It was the first few minutes of a two-day workshop, and with no time to get to know the dozen participants around me, the host opened in prayer and rushed into the outline for the day. Busy, busy.
As the minutes progressed, we all nodded, scribbled notes, maybe asked a pertinent question or two every so often, but the pace was fast and furious, with little time to pause.
Ninety minutes later, and I thought that then would be a good time to be introduced to the persons sitting near me, as a tea-break was announced. I was wrong. Out came mobile phones. Everyone of the participants was so busy, so important to their home churches and faith groups that they had to ‘check in’, and they led such busy lives that they could not rest and chat. Ofcourse, all of that may be true and is sometimes necessary I’m guessing, but I suspect that many of these people may have fallen foul to the ‘cult of busy’, or at least of being perceived as busy. I admit I could be a wee bit sceptical here, but it could also be egos at work, wanting to look busy and important, or perhaps their mobile phones were ‘shields’ to fend off people like me who might want to draw closer and get to know them. Such can be the fast-paced nature of modern life.
‘…stay visible…meet everything with the strength of vulnerability. Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo
We had walked for two hours in silence through the forest. It was bliss. Just then a bird on the ground, in front of us, panicked at our approach, flapped and squawked, and flew off. The person next to me panicked, let out a few expletives, laughed it off, and proceeded then to talk for the next half hour about politics. Ofcourse, I was interested in what they wanted to say, but somehow I was saddened that the intimacy in the silence that I had experienced with the forest was ‘lost’. The moment had gone. Such is the overwhelming din of modern life, politics etc.
‘…stay committed to the moment. The moment is our constant guide. It is a doorway to all that matters.’ Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo
She mentioned to me that she hadn’t slept properly for weeks, didn’t seem to be able to rest and there were many problems with her health relating to age, and problems in her family and work life, too. ‘What if….’, she asked? She talked. I listened. I shared some information about organisations that might be useful, but in the main I listened, and it seemed to help. Such is the worry that can accumulate about modern family and working life when we think ahead too much.
‘…stop rehearsing my way through life…Anticipating too much, we can catch ourselves crying ‘ouch’ even before we’re touched. Eventually this leaves no room for surprise.’ Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo
In our mind’s eye it always seems better in the past, in our past and perhaps in the ancient past when we think of ancient Celts, Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others. But, if we’re really ‘honest’ we know that life for them was just as frantic, overwhelming and worrisome, albeit in different ways. And, yet I do believe those Ancients can teach us a thing or two about priorities and what is important.
Our life doesn’t consist in being forever busy or even in giving that impression to others. We don’t have to be on the receiving end of endless data streams of information, though it might be necessary at times. And, though we might have ‘challenges’ at home and work, they do not define us, and if aware, they do not control us. We have the ability to rise above them – not just stoically, but in our being. We are more!
My grandmother, always one to tell a good story, was also known for her ‘one line’ pearls of wisdom. One time, when I was a wee lad she said, ‘In the storms of life, there is always a safe haven’. Taking her literally, and I was only a young child, I ran to the window of her cottage and said, ‘Where?’ She ambled slowly across the room, squeezed beside me, and pointed with one finger. I followed the tip of her finger as she moved it around in a swirling and purposely confusing pattern. My head moving back and forth, left and right, up and down. She laughed as she did it, which made me laugh. He finger eventually stopped when it touched my forehead. ‘Here’, she said.
‘…because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ Luke 17:21b, The Book
Years later, I realised what she had meant. We may be subjected to the ‘storms’ of life, be cajoled into a frantic pace of life, and live lives that seems increasingly ‘loud’, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. We are more than that! We do have some control to our reactions, if not actual events! And, we have the ability to ‘step out’ of the situation and find rest, just as the Ancient did, though many find it difficult, and perhaps many are not aware of that ability to ‘go inward’ and beyond.
the ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.
Perhaps, this is where ‘centering’, mediation, ritual, liminality or deep prayer comes in, where the value of communing with nature, elementals, angels and the Source come to the fore. It is the stillpoint that we each possess or have access to.
My grandmother’s prompting was always to maintain a friendship with all that is eternal, and to view whatever happens to us through the ‘lens’ of eternity. Then, things take on a different meaning, a different importance, and a different value. We are more!
‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance’. T S Eliot
Article header photograph: Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Attributed to Viapastrengo