“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ― Mary Oliver
There is no handbook for doing life, no perfect step by step guide that successfully plots a course for your future well-being.
The religious world has its sacred scriptures, often touted as a spiritual road code that can successfully answer all the big questions or navigate you through all the big issues. While these texts are helpful they are not so much an owners manual but a historical overview that conveys how humans have sought to understand the nature of providence and its part to play in their becoming. The beauty of these ancient texts is that they have fuelled the idea of why prayer is the contemplative conduit that negotiates the human/divine interaction. Unfortunately prayer got distorted along the way and turned into a transactional governor for divine intervention as we tried to cope with our uncertainty and apprehension around the misgivings that life would often throw at us. Rather than learning to accept the conundrums that came across our path we resorted to praying them away, so to speak, an adventure in missing the point for why prayer was given to us in the first place.
On another note the self help world of success merchants and gurus have their platitudes and mantras of positivity, guaranteeing favourable outcomes if we stick to their script which too often over-promise results, especially to the privileged. This often feeds into our narcissistic and self-indulgent appetites exposing the ever growing gap between the haves and have nots.
Whichever manuscript you adhere to it will always help in some way but not fully deliver, because life does not work to a set pattern/promise of a one-size-fits-all standard of outcomes. At best we are making this up as we go along, guided by the wisdom of our forebears who have endeavoured to unpack the mystery of life on a quotidian basis. As one poet said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow as today has enough going on to keep your anxiety satisfied”
Mary Olivers mantra is one that we all should take some time to unpack, proverbial wisdom that seems to scream common sense on so many levels:
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
Paying attention is the art of noticing all the moving parts of life as they invite us into the web of their assimilation. It's more than a concentrated observation exercise but a challenge to consider how the energy that flows all around us is a divine summons to participate in the great cosmic game plan. When my sensory awareness is being constantly stimulated by my surroundings it is a provocation to contemplate the great mystery of how the beauty of life within me is connecting me to the higher purpose of the life all around me. My attention needs to be constantly refocussed on the universal cues that are ushering me into its holy enterprise. Treating everything with a holy reverence may be the only answer available to our struggling species, a call to discern the signs of the times.
Being astonished is when we are surprised by the unveiling of beauty that life constantly offers us. It leads us into a greater appreciation for what we have and don't have. Astonishment feeds a hunger for wonder and amazement, a salve for the boring and mundane that often creeps into our circumstances and relationships. We can so easily get stuck in the same habits and rituals that bear little fruit, ultimately smothering the child like wonder in us. Habits and rituals are the structures that give us stability and surety for sure, but they need to be constantly resourced with new energy and imagination if we are to appreciate their place in our lives. To be astonished is when the magnificent collides with the mundane creating new dynamics of possibility for the old ways that potentially can become the new. Serendipity and coincidence are the catalysts for astonishment, a reminder that there is a complex web of intrigue working behind the scenes on your behalf
When awareness and wonder coalesce in our life we are provided with a new chapter in our narrative, a reading that invites our unsuspecting public to hear the new storyline. The language of this latest sub plot is an interactive welcome mat for others to join the conversation. If I choose to interact with others about the life that I am now experiencing then I am vicariously reproducing myself through others. This kind of social intercourse is what the mystics called ‘oneness’ the ultimate outcome for my existence.