July 12, 2021
As a poet, writer, and spiritual seeker, the description of my blog, Spirit-reflections, reads: “Walking the ancient path and shining the Light with prose, poetry, and prayer.” I believe that we, as spiritual beings, have much to learn from our ancestors who also trusted in something bigger than themselves. If we fail to look back, we miss a plethora of wisdom, insight, encouragement, and grace offered to us from the world’s spiritual teachers who faced many of the same challenges, questions, and disappointments that we do. I also believe I am called to shine the Light (in my case, it is the Light of the Universal Christ defined by Love) in this often unloving, frightened, dark and wounded world. My medium is words, and as a creator, I use them in prose and poetry, and often in prayer. We are all creators of some sort, fashioned by and made in the image of THE Creator, so my hope is that this blog speaks to anyone drawn to Light, Hope, Respite, Healing, Beauty, Love, and Peace in their creative, spiritual, and active lives.
However, trust me that I am no saint. Far from it, I assure you. Lately, I have been struggling with my own prayer life and with my understanding of who the spiritual journey is inviting me to be. In reading various books, I came across this quotation from Brother Lawrence, who was born in 1614 and became a Carmelite monk in Paris, famous (ironically, since he cared nothing for fame) for his book Practicing the Presence of God): “Having found different methods and practices to attain the spiritual life, I decided that they would serve more to hinder me than to facilitate me in what I was seeking.” What profound truth. We can spend so much time seeking methods to find God and exploring various ways to discover God that we fail to be with God or to notice God in the present moment. We each have to find our own way. Parts of two books have helped me unfold this truth in this disheveled period of my prayer life. Perhaps they may offer you wisdom, too.
In Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, Brother David Steindl-Rast writes about “Prime,” the liturgical hour of waking and beginning our day, by using an analogy of a child learning to cross the street. He writes that adults will instruct the child to 1) stop; 2) look; and 3) go. His explanations of each step remind me of the three ancient monastic vows we are invited to make to support our creative lives: 1) obedience; 2) stability; and 3) conversion. In this blog, I invite you to consider “stopping” in your prayer life.
Brother David explains that the “stop” is the pause we take before rushing into the day’s activities. Think about this. Like a child stopping before rushing into a street, we stop before taking up our work. In this pause, we simply sit with God, look at God, and allow God to look at us. Nothing more is needed, not even words, other than showing up for this intentional time to stop as, paradoxically, we begin our day.
Stopping is part of the vow of stability. We root ourselves in the presence of the Creator who calls us to create before plunging into the myriad demands around us. Whenever we stop, even for a few moments, we then can anchor ourselves to prayer or to silence or to creativity or to life itself, focusing on the present moment where “I AM” dwells. Christine Valters Painter explores these vows and writes in Week Five of The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, that “Stability means not running away from yourself. When the creative work becomes challenging or the inner voices and judgments rise up, stability summons us to stay present to the process and see what we discover.” The same is true of prayer. Stability means not running away from God in whatever way we name God. When we are tempted to begin our day without God, stopping summons us to stay present. It protects us from plunging thoughtlessly into the day while it reminds us that we are human beings, not human doings.
I wonder about myself and why it is sometimes difficult for me to stop before beginning my day. I wonder about my restlessness and my need to get on with it even while I crave an intimacy with my Creator. Perhaps you wonder these things, as well. Perhaps we might, together, lift our wondering to God.
Loving and inviting Creator, we seek to vow stability to the work of creation with which you have gifted us. Our world is always in a hurry, and often, so are we. Sometimes it’s easier to do a load of laundry and mark that off the list rather than stopping, just stopping, to be with you or with our creative work. Spill your Holy Spirit who stills us and helps us focus on what truly matters upon each one of us. May it be so.
Next week, I will explore “looking” and the vow of conversion. You are welcomed to join me. Blessings to you in your stopping. ~ Rosemary
A Simple Invitation
What would it take for you to stop
before you even begin?
To release the tight agenda
the blocked-off calendar
the color-coded “To Do” list
in order to simply be?
Are you able to cradle your mug of coffee
or cup of tea and sit for just a moment
only a moment
to gaze at the wind stirring the pine
or the bird singing praise from a wire
or your neighbor’s laundry clapping
like joyful hands in the morning air?
Can you soften your gaze and see
yourself for the wondrous creation
that you are, just as you are,
in the miracle of this moment
where Love gazes at you
with such deep longing that your heart
can only reply with a sigh?
For when you stop before you even begin,
when you still your mind and open
the door to your soul, if just
for a moment
only a moment
you will remember,
and in the remembering,
you will discover your Truth.
© Rosemary McMahan