I was honored to speak at the 2010 Commencement for the Hoosac School in New York. To see all of the graduates and families at this amazing moment in their lives, it was quite lovely. I spoke of the present moment and would like to share that with you now. Enjoy!
The Journey Begins Where You Are, Not Where You Want to Be
Commencement address by Rev. Dr. Charlene M. Proctor
Author and Spiritual Peacemaker
June 5, 2010, The Hoosac School, Hoosick, New York
Years ago, when I decided my career was writing spiritual and self-help books, I started paying attention to life a lot more. A good writer is aware of life’s unspoken dialogue because that’s where all the wisdom lives. Anne Lamott once said that all wise people say the same thing; that you are deserving of love, and that it’s all here now, everything you need. But when you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that’s always in progress. So, great writing, like conscious living, is about plugging into what God says then paying close enough attention so you can tell the story. On Saturday, I shared many stories that helped these bright graduates on their path to personal growth and success. And, it was great fun to shake the dust off my old doctoral robe, and march in an academic processional with faculty, students and my son, who was graduating too!
One story was about knowing what you want in life. When I was a senior in high school I had a class ring. I loved this ring and treasured it dearly. Everyone wore class rings back then. One day, I went to the beach. When I reclined on the sand, I took my ring off and rested it on my stomach because I didn’t want any tan lines around my fingers. I fell asleep and after I woke up, I had forgotten about the ring. I stood up and packed up my things, and rode a couple of miles home on my bike. Much later that day, I realized I had lost my ring. I panicked. Then I remembered, “It’s at the beach.” Yea, at the beach but somewhere within a dune. Too much sand to even calculate. But I decided to set an intention, to focus on nothing but that ring and I went to look anyway. I rode my bike all the way back to the beach, and visualized finding the ring.
When I got there, I didn’t notice how vast a space this beach was. I chose not to see the obstacles. There were no markers, people, rocks, nothing… only miles of endless sand. But I saw myself finding that ring in my mind because I couldn’t accept any other possibility.
I walked down the wooden steps to the beach, and focused. I walked about 300 yards to what I believed to be the spot, reached down and moved my hands through the sand, feeling for the buried ring. And I found it. Statistically speaking, the odds of this happening are a kazillion to one that I could find this ring, but I did. So, my point is, no matter the odds, as long as you focus and have clarity in your life, you are going to be OK. You can always beat the odds. If you have a three percent chance of being accepted into Harvard or beating cancer, so what? Who is to say you won’t be in the three percent? Learn to set an intention and follow through, and just don’t talk about it. And you need to have a passion for finding things. Don’t wander aimlessly. Set some goals! And if you lost something that meant a lot to you, it is never too late to get it back.
Life’s wisdom always resides in-between the lines of the present moment – those are the everyday experiences we often overlook. Once, on a spiritual retreat in Fiji, Sri AmmaBhagavan said, “The journey begins where you are, not where you want to be.” It is the best advice I have ever received as a human being. Your journey doesn’t start at some future point, or even in your past. It is wherever you are right now, so choose to be fully present. Henry Miller, the American novelist and painter, said that writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery because it is a way of acquiring a total view of the universe. At the end of each day, you have graduated from one thing or another because life is such a rich learning experience. So, as you write your own next chapter tomorrow, and for each day after that, remember you are here to transform the world in some way. Work hard, challenge yourself, and seek a path that is true to your own inner voice because that is how you bring your light to the world. Be thankful for every experience and pay attention to the small stuff.
This month, and always, as you remain open, aware, and present, I wish you all the best that life can offer.
Here are the cards I handed out to the graduates and families. Click on them to view them full-size: