Four Good Things
At the end of the yoga retreat we were challenged to begin a practice of thinking of four things each night before we fall asleep that brought us joy that day. Only four? My squirrel brain hoards these good nuts. When I close my eyes to do this, I start listing things that happened years ago. If I'm going to give thanks, I want to give it for everything, just in case there is not another opportunity. Perhaps this is an Episcopalian thing? Making sure I don't leave anyone or anything out? Last Sunday I attended a parishioner led Morning Prayer service. This is not my favorite service, as it is more like studying and less like praying. I get anxious that we are not following the proper order of prayers or sitting when we should be standing.
Coincidentally, before church, I had re-read Mary Oliver's poem about praying, The Summer Day, it ends with her famous lines about what am I going to do with my "one wild and precious life"-- but in the middle she writes, " I don't know exactly what prayer is. I do know how to pay attention." That's a start isn't it? Yogis calls this presence. It is what happens to me in church when we sing a familiar hymn, especially during that awkward quiet service when I am not expecting it.
I want it to happen when I take a deep breath, don't think too hard, and name four things that brought me joy yesterday: A tailwind on the bike ride, a phrase from an obituary -- "to be remembered fondly is such a lovely legacy, and that's what she leaves me, fond memories," showing Christopher, the librarian from the Oosterdam cruise ship around town- Oh, and dropping off a pressure canner at my daughter's house so her family can jar up their salmon for the winter.
Here's where my usual brain says - wait-- there's so much more! You haven't mentioned Chip, or all the other children, or Pearl, or the grandchildren or the basil in the greenhouse, or the little hen that is now apparently crowing, or the wobbly young cyclists with back packs zooming past Mountain Market toward the school at eight in the morning, and the way my friend laughed so hard about something I can't even remember now, and how glad I was to see Ralph, the town public works foreman walking home from work in his orange vest, waving hello as I drove by him with my pressure canner in the back seat and a librarian in the front seat, and the finally, finally, the golden evening light of what I know is one of the last summer nights. New snow dusts the high peaks.
I don't know exactly what prayer is, but paying attention with gratitude is a good start.