The story is told about St. Francis: he and one of the brothers were weeding the garden. The brother was getting impatient, wondering if he should be somewhere else. He asked Francis, “What if you knew you were going to die in your sleep tonight? What would you do right now? Run to the chapel?”
Francis straightened up from his hoeing for a moment of thought. “Well, Brother, I would continue hoeing.”
It’s old advice and familiar, at least intellectually. Be where you are. Do what you’re doing. Be wholehearted. For myself, and I dare to think for most of us, this is at best a practice. For moments, I can touch what this clarity might feel like. Still, when I touch it, there is joy.
To be at one with oneself, to be calmly, gratefully present to the moment and the chosen activity—how can we be like that?
I’m still on the way, so I can’t offer a step-by-step program, but only pieces that seem helpful to me. Each bit is itself an aim, a practice, not yet a state of being.
One piece seems to be: choose carefully what you want to do next. If you have too many options and can’t make a clear decision, you will feel scattered. If you feel pushed into something by someone else, and you’re resisting it, you will feel scattered.
Another is: it isn’t always about liking what you’re doing. It is sometimes a necessity or an unavoidable requirement. I’ve sometimes wished I could ask Francis if he liked weeding. I suspect he would find the question irrelevant. He had chosen it, he stayed present to the task, and therein he found presence to the Divine.
Which, I think, is the point. To let wholeheartedness in the moment expand to awareness of the Larger, the All, the One.
When I’m “in” that awareness, I’m home. So of course in the face of death or any other event, there would be nothing else wanted, nothing else to do. Sitting here at my quiet desk, I can almost feel that. Now to transfer it to a consistency while other things are going on. That is for practice—and likely also for Grace.