Before I started wearing glasses, lo twenty-some years ago, I didn’t realize that a person was supposed to be able to see leaves on trees. I’ll never forget riding home in the backseat from the appointment where I received my first pair of glasses; I marveled at how sharp and clear the whole world was.
Recently, I’ve started running again and sometimes while on a walk, exercising my monster (dog), I’ll be hit with a desire to run–when that happens to you, no matter what you’re wearing, you go with it–and as I speed up, my glasses bounce and then slide down my nose. To get a little graphic, sweat makes them all slippery, and the tickle-itch on my nose just isn’t worth intermittently clear vision–so I take my glasses off and hook them to my shirt.
As you easily suppose from my account above, my vision is seriously bad. I can only see clearly about 6 inches in front of my face. When I take off my glasses and run, my focus inadvertently shifts from the ground and scenery in front of me to my breath, my posture, and each step I take as it happens. Because of the fuzziness of everything around me, my attention is pulled closer to home–I notice my lungs, my chest, my legs, my arms. Instead of making the challenge of running more acute, this shift almost always leads to a sort of euphoria. “Stuck” in the moment and in my body–literally unable to see too far ahead, I am free to enjoy the deep breaths my body is taking of its own accord, the strength of my legs pumping beneath me, the feeling of sunlight on my face and shoulders, the blue and green wash of colors in front of me.
Isn’t life the same way? Too often, I’m distracted by the itchy, imperfect details of life far off in the distance, determined to discern each leaf and each pebble within the range of my view. When I consciously take off my life-glasses, shutting my eyes to the shortcomings I perceive in people and situations outside of myself, I’m able to focus on what’s knocking around inside me. It’s the stuff inside me that I’m actually able to do something about–noticing my pride or my prejudice or my anxiety leads me to repentance and amendment of life.
Taking off my spectacles while running is a way for me to work on the logs in my own eyes instead of spotting specks in others’ lives. As I continually take time to focus on myself–on my own sins, instead of others’–I hope that this practice becomes habit, and maybe even develops into an ingrained response.
By cultivating a new knee-jerk reaction to life’s experiences, I’m aware of a deeper, more stable, holier river of energy at work in the world–the only way we can really pay attention to God’s work in the world is to start with listening to how God is transforming us. God’s whisper calls to you–how are you called to live? who are you called to love? where are you called to serve?
(and here, reflecting on almost the same exact thing–through yoga–almost exactly two years ago…)
Feast of Ephrem of Odessa
10 June 2015
More than Meets the Eye
I see in this post a message which says to me that to see God more nearly and more clearly we have to take off our “life glasses” and put on our “spiritual glasses”. Spiritual glasses enable us to have a clearer picture of God.
I also see in this post a message which says that by getting in touch with the rhythms of our own bodies we get in touch with that which derives from God himself and which connects us to him in a special way. That connection alters our perspective of what we see in the material world and we become compassionate toward others because we have experienced what they yearn for most: re-connection with our creator. I believe that Dame Julian and other witnesses are right when they say that human beings desperately seek unity with God above all else. Unfortunately, many never understand what they truly yearn for and focus, rather, on accumulating things and power. And, after accumulating things and power they find themselves still empty and not understanding why. They fail to understand that they must put on spiritual glasses which bring God into clearer focus.
To me your experiences with your run describe a form of prayer. That is, the world is blocked out and the rhythm of life derived from our creator is sensed and experienced. And, as with any experience indelible marks are left on our consciousness which forms and molds our perception of the world. Those who once threatened us because of their “power” or their accumulation of “things” are now seen not as predators but rather as victims whose need for fulfillment by using power, and things, is understood for what it is: a pitiful attempt to fill a void with a void. We can only feel compassion on those who find themselves in this state of being. We can only feel compassion and mercy for those who cannot or will not pray for themselves, or use spiritual glasses such as reading the bible often, praying often, and receiving the sacraments often, so as to see God more nearly and more clearly. Without those glasses we simply cannot see where we are going spiritually and cannot possibly navigate our way back to God. Without those glasses the richness and detail of our faith is imperceptible. And, without those glasses our attempts to perform acts of charity are simply empty gestures of self-aggrandizement and self-promotion.
One could say there is much more to this post than meets the eye.