from Everday Zen (pp. 201-203)
This week many of us watched a television documentary on the life and works of Mother Teresa. Some call her a saint. I doubt that such a title means much to her; but what I found most remarkable was that she was just doing the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, totally absorbing herself in each task - which is what we need to learn. Her life is her work, doing each task wholeheartedly, moment after moment.
We sophisticated Americans have difficulty comprehending such a way of life; it's very difficult, and yet it is our practice. Not my will but Thine be done. This does not mean that Thine is other than myself, but it is other in this sense: my life is a particular form in time and space but Thine (Thy Will) is not time or space but their functioning: the growing of a fingernail, the cleansing done by the liver, the explosion of a star - the agony and wonder of the universe. The Master.
A problem with some religious practices is the premature attempt of individuals to practice a life of "Thy Will be done" before there is any comprehension of what is entailed. Before I can understand Thy Will, I must begin to see the illusion of my will: I must know as thoroughly as possible that my life consists of "I want" and "I want" and "I want." What do I want? Just about anything, sometimes trivial, sometimes "spiritual", and (most usually) for you to be the way I think you should be.
Difficulties in life arise because what I want will always clash sooner or later with what you want. Pain and suffering inevitably follow. In watching Mother Teresa it is obvious that where no I want exists there is joy; the joy of doing what needs to be done with no thought of I want.
One point she makes is the difference between one's work and one's vocation. Each of us has some form of work - as a doctor, lawyer, student, homemaker, plumber - but these are not our vocation. Why? The dictionary tells us that "vocation" is from the Latin vocatio, to call or summon. Each of us (whether or not we are aware of it) is summoned or called by our True Self (Thine); we wouldn't be at a Zen center if something were not stirring. The life of Mother Teresa is not to serve the poor, but to respond to that summons or call. Serving the poor is not her work, it is her vocation. Teaching is not my work, it is my vocation. And the same for you.
Actually our work and our vocation are one. Marriage, for instance, is many kinds of work (earning income, caring for children and the home, serving the partner and the community), but the vocation of marriage remains the Master. It is our true self, calling, summoning ourselves. When we are clear as to who is the Master, the work flows easily. When we are not clear our work is flawed, our relationships are flawed, any situation in which we participate is flawed.
...I don't feel sorry for Mother Teresa. She does what gives her the greatest joy. I am sorry for all of us who are blindly struck in a life of my will be done, stuck in anxiety and turmoil.
All of our lives bring problems - or are we given opportunities? Only when we have learned how to practice and can choose not to escape our opportunities but to sit through our anger, resistance, grief and disappointment can we see the other side. And the other side is always: not my will but Thine be done - the life we truly want.
- Charlotte Joko Beck