Life of Awe

When Were You Most Happy?

July 17, 2021 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future [or the past].” Seneca the Younger

In a writing curriculum that I am part of I was recently asked to describe, “The time in my life that I was most happy.”

Bad Question

In truth, I don’t even like the question. The response seems to assume that at some point my life was the very best it could ever be. After 70 years I have learned that is a dumb question. That’s because, for me, the answer will always be “right now is the time I am most happy with my life.” Even though today I am facing serious personal struggles, today is still the time in my life I am most happy.”
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Turning Down Your Volume

June 6, 2021 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

Those who love their own noise are impatient with everything else.” Thomas Merton

A Real Life Story

So I’m sitting in a restaurant alone doing what many of us do in such situations: I am eavesdropping on a conversation at the table next to me. It’s almost impossible not to, especially when people have louder voices.

Then the inevitable occurs: while one person seems to be dominating the conversation, I hear another voice saying, “That reminds me of when…” But the speaker refuses to give up. And so 15 to 30 seconds later I hear the same voice with the identical retort, “That reminds me of when…” And once again, that doesn’t slow down the lengthy conversant.
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How We Ever Lose “Pleasance?”

April 24, 2021 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Make new deposits to the pleasant memory bank.
Let your life be a reason for others to live
.” ― Somya Kedia

I was thinking just the other day, “How pleasant my life was.” It occurred to me then that the word pleasant seems to be a forgotten word in our common vocabularies. I like the word. Pleasant seems to connote a “calm sense of peace,” even while in the thrust of a marvelously understated happiness or joy.
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Surprised by Beauty

January 30, 2021 by Charlie Hedges − 3 Comments

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed… only if there is a light from within.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

My friend and best man, Wayne Herman, recently visited his father shortly before his death at 91. At the Memorial Service, Wayne told me, several people agreed that Carl always had an endearing “twinkle in his eye.” You never knew if he was up to mischief or if he was just feeling the beauty of life.
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Battling the Monkey Mind

August 1, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“All [human] miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal

It was Descartes that proclaimed the ontological mystery, “I think. Therefore, I am.” But for me, it’s more like, “I think… and that is when the trouble begins.”

The Monkey Mind

Enter the Monkey Mind—that evasive beast who constantly interrupts me in my efforts to “sit in a quiet room alone.” I have found the monkey mind also to be my greatest foe in my attempts at meditation. I think it’s all about my incapacity to be genuinely “comfortable with myself.”

If you are not familiar with this ubiquitous beast it can simply be defined as mental chatter—the resistance of the mind to any kind of quiet or attempted focus on one thing only, without interruption. Like monkeys swinging from tree to tree, yipping and yapping along the way, the mind will do all it can to keep you from facing your deepest inner self.

The Difficulties of Silence

David K. Flowers writes,

The world would profit more if people would first confront their own anxieties and the things that cause them 1) to have filled every silence with meaningless chatter, 2) to stay constantly busy, and 3) to do anything to avoid being still.

Although I practice some form of silence daily, truth be told, I suck at it!

And yet, I know from reading the mystics and those that richly practice contemplative prayer, the benefits are truly otherworldly. But even the esteemed mystics of history past suffered greatly from what we call today the monkey mind, resulting in a reluctance to come face-to-face with both their demons and their divinity.

In January of 2020, my life was altered by an experience of sequestered silence. I attended a 10-day spiritual retreat, during which 6 of the days consisted of silence—no phone, no computer, no people, and even… no inspirational books to guide my thoughts. Just me in a room left in solitude to sit with myself.

The first three days were agonizing, but when I got into the flow of things I discovered a refreshing sense of deep peace within myself. And later, with the guidance of spiritual directors, I came way with a new sense of inner peace that continues 7 months later.

Gotta Practice

Having said that, please do not think I have conquered the beast. Monkey mind continues to get the best of me, and therein lies the real challenge. Practice, practice, practice.

Perhaps one day…

Your Inner Monkey Mind

The Greatest Foe to Enriching Peace

Photo courtesy of XXX at istockphoto

Selfish or Social Individualism?

June 27, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 4 Comments

“In the waning days of the Western Roman Empire, Augustine described society as preoccupied with pleasure-seeking, selfish, and living for the moment.Rod Dreher

Hmm. Sound like any culture you know today?

Before reading the quote above I wrote in my journal this morning…

My thoughts remain encumbered by the massive nationwide and worldwide challenges to my daily life: pandemic, racism, economic breakdown, and the moral state of the union decidedly enmeshed is selfish individualism.
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The Joy of Calling or The Drudgery of Ambition?

December 21, 2019 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Perhaps the greatest legacy we can leave with our work is not to install ambition in others… but the passing on of a sense of sheer privilege, of having found a road, a way to follow, and then having been allowed to walk in it…

David Whyte, from Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

As an ambitious younger man I found myself driven to achieve, accomplish or win. I would set goals and drive ever so hard to be the best in order to attain respect and even admiration. Now that I have entered Rohr’s 2nd half of living I no longer strive to achieve some form of greatness but to walk the path set before me by God, with humility and acceptance. Yes, this is my calling, my vocation.
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Be Curious and Explore Your “Explorer”

August 31, 2019 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

“Stand in as many pairs of shoes as you can manage, even ones you consider reprehensible or repulsive — even if it’s just for a moment. If you’re going to be a tourist, be a respectful one. Observe, report, imagine, invent, have fun…” Ben Folds

On my most recent donor trips to Uganda, I traveled with one of our guests, Anna. Anna is a 24-year-old nurse that works in a hospital Emergency Room and is about to enter her first year of medical school to become a physician. The pressure common to an ER nurse allows her a lot of time off, which she devotes to world travel. Anna’s greatest fear in life is boredom. She hungers for new learning experiences and meeting new people.
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Irreligious Sacraments

June 29, 2019 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

A SACRAMENT is when something holy happens. It is transparent time, time you can see through to something deep inside time. Frederick Buechner

Moments.

I believe in special moments in which we are transported from this world to the next. These are the flashes of time in which we get to experience what I (and others) call “the holy.” And most of the time these moments come as a surprise because they are most usually ordinary and quite common. I refer to these moments as sacraments.
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Before the Joy—Pain

April 20, 2019 by Charlie Hedges − 5 Comments

“He [Carl Jung] understood that the full journey towards wholeness must always include the negative experiences (the “cross”) that we usually reject.” Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ

How do I write about this day without sounding like a preacher? How do I tell a story of the “good news” without getting into the darkness that precedes it? And how do I tell the story of the darkness without sounding like a wild man on a street corner screaming hellfire and damnation?
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