Attendance

It’s September and the beginning of school for many whether in a virtual way or in actual attendance. Either way the clarion word when learning is attendance . . . a juicy subject for this month.

Haven’t we all been caught in black and white thinking some time or other? This is Good and that is Bad. It can be thought of as a way to try to be in certitude. But when are in humble attendance we will see that nothing is divided like that. As in the yin yang sign, there is a little bit of white in the black and a little bit of black in the white. I think if we are serious about attendance we will be called to tolerate tension, to be able to stay open to complexity, to not seek to know “ahead of time” but to discover the way by being attentive on the way.

Phrases posted on Facebook, September 2020

The word attendance has the words “tend” and “dance” in it. If we can tend our responsibilities in a light dancing way they will not be so heavy. The question is, will we be dancing a waltz or a cha cha today? Tune in to your inner music and honor it. Hopefully it won’t be a piece by Mahler.
We “tend” to focus on what is wrong. We complain. We often talk about how unfair things are.  The more we tend these notions the more they flourish. Attendance is a mighty force to be very careful of.
Here are some very wise words by Howard Thurman from his book, Meditations of the Heart. To me they are fundamentally about attendance: “You must go through some things, crying all the way, perhaps, if you are ever to live with them without crying. This is an important law of living. There are many experiences, which we face that are completely overwhelming. As we see them, they are too terrible to contemplate. And yet we must face them and deal with them directly. We chide ourselves because at first we tend to go to pieces. Go to pieces then. Weep all the way through the first terrible impact if need be. This may be the only way that you will ever be able to deal with the problem without emotional upheaval. To deal with it without emotional upheaval is necessary if you are ever going to be able to manage it at all. There can be no more significant personal resolution than this: I will face the problem I have been putting off because of too much fear, of too many tears, of too much resentment even it is means crying all the way through, in order that I may deal with it without fear, tears, or resentment.”
Here is a quote from Danny Martin that I think is relevant to the attendance in knowing oneself. “Knowing yourself is not so much about introspection (mental observation-my insert here) as interaction. To know yourself is to realize that you are more than the little self that has been given to you by your history–the pattern that others made–that your true self is, in truth, much larger and includes other people, other cultures, other species even. That life is less about BEING and more about INTERBEING. We come to know ourselves, then, through coming to know each other. And the deeper that knowledge, the richer and more creative the world we build together.”
It’s easy to be caught in black and white thinking? This is Good and that is Bad. It can be thought of as a way to try to be in certitude. But when we are in humble attendance we will see that nothing is divided like that. As in the yin yang sign, there is a little bit of white in the black and a little bit of black in the white. I think if we are serious about attendance we will be called to tolerate tension, to be able to stay open to complexity, to not seek to know “ahead of time” but to discover the way by being attentively on the way.
Attendance from the heart when it is truly lived is not in the service of an intended outcome. The heart is always bigger than our intentions and asks us to meet the moment with our whole selves. That is outcome enough.
When we dare to attend the depth inside us in prayer and meditation, as well as in living our daily rounds, we are living a trust that something of goodness attends and guides us. Isn’t this hope in action and so much needed now?
Many of us are house bound now. How do we deal with it? A small thing with surprising result is to daily attend to something in our homes with great care and presence. Perhaps it is spending time with a houseplant or some loved object. By repeated focus and attendance we will infuse it with life. It will become more animated and real to us. Right there we are practicing something small that will become big inside us. We’ve let something lovely loose into our circumstances.
I have shared this favorite quote from Bishop Desmond Tutu before. It is so reassuring to me. I hope it will be for you as well: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Before take off in an airplane the passengers are instructed in the use of the oxygen masks. We are told to put the mask on ourselves before tending anyone else. Attending to ourselves first (this does not mean indulgence) turns out to be the safest and best way to attend to the needs of others. A good morning question could be, “What do I need to attend to for myself today so I can attend to others as the need arises?”
When things are tough, as they now are, we look for distractions to get us out of feeling hopeless. Some folks live in their I-phones or TV sets. Some numb themselves with food and alcohol. Some wear themselves out on a treadmill so as to not think or feel. We know that ageless wisdom teaches us to fully be where we are, in other words, to attend to the ordinary graces that are all around us. A small and constant habit to take in whatever of goodness we can in a day will cultivate hope naturally. It’s great medicine, and it won’t turn out to be addictive!
A lovely way to start each day is to decide on a quality of being that we want to attend to and so in time embody . . . patience . . . clarity . . . gratitude . . . compassion . . . speaking one’s truth . . . justice . . . gentleness . . . humor . . . love.
What is it that we know we need to attend to and that we always seem to forget? That piece always seems to fall out of the puzzle and actually keeps us from ourselves. To “force” attendance to what we want to avoid sends it even further away. Then it’s time to embrace the ambivalence. There is something there in the mess that belongs to us. Mostly we are afraid of the beauty we are deep down and haven’t the full courage to express. That’s a life’s journey.