Friday I depart for Transfiguration Spirituality Center (the PLACE) to be with the beautiful PEOPLE of Sycamore Spirituality Center. "Contemplation in Everyday Life", the first year of my amazing spiritual direction training experience, is drawing to a close with a weekend retreat.
At the opening retreat I was given this exercise:
Go outside, find a tree, sit with the tree, write about the tree.
Do this for ONE HOUR!
Reluctantly I approached a tree, an evergreen. I was completely sure that I would be finished in 10 minutes. I just knew that I would spend the remaining 50 minutes wandering around the extensive and lovely grounds...bored and DONE with that tree. In my head, I planned which direction I would go. But first, I did as I was told...I looked at the tree from all angles, smelled the tree, touched the tree...I could have fallen over in surprise when I was startled by the bell that rang announcing that the hour had passed, time was up. I was nowhere near done with my writing or that tree.
I opened my email to find this from Daily Om today. Funny that I was just discussing this topic with a friend yesterday. Whether we are conscious of it, I think being still is a real problem for many of us. Although I try to be very intentional about creating sacred time and then keeping it sacred...whether it be group meditation or just sitting with the chickens, I continually struggle to give myself permission to simply be.
Sometimes we do manage to carve out some sacred time but with it can come guilt. And if we do manage to avoid inflicting the guilt on ourselves, friends, family or acquaintances often offer it to us. One friend, recently retired, shared with me that over and over again she has been asked, "What will you DO?"
Here's what the wise folks at the Daily Om had to say:
May 11, 2011
Hovering around the Sun
Avoiding the Center
Quiet time each day is so important, but many are so out of practice that it’s almost unnerving to be in stillness.
It’s funny to imagine our lives as something we spend a lot of time avoiding, because it seems like that would be impossible to do. Our lives consist of everything we engage in, from showering to sleeping, but also a lot of busy work that distracts us and keeps us from looking at our lives. Experiencing our life from the inside means taking time each day to simply be alone and quiet in the presence of our soul. Many of us are so out of practice that it’s almost unnerving to have a moment to ourselves. As a result, we may have stopped trying to carve out that time to take a seat at the center of our lives.
One of the reasons it can be uncomfortable to sit with ourselves is because when we do, we tend to open ourselves to an inner voice, which might question the way we’re living or some of the choices we’re making. Sometimes the voice reminds us of our secret, inner yearnings, dreams we thought we had forgotten. When we already feel overwhelmed by our busy schedules, the idea of hearing this voice can be exhausting. However, its reflections are the chords that connect us to our authentic selves, and they are the very things that make our lives worth living. When we continually avoid connecting with our life, we risk losing out on the very purpose of our existence.
To begin the process of being more present and less absent in your life, you might want to set aside just a few minutes each day to simply sit with yourself. This doesn't mean watching a movie or reading a book, but taking time each day for self-examination to avoid the avoidance, to be with yourself in an open way. After a while, you may start to enjoy this part of the day so much that you make less busy work for yourself, so that you can spend more time at the center of your own life, rather than hovering like a planet around the sun.
Just for today, let's make a little space, let's invite the Spirit in, let's sit with a tree or a chicken or a candle or nothing at all. Let's try to get to the center...come on, pinkie swear...I need help to stay accountable.