Chocolate Chip Cookies, Birch Trees and a Blue Sky.
All of these have something to teach me about finding purpose in purposelessness, meaning in meaninglessness and enjoyment in the simple things of life while living in the present moment.
I recently heard Dr. BJ Miller of the Zen Hospice project in San Francisco talking about the dying people that he works with. After they lose just about everything else in their lives, people who are close to death can find tremendous meaning even in “meaningless” things. For example, it’s a regular occurrence at the hospice to bake chocolate chip cookies. Why? For the simple pure enjoyment not only of the taste, but simply for the wonderful smell of baked cookies and all the good memories that often go with it. Just a simple moment and experience in life to be enjoyed. The smell of baking cookies – how meaningless and purposeless?! But how beautiful and sacred to notice, to enjoy and be grateful for in the moment.
It reminds me of my older brother Greg who died in his early forties. Who one day while sitting on the edge of his bed, looking out his window at a birch tree answers his step daughter passing by his room who asked, “Why are you just sitting there looking at that tree?” And he said, “I hope that someday you’ll know and understand.” When you know how short life is how meaningful it all becomes. And how purposeful it is to simply be in the moment with awareness, appreciation and enjoyment.
And sitting at my son’s baseball game on a beautiful summer’s night simply enjoying him and the game and how I happened to look up at the blue sky from centerfield and was struck by the crystal clear deep blueness of it. It was there the whole time, right above me, in all it’s glory, but I hadn’t even noticed, UNTIL I just noticed it. Just to notice, just to be aware, just to pause and really see and understand that everything is a miracle. And looking for them, no matter how simple or small and noticing them with appreciation makes all life wonderful, holy and sacred.
So smell those cookies, look at those trees and notice the sky above you.
A Prayer: Change me O God into one who is present, who sees, who appreciates all my moments in all of my days.