Something kind of sad happened in my life recently. I suddenly discovered that I had lost morning. To lose morning is indeed a great sadness. As a child and on through my adult life, morning has been one of my teachers; and by morning I mean experiencing morning outdoors. Inside it is sometimes difficult to even realize that morning is happening.
I have had some health problems recently and seriously began wondering if it had anything to do with my lost mornings. I decided to do an experiment. I have created a little ritual for myself called, FORTY EARLY MORNINGS.
I borrowed the idea from the mystical poet, Rumi who in one of his poems tells us: “what nine months of attention does for an embryo forty early mornings will do for your gradual growing wholeness.”
Forty early mornings! As I spoke these words over and over again, they began to sound like a gift I could give myself. So I began my ‘forty early mornings’ on July 4. This is my prayer and I try not to carry very many words with me. Perhaps a line of scripture, from a poem, or maybe even just the name of someone I want to remember in prayer. My one rule is, use very few words or no words. Just receive the morning. Yesterday my prayer words were, “the Kingdom of God is within you.”
This morning was the sixth day of my FORTY EARLY MORNINGS ritual. It was my no-word day. The morning was foggy and misty. I walked slowly waiting for the sun. Finally the picture above immerged. I beheld it before photographing. I am allowing myself only one picture. After all, my early morning is not about taking pictures. It’s about being in the morning. I try to take my picture fairly early into my walk lest I be tempted to focus solely on photographing and waiting for the perfect picture.
After my picture is taken I often see another picture that I would like to capture, but no, I surrender the urge and just behold the picture. This image is for the heart and soul.
In the picture above, I love the paleness of the sun. An almost presence! A little earlier it looked like a host, the Blessed Sacrament anointing me for the day’s tasks.
Brevity! The word itself doesn't sound very poetic yet the reality of the word points to where poetry comes from. The less we say (the fewer words we write) the more room we have for ‘white space’ – sometimes what isn’t there helps us to see more fully what is there. The fewer words we use to write our message the more likely people will be drawn to read what we write. You've probably heard the saying, "if I had, had more time I would have written a shorter letter." Strange as it sounds it makes sense. To write something provocative and magnetic--something that draws the reader in, you need time for reflection. You need dwelling time. You wait beside the WELL of yourself, listening for a voice of wisdom. Then slowly you lift the words out of deep places within. Sometimes you have to wait a long time for the words to reveal themselves to you. What are you being invited to say? How can you say it without sounding preachy? How patient are you in waiting for the words to be revealed? Have you ever attempted to converse with someone who is so full of words you are unable to understand what they are trying to say?
It's the same with a flower. One flower can speak in ways a bouquet cannot. Gaze at the flower above. Can you hear its message? Are you able to discern the poetry of its short life? Is this one bright piece of beauty enough for you?
Consider the beauty of the message that words have the potential of offering you. Brief is beautiful. Small is beautiful. Less can be exactly what you need. Ponder the words below. You may want to choose one of the words to use in a descriptive paragraph. Keep in mind the wisdom of brevity.
Words to consider: branches, family, blessing, solitude, turtle, meadow, night, courage, possibility, dwell, home, owl, temple, Jesus, healing…
The soup of my own chaos is richly blessed. Each day it is seasoned with darkness and light, possibility and despair, blessings and burdens, joys and sorrows, doubt and faith, hopes and fears, moments and hours.
In the morning I begin to gather the ingredients without noticing that I am gathering them. Hastily I throw them into the vessel of my life and they simmer as I stew. My days are not necessarily dark and depressing yet not as vibrant and mindful as they might be if I could train myself to remember to season my soup with radical presence. How often I forget both head and heart, leaving them in my room on my pillow as I race through the hours, mindless and heartless. Yet for all the inadequate ways I ply the culinary skills of my life when I come home to my evening stew it tastes like a consciousness examen and somehow, in spite of myself, I retire in peace.
Perhaps the reason for this peace is that I seldom retire without glancing over my day: forgiving myself where forgiveness is needed, affirming myself in little ways and asking God for support for the next day.
The soup of my own chaos ascends like incense in the evening hours as I offer to the heavens the only life I have. How grateful I am for the struggle to live with authenticity each day!
"Sticks and stones are hard on bones
aimed with angry art,
Words can sting like anything
but silence breaks the heart."
Although I am one who advocates silence as a spiritual practice I am not, of course, recommending the kind of silence alluded to above. This kind of silence holds us hostage, it imprisons our hearts and locks others out. Indeed it is a heart-breaking kind of silence. Silence is golden, it is said, yet this kind of silence is not golden. It is dark and life-threatening. It does not heal but rather adds to the wound. It is an icy silence devoid of any warmth or attempt at communication.
This debilitating kind of silence can be transformed into a silence that heals. For this to happen, though, we must be able to name our sick silence for what it is. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and actually feel the fear and anger that brings on our silent treatment, then we can move into a new and medicinal kind of silence. We will experience a new creation taking place in our lives.
Except for occasional birdsong the morning is quiet as though reflecting on the sweet dream of the night. Pieces of mauve and gold are trying to push their way through the jagged silver-grey sky. A beautiful wood-spider silently creates a work of art, her small part in the creation of a new day. After a long period of sickness and pain, attending to this dawn-moment is like healing ointment. It is a poultice for my long weariness. I let the silence ooze into me like medicine.
How I wish that everyone who must live in the midst of chaos and violence could sit in the swing of morning and be massaged with a few quiet moments!
Silence has not always been a companion for my soul. Words have often camouflaged the beauty around me. Yet words that are born out of silence have nurturing power. And so this morning I pray that more and more people will experience the healing power of a silence that comforts and sustains.
Since I have been sick and now have begun a blog site entitled A FEW THING I WANT TO SAY BEFORE I DIE, I thought it might be helpful for me to offer a few words of explanation. I do not have dying, other than the daily dying, on my agenda and Polymyalgia Rheumatica, though annoying and painful, can hardly be considered terminal. What can I say: The Lord is my prednisone; I shall not want! This wonder drug which I certainly don't want to stay on forever seems to have turned me into a new person. The memory of my illness has also done something new in me.
In the Rule of St. Benedict we are asked to keep death daily before our eyes. This is not intended to be a morose reminder. Rather Benedict wants us to be always mindful of the beautiful fragility of our lives. We are a pilgrim people. We travel with impermanence as our staff. Therefore we want to live each moment of our lives with as much presence and gratitude as possible. The transitory nature of the moment does not diminish the beauty of that moment. It is rather an encouragement for us to be faithful to the miracle of ‘now’ -- so what shall I say in this moment when I still have time to say it?
This I will say: You are incredibly precious! In the sacred moments offered to you each day, robe yourself with that truth. Linger with it in each new moment given to you and consider how you might bless those you encounter simply because of the truth of who you are. Hold on to your ephemeral staff and memorize these words: I am incredibly precious.
I often come across abandoned blogs as I surf the web. Some of these blogs are full of wisdom and insights. I find myself wishing the author had not deserted it. On the other hand I totally get it! Time and again I begin a blog with passion and enthusiasm. It can be an enjoyable and even spiritual discipline to publish my musings and reflections, but then the dailiness of life gets in the way. Sometimes I set my goals too high and try to post more often than necessary. (--one needs to live a little in between postings--) Or perhaps I try to be too profound in my journaling. I may struggle with how to say what I really want to say. There are times when other projects, work, illness, personal difficulties must take precedence, thus eventually the unattended blog gets lost in the whirlwind of life and finally experiences a temporary or even permanent desertion.
After being away from my blog for many moons and many months I have decided to assign my old blog to the dead-blog-cemetery and begin a new blog. Each stone in this cemetery represents one of my past blog entries. The stones have their names: beauty, grief, compassion, creativity, death, life, humor, memories, etc. You can always go to my dead blog cemetery (archives) entitled UNDER THE SYCAMORE TREE.
My new blog is entitled A FEW THINGS I WANT TO SAY BEFORE I DIE. It will be the simple daily-life things I'll be trying to say. Nothing profound. It's the little things that save us each day.