For several years now I have prayed the Morning Prayer of the Optina Elders regularly. It is a way of starting my day with a bit of openness that has deepened and shifted over time as reflected in the portion below:
At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will.
It has on more than one occasion occurred to me that this prayer contains the same elements of trust and acceptance that are present in the well known Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, particularly the lesser known second stanza:
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
The lesson of surrender to “what is” can be a challenge and I have a strong suspicion it is one I will be learning until the end. These past few months I have had recurring anxiety about an ongoing health concern about my daughter that has bordered on oppressive . I have found that when I can create internal space to allow enough light in, I am restored to a more objective sanity.
Sometimes difficulties clear our vision (if we allow them to) and can be our best teachers. To have peace, it becomes necessary to relax our grip and then to cultivate a measure of gratitude for what we are learning. We must trust that there is goodness and mercy (as we understand it, in 12 step jargon) that will see us all the way through, no matter how dire the circumstances seem.
When we are “up against it,” we practice mindfulness out of necessity because we can only be attentive to what is in front of us. The trick is to remember the gifts of letting go and gratitude when our situation improves. These two prayers provide the language to allow us to make release part of our daily practice so that we internalize it as a way of being.
Love, peace, and surrender,