that was in the room.

It’s rather commonplace to ignore the suffering of others and to a certain extent our own. We’re constantly bombarded with commercialism that tries to take us from “here” to “there”, and usually the “there” is a place without suffering, without hardships, without need to be present to anything that might cause us distress.
And yet the common denominator across all of humanity unto all people is that we all suffer; granted suffering isn’t a one size fits all, sometimes it’s want of love and sometimes it’s for food for our tables and those of our loved ones. Still it is inevitable to suffer and sometimes when we’re faced with it we want nothing to do with it, or we want to face it alone, and yet there are times we want to be in the presence of our loved ones who will help us through the suffering.

That’s why I consider being present with suffering to be a spiritual exercise; it doesn’t take us away from the suffering to a “there” that’s better, but puts us in the thick of it, the here and now of what’s going on. When we do this we’re given a chance to do something, and sometimes that action of doing brings us to a place of being more in touch with our humanity.

Plus if we’re able to be present with our pain in the presence of others, the weight of it all can be carried. I know for a fact that my bro and his wife and his mom and I carried that weight together in community because we love each other and want what’s best for each other, and in this instance it was so that my friend’s mom didn’t have to suffer alone.

If you’re able to find true community you will find people who will stand with you in the good times and sit with you when you suffer, and if you’re able to be a recipient of that you also can also reciprocate that with others.
I know that in my life it has taken a long time to find such a community, but I love it and I do what I can to be a part of it as much as I can! I am grateful and thankful to God to be a part of a tribe to call my own, and I will be a part of it for as long as I am in the area.

So with all that being said, being present to suffering were my keywords on this 10th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for being ever present in our suffering. You who don’t watch idly by as we hurt, but cry and weep and comfort and love us. May we in return be your hands and feet and eyes and ears to those who hurt as well.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael