Ah, November. Even the sound of the month conjures drabness. We fall back and lose an hour of daylight in the afternoon. The night seems endless. The leaves are gone. The snow has yet to arrive in earnest determination. And yet, oh my, and yet, how time seems to speed up. No sooner than ghost, goblin, witch, and pirate outfits are packed away, we turn our sights to Thanksgiving, as Christmas looms.
It is so easy to feel you have unwittingly entered a pressure cooker.
But, wait, there’s more. Or is it less?
Maybe it is both.
This month our theme is attention: the practice of making things conscious. This is a month that proves to us again and again that we can feel like we are on a treadmill. Moving constantly and getting nowhere. Our lives, like November, can be drab.
And yet, at church we ask ourselves to pay attention. To not just go through the motions, but to grow in consciousness about what we are doing and why and how we are doing it. To not just plan to spend time with people, but to do so noticing and naming the things we love about them or the gifts that our relationships have brought.
Alice Walker wrote in The Color Purple, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Of course, it’s not just about the beauty in nature. It is about seeing the beauty in each other.
It is equally true that in paying attention, we may grow conscious of life’s pain, as well as its beauty and gifts. That’s hardly incentive, I know. And yet, Richard Rohr offers valuable perspective on this: “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it – usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.”
Only in making our pain conscious, can we heal. And when we heal, we become a gift to others. If you don’t believe me, think of a person you will be seeing (or avoid seeing) sometime this month. Think of the ways you see them suffer (or cause suffering for others). Imagine how life would shift if they grew conscious and committed themselves to healing their pain. Many people’s lives would be eased and improved.