In one of my recent reflections I read about a begging bowl. This is a plain clay bowl that a monk takes with him as he roams the countryside and village byways. Whatever is placed in the bowl by generous passersby is his nourishment for the day. How trusting such a monk must be! And I asked myself would I be ready to start every morning with an empty begging bowl?

So I began to look about me as the days went by to see what each day had to offer, to see whose footsteps walked beside me, to check on who would leave their fingerprints in my life on that day, who would contribute attitudes, thoughts, words or actions to my day. I began to notice and reflect on things that I had apparently taken for granted previously.

The birds outside my window in our mango tree begin to sing before the first rays of the sun touch the branches. They welcome the day with joyous songs and light-hearted flight between branches. Do I welcome every day with such joy?

When taking a walk in our neighbourhood, some children paused in their game to smile and shout, “Hi!” Instead of continuing my stroll with just a wave of my hand as I often do, I stopped, chatted for a moment, and even tried my hand at hitting the empty can with a small stone. I missed and we all laughed! My day became brighter with their joy.

My thoughts took me back to that day at work last year when my computer crashed, my email was hacked, and a score of other events tore up my day. Wanting to accomplish everything on my to-do list I pushed myself harder until sheer exhaustion set in, so much so that rest became almost impossible. Soon after that my spinal column collapsed, I was hospitalized and operated on, and was forced to do nothing for several weeks while recuperating. I see now that my begging bowl for those days had been filled to overflowing and yet I insisted to myself that I needed more. I wasn’t ready to slow down so the Lord slowed me down literally! Now I know that I must be more conscious of how full my bowl is and stop to breathe when it has enough for the day.

Holy Saturday Jun and I visited a dear friend of ours who has several hectares of land that he enjoys in his retirement. He busies himself collecting, nourishing and planting all kinds of fruit trees and ornamentals. Then for three days a week he returns to his city dwelling and reduced work load. His pace of life is slow and filled with blessings … good health, appreciation of nature, leisurely enjoyment of family and friends, and abundant delicious fruit — all from his way of life. Perhaps one day we will follow in his footsteps?

As I reflect further on my begging bowl, I realize that if I strive to always keep it full, then I would have no empty space left to fill it with the unexpected gifts, with everyday miracles and sudden blessings.

My life, like the begging bowl, needs to be balanced so that I can savor the newness of each day. I need to pace myself so I will be able to notice and appreciate what is happening around me. Focus is good, but too much focus can blot out one’s surroundings, the people and the everyday epiphanies that God is sending your way.

Now, all I have to do is follow my own advice: slow down, take each day one at a time as it comes, breathe in God’s goodness, savor today’s busyness, open my eyes to what God is doing in my life every day, trust Him to fill my begging bowl with just enough, and thank Him for the gift of life!

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1 comment

Bobby Atendido May 23, 2011 - 12:51 pm

Beautiful reflection Nancy. This is what Jesus was talking about emptying ourselves of everything. When we are full of ourselves – pride, our petty concerns, our daily busyness, fears and anxieties, hurts and resentments perhaps, ambition, concern for the material, etc. – how can the Lord even begin to come into our life. The begging bowl is a good reminder. Thanks.


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