Rosh Hashanah 5777 (2016)

The Cheerios Miracle

As we step in to the New Year, we let go of what we thought we knew, and step into the unknown. We let go of the illusion of control and open to the nameless Mystery that has been holding us all along. We admit our powerlessness and open to the possibility of becoming channels for the Divine Flow. We let go of our narrow judgments and open to an unfathomably wide perspective.

This requires a certain suspension of disbelief. I need to open my mind and expand the range of what I deem normal or even possible. Only then will I see the miracle that was always there waiting to be revealed.

There have been special moments in my life that challenge my conceptions of Reality and send me to a place of wonder. In that wonder-place I put down my compulsion to figure it all out, and just enjoy the thrill of mind-blowing miracle.

One such special moment happened to me in Church.

I was living in upstate New York, doing odd jobs, playing in a band. One of my part-time jobs was as a sexton in an Episcopal Church in New Jersey. A couple times a week, I drove down and cleaned the church from top to bottom.

One early Sunday morning I woke up, had just enough time to grab a cup of tea, jump in the car and race down to New Jersey. For some reason I couldn’t understand, I woke up thinking about Cheerios. This was strange because I hadn’t had a bowl of Cheerios since I was a kid. During the whole 45 minute drive to Jersey, all I could think of was Cheerios, and I resolved to go to the store and buy a box as soon as I finished cleaning the church.

As I mopped and dusted, I’m thinking, “Cheerios, Cheerios.” Taking out the trash, “Cheerios, Cheerios.” Cleaning the windows, “Cheerios, Cheerios.” Then I came to the Sanctuary, and as I polished the pews, I still couldn’t get the idea of that breakfast cereal out of my head. The last thing I did at the church was vacuum the rich red carpet of the Sanctuary. I slowly pushed the vacuum cleaner down the wide center aisle, thinking, “Cheerios, Cheerios,” and there at the end of the aisle, right in front of the holy Communion Altar, standing out against the rich red carpet… was one… single… Cheerio!

I stopped, quickly turned off the vacuum cleaner, bent down, picked up that Cheerio and popped it into my mouth. I savored its familiar shape and taste. I gloried in that timeless moment, feeling whole and holy and completely satisfied.

I believe that we all experience moments of miracle, but when we can’t find a place for them in our Reality maps, those moments just slip away as if they never happened. If we can’t find a reasonable explanation for that bizarre happening, we might just blot out the memory of it. We spend our lives constructing a worldview and fortifying the rigid parameters of what we all agree to be Reality.

When something happens that definitely doesn’t fit into those parameters, either that something must be dismissed, or our worldview gets blown up and the boundaries of our conceptions of Reality crumble.

Those happenings like the Cheerio Miracle Moment might send me on a path of building a new conception of what’s Real, but that’s not where I wanted to go. It was enough to be left in a state of profound suspicion. When I remember and celebrate those moments, I am reminded to always suspect that whatever Reality-map my mind invents, it is probably only a minuscule fraction of the Larger Reality I have only glimpsed.

At this moment of turning, the turning of the year and our turning towards God, we can open to possibilities that might have been unthinkable; we can open to visions that might have seemed unimaginable.

Knowing that I don’t know the whole of it, is the beginning of Wisdom. Knowing that I don’t know, sets me on the Path of Love and Adventure.

Another moment: Traveling through Deland Florida, a small college town in the northern scrublands of Florida, I met a group of spiritual journeyers who came together once a week to do “astral travel.” The leader had a large presence and a gentle voice; the members of this group seemed calm and kind, so I joined them.

At our first meeting, we sat in a circle, closed our eyes, and the leader guided us into a deep meditation. I’ve always been told that I had a good imagination, so I followed the leader’s instruction easily. He led us to an elevator and told us to enter, push a button and let the elevator take us to exactly where we needed to go. When I stepped out of the elevator, I was suddenly flying, and I spent the whole time of my journey flying over a vast ocean. After some time, the leader asked us to come back to the elevator and return to the place where we had begun.

I opened my eyes, and the woman who was sitting next to me turned towards me and said, “Oh, I saw you flying over the water.”

In that startling moment, my mind just stopped. The tone of her voice was so matter-of-fact, so casual. I didn’t respond or react; I just nodded and smiled politely. But inside! Inside, my world had just been turned upside-down. My whole life of separating what I imagined inside me from the objective reality outside of me, was suddenly thrown into an endless sea of doubt. I mean, if someone else could see me doing something I thought I was merely imagining… perhaps imagination was not what I thought it was. That recognition was the beginning of a cascade of realizations. I was cracked open, and knew that I’d never be the same.

What if all the prayers that we intone during these Days of Awe are not merely words on a page, but ripples of energy that spread out into the Universe? What if our thoughts really mattered and our blessings carried the force of Creation, Liberation and Revelation?

In these times when the media hooks us into diatribes of divisiveness, when the shadow of this upcoming election obscures our Unity and pull us into the discord of cynicism, when it seems like nothing we could do could possibly matter…. What if we fully opened to the power of this day, opening our hearts deep, opening our mouths wide, letting the full force of goodness be carried by our voices in prayer?

What if we dare to step off the ledge of what we think we know, into the seeming abyss of miracle?