Forward: Through this reading, engage with each individual word and letter. Be present with this text and where you are reading it.
Nicholas Herman was born in France during the 17th century. He was also born into the peasantry, unable to escape the lack of food, water, resources, and the ability to move up in social class. This poverty drove him to enlist himself in the army to simply be able to eat a consistent meal. It was during his service that he saw a tree that changed his life forever — yes a tree. This tree was suffering the full brunt of deep and chilling winter. A barren tree seemingly dead but eager for summer to come and restore its color and leaves. The branches of this tree resembled that of a skeleton’s arms scratching against one another. This naked tree “first flashed in upon my soul the fact of God” says Herman. Through this experience, Herman entered a monastery in France to further seek this wonderment. His first assignment in the monastery was kitchen duty — cleaning every dish. In response to this chore, Herman wrote,
“Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”
How often do we see things in duality? Although Herman was a Christian, the Buddha taught, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” This present moment. Right now. As you read this. Each period. It is God, or awareness, or reality, or whatever you might want to call it. So why worry about who should be doing the dishes? Or all the better things you could be doing? Simply be here. Present with the dishes. Present with the tree. Summer will come when it comes. It is here that you will find the sacred.
Michael Gungor has an incredible analogy to help the mind stay free of worry about the past and future. I’ll try and paraphrase it. He poses the question, “What made you angry or upset as a kid? Maybe it was not getting a turn on the swingset or not getting a fair share of the cake? How silly do you see these things now, that used to cause you so much worry and anger?” He then leads you to think about your present self. Again he asks, “what are you worried about now? Is it really any less-silly than when you were a kid?” If we focus on the present moment and are fully in it, then the past and future shall rest easy. As a result, we will find the sacred in something as crazy as washing the dishes.
Be free in the present,
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