living in the here

I have recently been re-reading Pádraig Ó Tuama’s book In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World. I find it grounds me in ways that complement other aspects of my spirituality.

Yesterday as I prepared to drive home from a work engagement, I was delightfully surprised to find another interview with him on On Being with Krista Tippett. I settled in for the start of a long ride by listening to this podcast.

(If you are not familiar with Pádraig Ó Tuama, I would encourage you to read more about him on his website. I have found his writing to be humble, thought provoking, and compassionate. Because he is a lover of language as well, I am inspired by his intentional selection of words or insightful explanations of their meanings.)

In both his book and in the podcast, Ò Tuama references two lines from his favorite poem by David Wagoner entitled Lost:

Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.

Ó Tuama acknowledges that a stranger can bring delightful surprises or unknown fears or unwanted challenges. And in this place of Here, we choose how to interact with that stranger. Each moment with the stranger in the Here defines and is defined by us.

I have recently been intentional about taking that on as a prayer practice–living in the Here. I find that I notice more–not just about the world around me, but also about what’s going on inside me. How certain aspects of my day are impacting me, and more importantly, how I greet those moments.

As someone with depression and anxiety issues, I am teaching myself new responses to both strangers and neighbors that hold space with me in the Here.

As a result, I find that I breathe more. That my self-talk is focused on problem solving instead of avoiding. That I can hold space with transitions and challenges and appreciate that they are visiting for a season instead of a lifetime.

But most importantly, being mindful of the Here has slowed me down and reminded me how to live in the moment, the day-to-day, the now. How to appreciate what is instead of ruminating on what was or wishing for what will be.

To end the post today, I’d rather include David Wagoner’s poem instead of creating my own analogy to the natural world. I hope you will find both inspiration and insight in these words.

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

~David Wagoner (1999)

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