In last night’s gathering of the Contemplative Community, the discussion turned to the “shit happens” of life. In the wake of the Haitian earthquake we are once again forced to face the reality of the human condition. While we are tempted to ask the questions “Why?” “How?” or as some might ask, “Is this God’s punishment for our sins?” In the end, there are no answers to the why or how of devastation like that being faced in Haiti. The final answer is quite simple – sometimes, shit happens. Or as my friend Art says, “Sometimes it is just our day to take a bigger bite of the shit sandwich.”
The human condition is such that some days are good and some days are bad. In the fullness of the human experience, we know joy as well as sorrow, happiness along with pain. There is no why, it just is. And, if we are to believe in a compassionate and loving God, we must face the entire spectrum of this experience trusting that the suffering we experience is not some sort of retribution for past lives lived wrongly, the sins of our parents or due to our own unripe choices. The joy and the sorrow are just part of agreeing to allow our spiritual self to inhabit a human body. While this may be easy to accept on good days, when we are 3 feet deep in shit, being content with the human condition as it is can be quite a challenge. This is where contemplation proves to be a helpful resource.
Embracing a contemplative practice – whether it be active or receptive- prepares the ground in which we are able to rest more peacefully in the midst of the challenges of the human condition. I’m not saying that we are able to face every challenge from a place of complete contentment – even Jesus was fearful in the face of his own death. What I am saying is that we begin to understand that when the challenges arise, we have a tool in our meditative practice to help us more quickly return to center, rather than being catapulted off into the ethers of hell. We begin to remember that “this too shall pass” and we find a way to be present to the pain and the sorrow, knowing that it will eventually come to an end. We begin to see our suffering as an opportunity to see with new eyes – how is this experience helping me to grow, what can I learn about myself, how am I being invited to be transformed, healed, freed? And, we begin to have faith that even in the face of the most devastating loss, is the eternal promise of new life. As my teacher and mentor, Jeff VandenHeuvel taught me, “In every loss we have two choices – life or death. We can allow the experience to destroy us, or we can be open to God’s promise of new life.” Contemplation empowers us to choose life. What is your choice?
PS You can donate to Haitian relief through Unicef USA or The American Red Cross.