Musings on Life – Part II
Mainstream and traditional are not terms one would use with my approach to Christianity. I work people who live in the dark spaces. These are the people that cause traditional church people to shudder when their plight is brought up. Homeless, the “bad kids”, “mentally unstable”, Gay, lesbian, transgender, questioning. Sometimes, bad things have happened to these people. In order to minister to these people, I have be non traditional in my approach. I am not much in to feel good Christian experiences, I live for the lingering of Christ’s presence in my life, in your life. I live to help you better experience Christ in your life. I feel that this presence can only be felt by the daily and often the mundane grind of applying the teachings of Paul, Peter, John and of course Jesus and his contemporaries to everyday life. As I mentioned, I work with the most destitute of our society as our society would see it. I understand life and Christ’s presence of grace from the ground up, where the rubber meets the road. In a day I can be exposed to the most extreme of behaviors and mental health crisis’ one can usually only see on a reality show, I come home after 8 hours to a house full of people happy to see me, yet almost completely tired of each other, all affected by their long journey from arising from their bed earlier that day. To keep my sanity amongst an ocean of corks that I am trying to keep underwater, I run. No really, I run a lot. A stupid amount. The statistics and scareticians say that it is bad for me, but so is a beer and eating a steak and watching Fox News everyday. I prefer running. and the occasional beer
Every day is the rebirth of yesterday’s death. You can never really enjoy yesterday’s experiences in total. Sure you can have a reunion, but there is always something different. The sun shines different, the air is cooler or warmer. Christianity is a great faith, but it like other monotheistic faiths is often isolationist and fails at times to see the wider connection with other faith traditions that have fed it’s roots in the past. Anyone who has come to know me for any amount of time knows that I am greatly influenced by my Catholic monastic upbringing and my investment in Buddhist philosophy. The media would have you all focus on tomorrow and gaining all the spoils you can before you die. I would ask you to consider otherwise. In Buddhism, they have a term called anatta, or the non self or non being. Catholic monasticism has a similar idea, but Buddhism really captures the essence of this term. Anatta is the sense that essentially, we are not to wear the mantle of the worlds concerns on our shoulders and carry the collective experiences and burdens with us on our daily journey. I would love to explain why, but that is a topic for another time.
Balancing the chaos of life for me is living for the non self, not carrying the burdens of this world on my shoulders, but worrying about me, feeding my soul, living for my children, my wife and living to serve others as has been the tradition set forth by my paternal grandparents. Which brings me back to running. In a house full of girls, I am the only guy. There are times when I find myself drowning in a sea of estrogen. Running is an escape from this. On a personal and serious level, running helps me deal with life. I once read that if you are still struggling with a problem after 4 hours of running, run some more. The contemplative practices I learned in my late teens and early 20’s are no longer available to me in my late 30’s. A full time job, a house full of kids, mortgages and bills do not allow for a whole lot of time alone. Carving out 1 -2 hours each day devoted to physical training often takes me back to that place and sets my mind for the work ahead. It helps me refresh my life challenge to live life in a way that reduces the suffering of all sentient beings.
Reading this, you may be well advanced in age, but strong spiritual practices know no age limits and it is never too late to take up a new practice. I would love to have a conversation about it sometime. Hit me up after or before church and we can talk.