faith in small things

Updated On — 12th Oct, 2022


When I remember this saying, my heart releases what it’s fixated on, and it’s almost always fixated or worrying about something. Sylvia Boorstein once quipped that she is a “recovering worrier.” That’s me.

But my recovery is a work in progress. I am even anxious about my own meditation practice!

As my day begins, my worries start to pile up. My anxiety and fear about the world start to thaw a little when I remember to yield to the present, making a U-turn from overwhelm, edging toward yes, I can handle this.

I start with small things: the lost cell phone, I got this; the missed doctor visit, we can reschedule.

I pause to watch a toothpaste stripe form, and smile. I put on fresh work socks.

I got this.

Jon Kabat-Zinn re-assures me when he writes:

The little things, the little moments? They aren’t little.”

I am fortunate to have discovered some years back the extraordinary teachings of the 19th century French Carmelite nun, saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

She died a very painful death at 24, from tuberculosis. She wrote of a “Little Way” to joy, to happiness, and peace amid the struggles and tragedies she experienced in her short, bittersweet life.

She was inspired by Jesus’ words: “Whosoever is a little one, come to me.”

This “Little Way” is a path, she would say, of awareness and willingness, of gratitude and surrender, of confidence and humility; and above all, of love.

I think Mother Teresa captured the essence saint Thérèse’s Little Way when she wrote:

Don’t think that love must be extraordinary to be genuine. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.

This “Little Way” she said is very straight and short. You access it in the present moment, in your life just as it is.

Right now.

This same now whose majesty moved Emily Dickinson to write:

Life is so astonishing; it leaves very little time for anything else.

Anything else, I hear her saying, like frustration and guilt and remorse.

The very same now in the Dalai Lama’s answer to a network TV reporter when asked happiness:

You had the New York Times bestselling book entitled The Art of Happiness, and you frequently teach about happiness. Could you tell our viewers about the happiest moment in your life?

The Dalai Lama considered for a moment, smiled and said,

“I think … now.”

Not going to Oslo and accepting the Nobel Peace Prize? Or experiencing profoundly deep and unspeakably blissful meditative states?

Oh, I see. For the Dalai Lama this moment now is the happiest of his life.

We all have within us an extraordinary capacity for joy, love and freedom. We just need to access it more easily and frequently.

Ah, mindfulness meditation! To re-awaken this joy, this love, is what this path is all about.

Maybe meditation itself is an act of love, not a means to an end. Stumbling on this notion has significantly changed the way I see and practice meditation.

Here is what I stumbled on, from a book by Bob Sharples — Meditation: Calming the Mind:

Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough.

So maybe just being here, as I am right now — a little frazzled, but here — is love, is joy, and is freedom. How amazing!

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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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