It was fully dark when we arrived at the park. Hubs and I stripped off our sweatshirts, put on our fleece beanies and gloves and set out into the thin illumination of streetlights that line the macadam road circling a small lake. Our footsteps and the sound of distant traffic were the only sounds we heard.
One evening a week we run with our local running club. In the summertime, we typically run on lightly-traveled country roads or rail trails and have a post-run gathering at a member’s house, but in the winter we circle the park for safety reasons, then visit a local eatery for dinner and conversation. And maybe a beverage.
I was feeling unsettled by a stressful phone call I had earlier in the day and was looking forward to my form of therapy – working it out on the roads. Bill and I began our run half an hour before the official starting time of the club run at my request. I needed a full hour of therapy.
We ran the first 1.7 mile-loop in silence, my mind furiously churning. As we began the second loop, I started ranting to my poor hubby. He is used to this and allowed me to vent. What came out of my mouth was anger, frustration, feelings of betrayal.
Like many women (yes, it’s a stereotype), I often process my thoughts verbally. After the first rancorous layer of feelings came out, my next words were ones of sadness, regret, and remorse.
As we began our fourth and final loop, my tone finally changed to one of forgiveness, grace, vulnerability, and second chances.
In the days when my children were young, I worked at night as a waitress. I would be home with the boys during the day, then, a few times a week, my husband and I would pass the children off in the late afternoons, he would tackle baths and bedtimes, and I would go to work.
One of the most difficult items to carry to the table was a full bowl of soup. I usually wound up sloshing some of the soup over the rim of the bowl as I made my wobbly way from kitchen to table.
If the soup contained potatoes, carrots, leeks, and creamy broth, those ingredients were what spilled out; if crabmeat, mixed vegetables, and tomato broth were in the bowl, they were the things that wound up on my tray.
That was the point: I couldn’t spill anything out of the bowl that wasn’t in there to begin with.
A begging bowl is an object carried by most Buddhist monks. It is an empty bowl used to receive food or alms. The monk never knows what will wind up in his begging bowl on any given day. The point is to be grateful for whatever blessings come our way, whether it is a sumptuous curry or merely thin rice milk. Or soup.
In our lives, we get to fill up our own begging bowl.
We can fill it with a stew of acerbity, harshness, resentment, indignation, self-righteousness, despair, and venom. We can also fill it with poise, dignity, honor, tolerance, understanding, mercy, gratitude, contentment, joy, and love.
The ingredients we put into our bowl are what will slosh out when we get rattled. It’s that simple. We can’t spill anything out of our bowl that is not in there to begin with.
We need to think about the ingredients we add to our bowls because life happens. We will get jostled, our soup will spill out. We can have a veneer of suave tranquility, showing our polished, placid, I-can-handle-anything face to the world, but when life bumps our elbow, the true contents of our bowl will overflow.
Apparently, I did have sweet love, tolerance, mercy, and benevolence deep down in my bowl, but it was covered by a layer of bitter resentment, outrage, and sorrow.
I must pay more attention to the ingredients I place in my bowl. I need to skim off that acrid top layer, discard it, and fill my life and my bowl with more of the dense, nutritious, and satisfying bottom layer.
Maybe I will work harder at letting light and love into my heart. Maybe I can focus more on cultivating humility, thankfulness, holy courage. Maybe next week I will suggest to Bill that we do five loops around the park.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. Galatians 5: 22-23
I am linking up with Running on the Fly and Confessions of a Mother Runner for their Weekly Rundown, Loopy Laura for Global Blogging, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Purposeful Faith for RaRa link up, Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner, InstaEncouragements, Soaring With Him for Recharge Wednesday, Natalie the Explorer for Wellness Wednesday, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday, Sarah E Frazer Grace for Today, and Esme Salon for Senior Salon.