Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Psalm and stuff

Excerpt from Psalm 130

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Ooh, that is out of my Bible (NIV) and it is a ghastly translation. Let me find a better one. Here is the New King James version online:

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

Imagine, if you think that sounds lovely in English, how beautiful it would sound in its original language, Hebrew. Anyhow, apparently the verse actually is saying something about sentries or watchmen waiting for the morning (several translations touched on that meaning). Well now, that simply ruins it for me. I was thinking back to my prior post about desperation hitting its peak at night, and how the worst feeling is being in that pit of despair at night. You cling to the hope of morning, but sleep does not come. Something about the light seems to diminish the pain of the darkness, even if it truly does not. Everything has to be better in the soft light of dawn.

If this verse speaks to you, look up the entire psalm and read it. The Bible is full of little gems like this, treasures that speak on many levels.

Pastor Janet talked about the entire psalm in her sermon today, one of her better ones. She talked about how Charlie Brown reacts after a visit with "psychiatrist" Lucy; he puts his head in his hands and says, "Where do I go to give up?"

But I'm not thinking about "giving up" life and love and all that wonderful stuff. In fact, I have fallen in love -- I admit it! -- yes, I have!! (A moment of dramatic suspense seems fitting here. Let me drag in a picture.)

Not the greatest pic, but it serves the purpose. Yes, I'm in LOVE! With ...

Zencast. (This is a podcast I've been listening to with my adorable nano-iPod. Nano, nano!)

And the lovely, soft voice of the narrator, Gil somebody. I have no idea what he looks like, but his utterly soothing voice has caressed my ears and my soul for a number of hours now, so everything else is unimportant. He, and me, and he ... it's so meant to be! I think I even hear him in my dreams. Soon, his voice will be narrating my whole life. The best thing is jogging in the morning, the lovely -- dreamy -- Gil, telling me amazing things as I go.

Anyhow, Zencast is a (free) Zen Buddhist podcast I have been listening to religiously, ha ha, for the past two weeks or so. I've been gorging on it, actually, devouring about 3 podcasts a week. Luckily, it has several years' worth of episodes, so it should take me at least a few months to get through it.

I have heard enough to know I totally do not get it, but what a lovely practice!! Buddhists must be the sweetest, gentlest people. Yeah, just like Christians are so forgiving.

There are four noble, or ennobling, truths. See how everything changes with just a tweak in translation. Don't ask me to talk about all of the truths. But -- number one seems to be: the problem is suffering, the Buddha of this world says. (There is a Buddha for every world, and the problem could be different in all of them.) Now, I still don't know if all pain is just this illusory thing, and that I have a problem with, but most pain is caused by our mind's clinging. Check. Absolutely. I totally get that.

So we need to learn to practice meditation (OK, so I don't, unless you count meditating in the car while listening to Zencast; this is still my great weak spot), and undo the powerful bonds between us and our minds. The mind is so capable of dragging us in incorrect directions, it's true. And it is quite sophisticated at luring us off to never-never land -- these posts are one great example of that. "But what's wrong with that?" the clever mind asks. I have to say, it's OK, even really fun -- so long as I can break the connection when you want to drag me into inappropriate feelings, or thoughts. As long as you don't control me, I can use you to do great and awesome things. But most people are not even aware that their actions and reactions are controlled by this false framework, the mind's perspective.

And then what? Once we get the mind under control (snap, it's done!!)? I'm impatient to jump to the end without doing all that in-between stuff, as usual. Of course, it's a lifelong practice, and my new best friend (that would be Gil) explained that.

Gil, just today, was answering the questions as though he and I were conversing, as if he had read my mind. What about social justice, service to others? You can do that while practicing, he says. Then he points out: can you really save the world, or even help it, if you can't even understand yourself? If you still have violence in your self, anger, hatred ... how can you be a role model for others?

Violence, anger, hatred all destroy life -- either literally or life's spark, the soul. Love affirms life. Here is an easy litmus test for what is good, what is evil. Does it create or destroy? Help or harm?

Anyway, this is all helping me refocus on what is important, and what is not, in my own life. The wheat, versus the chaff. Maybe even doing housework can be important and worthwhile. Here's where Buddhism trumps Christianity, in its practical aspects: avoid what is evil. do what is skillful, with love (something like that). be disciplined. simplify your life. be mindful: stay in the moment. whatever you are doing now, give it your full attention and do it with absolute care. If you don't do it with skill, maybe it's best left for someone else. But if you do something and it feels right, and gives you satisfaction, no task is too small or unimportant.

Now I understand why my friend Karen's husband, Bill, wants to wed Buddhism and Christianity. Certainly! He's very much into contemplative prayer, which leads straight into Buddhism.

I have been chasing clouds a very long time. Running, running, running on ice. Now I am feeling it will all be okay if I slow down. It will actually be so much better. I can be more effective if I do less, and do it with focus.

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