Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ordinary People

"An Ordinary Day"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

My “fitness goal” is to walk at least 45 minutes every day.

For the most part I make a daily trek along one of the many desert trails near my house, but yesterday I decided to change it up a bit and so I took my daily walk in the local neighborhood where we live.  It’s almost-perfect weather out here in these days of early spring – yesterday’s moderate temperatures, sunny skies and gentle breezes enticed almost everyone to go outdoors and walk, ride their bikes or work in their gardens.

I’m not exactly sure why, but at one point in my walk yesterday I stopped looking at my watch and trying to meet my 45-minute “fitness goal.” I just started to pay much closer attention to what I was experiencing with every step I took. I suddenly became keenly aware of a neighbor quietly and carefully tended to the roses in front of her house and as I passed her by I was struck by the intoxicating fragrance of the flowers. A few steps farther on I heard the sounds of men working on the construction of a new house and it all sounded like an inspired symphony to me - the pounding of hammers, the grinding of electric saws, the quiet conversations as the men spoke to each other in Spanish. 

As I walked throughout the neighborhood yesterday, almost everyone I passed smiled and nodded, many commented on the beautiful weather. It was all very uplifting to me and it suddenly struck me that all these very ordinary people leading their routine lives in just another ordinary day weren’t ordinary at all. When we pay closer attention to every step we take, the ordinary always becomes extraordinary.

I am reminded of an interview I once heard on Krista Tippet’s NPR radio show, On Being. Ms. Tippet was interviewing singer and songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, who was explaining how she only writes songs about ordinary people living everyday lives because that’s where she finds the holy and the sacred:

I write a lot about finding something extraordinary in an ordinary day,
maybe even something sacred in an ordinary day.
I think there is a longing for that kind of acknowledgement,
that our daily lives are wondrous,
and they’re valuable,
and they’re honorable.

Right now, at this very moment all sorts and types of ordinary people everywhere are leading routine lives in just another ordinary day. Some are at work or at school, others are doing household chores or taking care of their kids. Some are driving in their cars to get to their next appointment. Some are in big-city offices, others are working on a farm.

For the most part, my guess is that almost everyone on this ordinary day are trying to accomplish some sort of goal, meet some deadline, arrive at a destination. But my experience yesterday taught me the importance of taking a breath and stepping away from the task of meeting some future goal. When we pay attention to the ordinary moment we will always find the beautiful, the holy and the extraordinary. 

One of my favorite articles from a Buddhist magazine I often reads puts it this way:

It turns out that when we dare to be ordinary
the wisdom of the universe opens up to us.
We get to watch for what each day is telling us and asking of us,
heading off to work or school, cooking a meal.
We notice more – a whole world of miracles unfolds without end
as we become available to it.

It’s about time for me to go out for my 45-minute walk. I’m no longer thinking of this as a fitness goal; rather, this is my daily invitation to see a whole new world of miracles unfolding as I make myself  “available” to it all.  

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