Imagine a man or a group of people who, alone or together in a quiet place where no radio, no background music can be heard, simply sit for an hour or a half hour in silence. They do not speak. They do not pray aloud. They do not have books or papers in their hands. They are not reading or writing. They are not busy with anything. They simply enter into themselves, no in order to think in an analytical way, not in order to examine, organize, plan, but simply in order to be. They want to get themselves together in silence. They want to synthesize, to integrate themselves, to rediscover themselves in a unity of thought, will, understanding, and love that goes beyond words, beyond analysis, even beyond conscious thought. They want to pray not with their lips but with their silent hearts and beyond that with the very ground of their being.
-Thomas Merton, Love and Living
On Friday, I sat down with my spiritual director in the basement library in her church. She engaged with me in my past month, how I met God and saw Him at work.
We started in silence.
I shared about how God is working in me to accept my hiddenness that comes with sickness-and to embrace my gifts with joy.
As I spoke my spiritual director asked well-timed questions. She spoke of themes of hiddenness and stability, of contentment and gratitude. She sat with me in the silence, in my rambling.
She invited me into a time of silence and contemplating my gratitude for life right now. She closed by praying for me in soft tones.
As we said goodbye, we hugged and talked for a few minutes about the upcoming month.
I left thinking, “I can’t do without people who share healthy silence with me.”
There’s something refreshing to me about just getting to reflect and speak knowing that the person listening truly cares. She isn’t going to interrupt me or take the conversation in another direction. The hour is mine-and she isn’t looking to fix my problems.
She simply finds joy in being with me, hearing from me, and experiencing God’s presence together.
I’m thankful for the practice of spiritual direction and the silence we experience together.
What can’t you do without?
On Monday, I quoted Parker Palmer speaking about spring. I absolutely loved the phrase:
“Look more carefully for the green stems of possibility…”
Honestly, this is a practice I’m working hard at right now. Instead of just seeing the mud and rain of spring, I want to think towards, “What is slowly growing beneath the surface?”
In order to look more carefully, I need to move slower. My attention needs to stay on one thing for longer. I need to linger both with my dreams and what is more uncomfortable. I tend to move away from what makes me feel “other.”
The Lord keeps on gently calling towards maturity. I can either choose to listen to His invitation or move away from it. In February I read several books written by a feminist German theologian, that expanded my thoughts about the theology of our bodies. I resonated so deeply with her writings, and now I’m answering the question, “What do I do with this feeling?” This is a green stem of possibility.
I had a meeting with my boss last week in which we brainstormed so many different topics and directions. But it looks as if I will be salaried by the fall, that all my hours can be clumped together, and this allows me to only work from one place. This is a green stem of possibility.
I’m wondering what it looks like to continue practice spiritual direction, even as my class finishes in May. I’m thinking about people who may want to enter into a relationship of spiritual direction or how I may be involved at Dwelling Place. This is a green stem of possibility.
I’m learning that possibility doesn’t just mean an upcoming opportunity. Daily moment, by moment I have the opportunity to be in community with God and those around me. This is an ever-abundant green stem of possibility. I just need to say yes.
What green stems of possibility are you noticing in your life?
In my own life, as my winters segue into spring, I find it not only hard to cope with mud, but also hard to credit the small harbingers of larger life to come, hard to hope until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility: for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.
-Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
During Lent, at Dwelling Place we are talking about one of the seven deadly sins: acedia. Simply defined, acedia is a spiritual sloth, a hatred of place, of manual labor, of the present moment. Symptoms include fantasizing, thinking about “life would be better if…”, a difficulty in accepting one’s gifts and limitations. Life must always be greener on the other side.
I’ve been thinking as the beginning of spring coincides with the middle of Lent,
What is helping me stay in the present moment?
Baking. I’m still trying to do the hard work of watching my sugar intake, and yet I love baking. So I find that baking snacks for my students, for my coworkers is something I truly enjoy. Time seems to slow down. I enjoy getting about the teaspoons, measuring cups, coconut flour and vanilla extract. The smells, combining the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients, smelling a cookie aroma throughout the entire apartment and watching them rise. I love it all (except maybe the dishes!)
Here is the recipe for lemon-blueberry scones. A yummy breakfast treat!
In what ways do you uniquely enjoy the present moment?
I am a woman
I am a Filipino
I am made in God’s image
like all people in the world
I am a human being with value and worth
I am the little I am
before the great I AM.
I’m so ready for spring, and yet I’m learning patience as there’s still trickles of flurries in the forecast.
But as soon as it’s a little light, around 7am, I get out of bed, put on my coat and take a half hour walk. Walking is an essential for me–so I feel like I’m still shedding my stir-craziness from winter. It helps me clear my mind, calms my emotions and spirits.
I love feeling the cold wind on my face, seeing crazy runners running on the trail (that used to be me!), my legs feeling grounded to the earth. Walking allows me to remember that healing is happening.
As a child, my dad would push me in a wagon around the block. As I grew older, I still loved taking walks around the block during a summer sunset. Nothing special about our half mile figure 8 of a neighborhood; it just seemed like a good way to end the day.
When I lived in Chicago, I quickly learned that I loved that walking and trains were my forms of transportation. I would meander in quaint neighborhoods, getting away from the bustle of downtown. I found storefront ethnic restaurants, cathedrals with open doors, small hidden parks. Walking and finding new favorite spots was a special form of adventure for me.
I have no problem going on long walks by myself. Walks allow my imagination to flourish. Walking provides writing inspiration. But honestly I just do it because I love it!
What do you get excited about as spring approaches?