During my African years, I once spent an evening on the banks of the Niger River in Segou, Mali. Everything breathed peace and an unhurried pace: the fishermen throwing their nets in the river, the women walking home and joking with one another other, the rhythmic, slow pace of the cows with their huge horns … The very atmosphere exuded gentleness and serenity. It brought to mind the title of the book by American writer Barry Stevens: Don’t Push the River, it Flows by Itself.
We in the Northern world and now in many countries in the South have done the exact opposite: we frantically attempt to push the river because in our time sickness, not only has time become money, it has become a slave-driver that is pushing a whole civilization to the point of insanity. A large multinational now offers in the USA one hour home delivery for some of its products. Why not 30 minutes? Or even yesterday?
A dear friend of mine was telling me recently that her daughter, a well-educated woman in her forties working as a professional in an environmental organization, said to her recently, “Mother, I don’t have the time to live!”
What a tragic, incredible, almost unbelievable statement which so many in the North could repeat. Too many of our contemporaries do not live; they rush from morning till night. Too often they are either in the past of regret, remorse, resentment, a feeling of failed opportunities, or in the future of fears, deadlines, to-do lists, urgent requirements, hopes for improvement someday … but rarely in the now.
Yet spiritual life cannot be lived in the past or in the future, still less in a rush. Unless we learn to live in the NOW, we will never live, as my friend’s daughter so poignantly expressed, still less live spiritually. Listening to the Godhead (not speaking to Her or demanding something of Her – She is not some benevolent Father or Mother-Christmas) is at the very core of the spiritual life. So let us be very clear: It is very difficult to hear God in a rush – or even under stress – except in rare situations of great emergency.
This is a very challenging statement for a single working mother with three children struggling each month to make ends meet, not to mention living in a Third World shanty town, and until we have created a new, less hectic culture and society, maybe new forms of spirituality need to be discovered, such as “dawling”. This is a term I was inspired to create many years ago which simply means: Doing All With Love. If I had to summarize my whole spirituality in one single word, it would be that: thinking with love, seeing all with the eyes of love, speaking lovingly, doing whatever it is our task to do with love, and feeling only love.
It is at the heart of my spiritual discipline, striving and practice, and I believe if someone managed to really practice it with total commitment (I am still in the kindergarten) it could bring them to the same result as hours of meditation, fasting, studying and other traditional spiritual practices. And maybe much further.
So, it you’re a rushed single mother, or executive, salesman, or secretary her boss loads down with endless tasks that are always “extremely urgent”- why not try?
You might just discover the Green Pastures (or the Niger in Segou) are already inside you.