This morning I heard the drum roll. Across the street men and women gathered in front of the Civil War monument in front of the library. I joined them to honor all who have died in war. All—our service people as well as theirs; our civilians, as well as theirs. I just don’t get war; maybe if I could understand guns, I could. Too late: I’m too old to be anything up a pacifist.
From time to time most of us think about time: the time we spend, the time we waste, too much time, not enough time…. Usually these thoughts are self-centered—I want my time to do what I want.
Lately I have been noticing what I do with my time and how I feel about it. My goal is to be inspired, affirmed, and encouraged by what I do. This doesn’t mean I love everything, but that my heart is open and that I am building positive energy. If not, then make some changes.
Case in point #1: The news. Reading article after article and listening to politicians and pundits on TV wastes my time and puts me in a negative frame of mind. A quick glance is good enough for me.
Case in point #2: Leisure activities. Reading, writing, knitting, working on a jigsaw puzzle, watching the birds, and visiting with friends is time well spent. Such activities put me in a positive frame of mind. Less perseveration on the news, more time for uplifting activities!
Case in point #3: Housework: Cooking, laundry, cleaning, and clearing things out isn’t always my favorite, but it has to be done, and it can be performed with joy and intention for the greater good.
Here’s where I’m at today: 1) Stop doing anything that is a waste of time; 2) Find purpose in whatever I do, even those things that I don’t love. Maybe I’ll learn to love them.
Yesterday’s spring color walk. This is when I especially appreciate living in New England where each day can be see as if under a microscope. Embedded in the change of seasons is the daily change of each flower, each leaf.
Again and again I learn that the best way to have time in my day for silence, solitude and simplicity is to complete a household task first. Soooo boring, so true. This morning I divvied up a shelf of books: a bag for my daughter’s yard sale, a bag to give to some minister friends, and the final third back on the shelf, either to read or just keep for a while.
If you are ever in the vicinity of Clinton, Massachusetts treat yourself to a visit to the Museum of Russian Icons. This treasure trove of icons has been gathered together in a former mill-building-turned-museum by founder, collector and businessman Gordon B. Lankton. The visit will put you in a beautiful place of silence, solitude and simplicity.
Until you can get there in person, take a tour on http://museumofrussianicons.org
Once again I have allowed watching the news to worm its way into my daily schedule. I know what’s going on; I don’t need the salacious details. The News Hour is enough; I don’t need breaking news from the other channels. Thankfully I don’t watch much regular TV, but I can get hooked on the Red Sox.
In the most obvious way, turning on the TV breaks into silence. And don’t forget solitude and simplicity!
Here’s what Thomas Merton said about TV in New Seeds of Contemplation, published in 1962.
I am certainly no judge of television, since I have never watched it. All I know is that there is a sufficiently general agreement among men whose judgment I respect, that commercial television is degraded, meretricious, and absurd. Certainly, it would seem that TV could become a kind of unnatural surrogate for contemplation: a completely inert subjection to vulgar images, a descent to a subnatural passivity rather than an ascent to a supremely active passivity in understanding and love. It would seem that television should be used with extreme care and discrimination by anyone who might hope to take interior life seriously.
How do we keep silence, solitude and simplicity in this crazy world. I hate to frame it that way—crazy—but that’s the way it feels, even to someone like me, privileged, free of tragedies and full of good health, family, friends and church.
It behooves those of us ‘lucky’ ones to stand by and walk with those experiencing difficulties. It has to do with balance. When things are tough we become stuck at the bottom of the seesaw; we need others to get us moving so we can be in balance, more up and down with ease, and at times soar to the top.
I mention church because the UCC church I attend offers balance and support to everyone who walks through the door. Sometime we need to be lifted up, sometimes we lift up. Regardless, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. A church community filled with love offers something different from, or shall I say beyond, what family, friends, and work colleagues can offer. It humbles us as we learn once again that we can’t take all the credit or all the blame for what goes on in our lives. We learn to be on the giving and receiving end of love. We learn to seesaw.
I’m still feeling freedom from the writing project I released. I may end up writing the article, but it will happen without internal stress.
I wonder how many pressure projects we put upon ourselves. Pressure to do something we don’t have to do nor want to do. Maybe the key is the ‘want’ part. For example, I’m about to go for a walk (before it rains). I don’t have to, but, and this is a big but, I want to keep this commitment I made to myself.
What equals freedom. Off I go.
After letting go of my writing project yesterday, I found myself letting go of a bunch of papers stacked on my desk. There must be a correlation between the two. I need neither project nor papers. If pressed, most of us would say we want a simpler life. But this feels like a major step, not a cliché.
Although getting rid of papers simplifies the stuff in my house, releasing the writing project simplifies my life. On a practical level, it frees up time; the physical writing time, but more importantly, the psychological time consumed by thinking, fretting, delaying, and so on. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but I feel free, I have my life back.
Hmm, having my life back is no small obsession. When things are amiss, we lose our essence. Our purpose is out of sync, we are out of touch with our mission, our meaning, with how we are to spend the precious time we have been given.
Today, at this moment I am in sync. Knitting, visiting, sitting in the silence is feeding my simple soul. I am full. It is enough.
“Seven Days Writing in Florence” is on the backburner, relegated to the ‘save’ file on my computer. Writing the article had become a burden, not a joy, usurping silence, solitude and simplicity. I was living with a ‘to do’ list, rather than a ‘to be’ attitude. Now I am back being rather than doing.
Letting go of a project is a challenge for me, because I’m a project person. And so, I have renewed an old one, knitting prayer shawls, which is meditative and process oriented rather than mental and deadline driven. Writing my blog, on the other hand, is a joy not a burden. I’ve been a little slack about it lately—I can write just so much in a day—but I’m back in the flow, attending to silence, solitude and simplicity wherever I am. A cottage-by-the-sea is my life style.
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