Aug. 20, 2010 -- I am doing my own version of "Eat, Pray, Love" this morning: I am eating breakfast in a fun, new place and praying that my arteries can support the love I feel for the croissant with egg, cheese and pesto sitting in front of me. I love this little diner. And while it would be nice to fly to Italy for breakfast this morning, right now I lack the freedom (and the cash) to pull it off.
It was a different story for me 10 years ago. In the fall of 1997, after 10 years of practicing law, I boarded British Air for a two-year trip around the world that would put Elizabeth Gilbert's journey to shame. Unfortunately, I forgot to write the book. Oops.
Oh well. I learned some valuable things from that trip. But here's the most important: You don't have to fly to Italy (or Bali or India) to have your own "Eat, Pray, Love" experience. In fact, my noisy little breakfast spot provides the same formula.
Eat (in a new place)
In 1997, I was burned out, tapped out -- over and out. My life best resembled a root-bound plant: an organism whose root system had wound so tightly, it couldn't absorb any nutrients or grow. Maybe you know that feeling? Just existing day to day, unable to see any of life's wonderful gifts, lost in a storm of doubt and uncertainty?
Like a root-bound plant, sometimes we need to be taken out of our routine, shaken up a bit and repotted.
Does that mean you should to buy a plane ticket to Bora Bora? Sure, if you can afford it. But a trip to the other side of the world is not necessary. We can just as easily shake ourselves loose at home. Maybe it's something as simple as taking time to try a new breakfast spot, taking a class in something you know nothing about or traveling to a new and undiscovered place -- in your own town. It's about jarring our routines, altering our perspective. When we give ourselves a little room, new growth will inevitably come.
To change our path, we have to change our heart. And the best (and I believe only) way to do this, is to reconnect with the life force that emanates through all of us.
I once read that "you should live where you pray best." I could pray best on a ranch at the base of the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole. But since the Lord has not provided me with the winning lottery ticket necessary to purchase said ranch, I will need to find a good place to pray -- at home.
I do think there is something to the idea of finding the right spot to pray. It's like trying to find wireless service. The little diner where I am sitting shows wireless service with one bar. Have you ever tried to surf with one bar? Images take forever to load, videos stop every two seconds, and without warning you lose your connection.
Unless you find the right place to pray -- a quiet, protected spot where life won't come crashing in -- it's like you are surfing with one bar: You take forever to get centered, thoughts from the day start and stop your focus and without warning the phone or the doorbell rings and you lose your connection.
For every transformation, be it a career change, a new relationship or a loss, we need an internal change to fuel the external change. And that change is best achieved through finding the right place to pray.
Love (what's in front of you)
Stephen Stills had it right: "Love the One You're With." The miraculous things in life aren't found "out there." They are the things we have "right here" under our noses.
The word miracle comes from the Latin word "miraculum" meaning "something wonderful." I'm afraid some of us have stopped believing that something wonderful is still possible. We are so locked down, buttoned up, sure about everything and everyone, ready with explanations and oversized egos, that we are incapable of awe and wonder anymore.
Life is about possibility and hope, not simple explanations and easy answers. We've all heard the saying that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. How long has it been since we have allowed something to take our breath away?
It doesn't have to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World to make us gasp. The true rich gifts of life are things like a crayon drawing from our 3-year-old or a morning run with the sun coming up or the $5 bill you find while doing laundry or our kitchen table surrounded with loved ones.
In the words of a Jewish prayer: "Days pass and years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles." Possibility and wonder is all around us. We just need to learn to see again, to look again and to love what is right in front of us.
While it might have been nice to fly to Italy for breakfast this morning, I will content myself with this tiny, noisy place in the middle of Queens. It offers just as good a breakfast ... for the body, mind and soul.
The Rev. Susan Sparks, the only female comedian in the country with a pulpit, is senior pastor of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. Susan has been featured on such networks as ABC, PBS and CNN, as a regular guest with country music star Naomi Judd on "Naomi's New Morning" on Hallmark Channel, in The New York Times and in numerous comedy clubs, including Carolines Comedy Club in New York City. Her new book, "Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor," was released in May 2010. Visit Susan's Web site and Madison Avenue Baptist Church.