Dolores Tidor a very thoughtful and generous friend of my brother, Dongie and sister in-law, Lilu gave them Simple Abundance during their wedding anniversary in the last week of December; Lilu kindly shared it with me. This is a book to read at the beginning of the year; especially if we hope to have a really “new” year.
Simple Abundance A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach contains the writer’s reflections for every day of the year. I have found her thoughts very inspiring and helpful for those who seek renewal.
For January 13, we have a section entitled Gratitude: Awakening the Heart, she states: “When I surrendered my desire for security and sought serenity instead, I looked at my life with open eyes, I saw that I had much for which to be grateful. I felt humbled by my riches and regretted that I took for granted the abundance that already existed in my life. How could I expect more from the Universe when I didn’t appreciate what I already had?” With this realization she made a list of her “life’s assets” and further acknowledged her abundant wealth and declared: “My heart began to overflow with gratefulness.” So she asks us “to open the eyes of our eyes”; to stop and think of the many things we actually have which we have so far taken for granted. Maybe this is a very good time to go into this exercise.
To sustain this posture of the heart the author suggests a daily gratitude journal. She advised filling up the journal each night before going to bed; writing five things to be thankful for. Even on difficult days it would be helpful to still do the entry since: “the recurring acknowledgment of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.”
After reading that, I taught my niece Marie Noelle to start the day by praying in thanksgiving for each new day and for the gift of our loved ones. I began to have a very good feeling walking and appreciating the healthy trees and cheerful birds near Redemptorist monastery.
Then Sarah points out that with a deep sense of gratitude and the awareness of how rich we actually are we get into a different sense of priorities and see more clearly the truly important things in our lives: “When we appreciate how much we have, we feel the urge to pare down, get back to basics and learn what is essential for our happiness.”—We simplify our lives. And she has very wise words about simplicity: “Many people believe simplicity implies doing without. True simplicity as a conscious life choice illuminates our lives from within. True simplicity is both buoyant and bountiful, able to liberate depressed spirits from the bondage and burden of extravagance and excess.”
In the search for serenity we need order. So she reminds us: “There is a Divine Order—a Sublime Order—inherent in the Universe. We can tap into this powerful source of creative energy when we are willing to gradually cultivate a sense of order as to how we conduct our daily affairs. Invite Divine Order into your life today and a more serene tomorrow will unfold.” This is one of the important things an educational institution needs to provide, a sense of order.
A recurring concept is the need to slow down, to pause. So while Sarah brings this up in January, it returns in December. For Christmas, Sarah opens with this quote from an unknown author: “If as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.”
For most of us women multi-tasking is the usual pattern. With the many tasks to be accomplished with the various persons we need to attend to we can’t seem to do one thing at a time, to be present to the moment. I will never forget the woman in a seminar I was facilitating who was waiting for the time when she could bathe slowly and truly enjoy it. But Sarah has this to say: “I realize, of course, that for most of us accustomed as we are to performing six tricks simultaneously, what I am proposing sounds ridiculous. You wonder how you’ll get everything done if you don’t do everything at once. But I assure you that you will accomplish all you set out do and need to do with much more ease, efficiency, pleasure, and satisfaction when you merge mind, body, and spirit with the task at hand. And you will experience serenity.” So she discusses meditation next. She says that “there are compelling physiological, psychological, and spiritual reasons why we should engage in regular meditation. It is the mortar that holds mind, body, and Spirit together.” She quotes Dr. Joan Borysenko’s definition– “intentional concentration on one thing” then describes appealing ways to practice this, stressing: “There are many paths to the present moment.” I am glad that Alay Kapwa-Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban members have opportunities to make meditation a part of their lives.