“This” and “That”

As if it were the day ahead of you, imagine a blank page. Imagine a black dot on that page. Think of that dot as a period, a metaphor to pause, a little time to take a breath and to be grateful. Soon you will see other black dots on the page. Draw a line from dot to dot and then to all the other dots that have appeared. Pausing to be grateful that many times you will have completed a dot-to-dot drawing of your day. An image will appear–something you might have known was there before. “That” is a worthwhile day.

Phrases posted on Facebook, May 2021

Remember the camp song: “This” little guiding light of mine, I’m going to let it shine? When we trust that each one of us has a light to shine, subtle and wonderful things can happen. Let’s turn our lights on and give equal attention to “this” and “that”. Something of value is sure to come.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there. We mother many things besides children, don’t we? We mother “this and that” and whatever else falls into our laps. My mom used to say that everyone needs lots of mothers. Here’s to being a mother whether you are male or female and to receiving mothering. It’s a lot more than this and that.

“This” is one of my all time favorite quotes by Meister Eckhart. I hope you’ll love it, too.


All day long a little burro labors,
sometimes with heavy loads on her back
and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only burros.
And worries, as we know,
can be more exhausting than physical labor.
Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more than that,
he looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears
and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,
because love does that.
Love frees.

— Meister Eckhart

The Quakers name the spark of divinity in each of us as “that of God” within us. Taking “that” into the “this” of a waiting day is to open doors we didn’t know were there.

Here’s a little “this and that” medley: “This” thing I call mine is only so for a time, but “that” time can be full beyond measure. “This” acknowledges. “That” absorbs. “This” lived to the hilt is “that” which in time can be softly surrendered.

A necessary quieting, an inner stillness . . . the soul longs for “this” so “that” it may grow in love.

Pick anything to attend to fully. Make it the most important focus for a minute or two. Call what you picked a wonderful “this”. The surprise in this exercise is that in giving such attention you become more wonder-full, too. “That” is a good thing.

We divide the world into “this” and “that” when, in fact, they “inter-are” as the venerable Vietnamese teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, put it. Reality then is understood to be a “this and that-ness”, an immediacy of connectivity. Don’t you wonder how our world would feel if we lived that understanding? Hot and cold, dark and light, joy and sorrow, lost and found would belong to one another and we to the both/and way of compassionate understanding.

Haven’t you found it delightful and strange when some “this” that happened out of the blue in your life connects with some “that” you never dreamed of as if they were puzzle pieces that longed to fit with each other and YOU were their happy meeting place?

This and That can become This + That. Here’s an example from Love and Work by Michael Robertson: “I used to think that the goal of life is to do equally well in the spheres of work and love. Now I know there is only on sphere. What matters is the way I treat everyone I encounter in the course of my days: my wife, my child, a friend, a colleague, a secretary, a textbook salesperson, a complaining student. What’s important is to treat each one with courtesy, with respect . . . with love . . . We’re all connected in a web of love.

Maybe you make your morning lists as I do with this and that which needs to be done. There lie my marching orders! It’s good if the list can be short and doable. Even if it isn’t, I like to notice that what I’ve written takes up just a portion of the page. There’s space for nothing there, too. Maybe “that” space for nothing on the page is in my life, too, and is of great importance. But, “this” understanding takes some practice.

We will never have uninterrupted, smooth sailing in our lives. There will always be this and that to tack around – difficulties that are the opportunities to make us better sailors.  When the next big gust of this and that rocks our boats, let’s think of it as a worthy challenger who will bring out our best ability with sails and rudder.

Today is Memorial Day 2021, a day to honor those who have served our country. Let them be well remembered. Could we also, in all the this and that’s of our circumstances, remember that it is in honoring each other and the ways we serve that we honor Life itself?