I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Lori Kochanski‘s reflection on the practice of loving the one in front of me.
The woman lay dying, waiting for a blessing.
The family is waiting to learn what it would take for their little girl to be baptized.
The seeker needs to know if we have $400 to complete his asylum paper work.
The secretary is waiting for the weekly announcements to be proofread.
My husband is waiting for dinner.
The teacher is waiting to teach the moves of the East Coast swing.
I wake knowing this is the agenda of a typical day in my life. Maybe I should just stay here, in my bed, with only the words of the stack of books on the side table as a companion for this life. It would be lovely, I think, to just dwell in the books of fiction or contemplate the life of someone else as laid out in the memoirs. The poetry books hold a deeper truth that could occupy me for days. Instead, I go to the bathroom and begin the morning ritual of preparation.
Before I realize it, I am on my way out the door. It is amazing how that happens, how I can be awake and yet not notice how I got to the moment of turning the key in the ignition of my car. Wasn’t I just in bed contemplating staying there? Oh well, I am here now.
Outside the hospital I reach for my bags. The first contains the real stuff I always carry-wallet, phone, electronic tablet, prayer beads, lip balm, and business cards that remind others who I am. The other bag is invisible, but just as important. Because I made the choice to swing my legs over the side of the bed and get up I also made the choice to be present to the waiting ones on the list. And to be a creative, contemplative professional requires an heavy, imaginary bag of practices.
Today I choose a favorite practice, one that quickly shifts my heart. It requires loving the one in front of you. It looks like this: when I walk into the hospital room with the dying woman I will really be with that woman, not other distractions, seeing only her. When I leave and travel to the home of the young family with the child who wants to know how baptism works I will be right there, looking that child in the eye. When I look into the face of the man who needs help I will look only there. I will even love the one in front of me when I cannot give him what he says he needs. I will help the secretary and not think about dinner with my husband. Then I will hug my husband and be completely with him as we eat and then dance.
The act of loving the one in front of me is called a contemplative “practice” because there is no winning or losing or attainment of greatness in this way of being. There is only the constant call to the present breath meeting another’s life breath with an intention of love. Perpetual practice is expansive and has no culmination. We just return to it over and over again. It brings to life the fullness of each moment. It reminds me that this moment is all I have and the act of love is a choice.
Lori Kochanski lives in Easton, PA, with her husband Scott. She is a Lutheran pastor and a spiritual director who is always seeking ways forward in community through hospitality and freedom. Lori enjoys spending time with her husband, friends and family. She also loves cycling and being in beautiful places.