A sense of urgency is a terrible illusion

During service yesterday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship where I attend regularly, a visiting minister read some words by Mark Nepo from The Book of Awakening. I don’t know anything about Nepo other than he survived a wicked bout with cancer and must have learned great patience and a deep appreciation for his life and its transience. He wrote a beautiful reflection called “Behind the Urgency” that spoke to me and probably would to many of us.

I learned this over and over, during the many crises of cancer. Unless someone is bleeding or can’t breathe, unless there is some true physical requirement to act swiftly, a sense of urgency is a terrible illusions, a trick that happens, again and again, because life inside our skin and outside our skin are forever different.

It is as hard as it is humbling. When feeling like I can’t sit still, I need, more than ever, to sit still. When feeling like I will die if I don’t have your approval, I need, more than ever, to die to my need for your approval. What we need is always harshly and beautifully right for us, disguised in the wrapping of our nearest urgency. We just refuse to accept this, because it feels so difficult to face.

The doorway to our next step of growth is always behind the urgency of now. Now more than ever, when all feels urgent, you must cut the strings to all events. Now more than ever, when the weights you carry seem tied to your wrists, you must not run or flail. Now more than ever, when each decision feels like the end, you must believe that each question is a beginning. Now more than ever, when you fear that being who are is a knife to those you love, you must be strong inside where no one has seen you, for loving from there can only make those you love grow. Now more than ever, when feeling that you are the source and recipient of all pain, you must bow your head till the ancient channel from sky to heart can reopen, till you remember that you are a blessed piece of spirit-dust in spirit-wind. Now more than ever, you must breathe till your ounce of breath becomes the sky, again and again.

How ironic that I feel compelled to share this at 4 am upon waking with a busy and urgent mind. So must this busy mind learn.


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