The family was working quite hard. Mom and Dad were stretching themselves to look beyond their preteen’s opposition to recognize and encourage his growing ability to reason and articulate. The son was moving beneath his sense of unfairness to discover why he felt as he did and to translate strong emotion into words that communicated effectively.
What had begun as conflict opened into something fresh and productive. As each family member looked more deeply, the felt sense of the interaction shifted entirely. It was a beautiful example of what we can all do in each moment. Whether an experience is to our liking or not, we can move past our surface assumptions and knee~jerk responses to perceive a deeper reality.
Looking into the heart of things is a venerable spiritual practice. In fact, it could be seen as the only one, the one that lies at the core of every sacred text and each technique passed down through the ages, with applications aplenty.
The critical boss who rejects your every idea. A spouse whose wants and needs differ from your own. The telemarketer who interrupts the dinner hour, and the cashier who’s a wee bit cranky. All are sparks of the divine, here to learn valuable lessons.
As are you and I. Pausing to look deeply, we can discover learning and growth in any situation. And as we act from that deeper awareness, a harmonious interchange is more likely. Yet even if nothing seems to shift within the interaction, attending to the highest good is never wasted.
Of course, this practice isn’t only for difficult times. We can be just as alert when all is well, fully receiving the gift rather than merely skimming the surface. Whether in joy or sorrow, anger or contentment, fear or delight, we can develop eyes to see, ears to hear, and an ability to touch the divine in all things. We can reach behind the mask to the spark that lies within.
In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is quoted as comparing the kingdom of heaven to a woman who “took a little leaven, concealed it in some dough, and made it into large loaves.” Whether we like a particular loaf or not, we can attune to the leaven in each thing, that living essence that finds its expression in a multitude of forms.
This morning, as I sat on the moist earth beside a swiftly flowing stream, I was reminded of the beautifully filmed and wonderfully named movie, A River Runs Through It. A river, indeed, runs through it all. We can learn to see and to hear its living waters, be they turbulent or calm.
And as we are ready, we can leave the apparent safety of the known riverbank and drench ourselves in that vibrancy. And we can do it again and again and again.