Friday, March 20, 2009

19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.

From Aster in Maryland:

The first thing that came to mind when I read my maxim was “Three Questions,” one of the stories by Leo Tolstoy. I am sure everyone knows it.

To be awake is very difficult. It is the weakest part of my life, especially when I want to pray and to be with God without interference. This is my struggle. In my daily prayer or reading, I keep redoing the whole thing again. Some days I literally fight with myself, and I think, how can I make my mind to be still and say to God what I want say? If I can’t hear myself praying, how can God pay attention to me?

I think it is important to choose our prayer time. People tell me the best time to pray is at 3:00 PM. I did try it. I couldn’t keep it up. I read about the monks in the wilderness who practiced stopping their breathing, just to stop the outer noise of life from entering to their inner lives. Sometimes I try that hopelessly. I think our compassionate God reaches to help us when we really try.

I remember that in Gethsemane, the Lord said, “Sit here while I pray,” to Peter, James, and John. He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to them, “Could you not watch one hour? . . . The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:32-38)” Sometimes even when I’m talking to someone, while that person is talking to me, my mind is thinking something else. Then I read “Three Questions,” which told me I should always be awake and attentive.

Be Attentive: it means to give care, to offer help, to be devoted and to be thoughtful. It means, “Love one another.” In our modern world, time is money, and having money is very important; family and friends are not so important. But we have to have time to see them, to write them, to ask them if they need anything. This thing called “time” stole our love for each other. Since God Himself is Love, we are created out of Love. God gave us Himself, and gave us the new commandment through his apostles, saying: “Love one another; as I have loved you. (John 13:34)” Attentiveness is love, one of the greatest gifts anyone can have.

What makes us to be fully present where we are, is attention to our family, friends and community. I believe everyone can be awake and converse with God, but attentiveness is a blessing, a sacrifice. It is giving or sharing to another person without thinking twice. We should be awake, attentive, and fully present, where we are and with whom we are, because we are needed at that moment in that place.

May we all have a blessed Lent.

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The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.