“Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us which we were not aware of before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey of which we do not know the final destination.” -Henri Nouwen
I have always struggled with composing on screen. There is something visceral about a pen and paper, and scribbling as the words pour out of your mind. While I have grown more able to compose on screen, after years of writing papers and emails and previous blogs, when I write, really write, I am at my best with a gel ink pen, preferably purple, and a lined notebook of just the right size.
Writing is absolutely a sacred space. I have friends for whom the theatre is their church, and I can feel that deeply during the right rehearsal or performance. But when I put pen to paper, especially in a community of others doing the same, it is one of the deepest forms of communion. Communion with myself – time that is just for me, and my thoughts and my words. Communion with the universe/God(dess)/spirit world – opening myself to whatever pours through me in those moments – and there has been more than one poem that has poured out from somewhere beyond myself. Communion with other writers/artists who are adding to the creative energy of the space and time where we all write together.
What I miss about having a spiritual community, I have in many ways rediscovered in my writing community. What I miss about having a spiritual practice I can sometimes touch in my writing practice. I miss the ritual of church, but in many ways, I’ve found a different kind of church.
The first time I ever went to yoga, I came out with a migraine. I swore that it was not my thing, and would never be. When people see me at work, they often notice that I rarely sit still. I bounce from room to room, making notes, observing behavior, weighing in. When I teach, I need a pencil in hand, even if I’m not the one doing any writing. I have never been comfortable with stillness.
My initial attempts at meditation have been on-again, off-again forays into body scans, and sitting meditation, and breathing…and I can do it sometimes. But my favorite way to meditate is authentic movement…spending twenty minutes just listening to how my body wants to move or be still, in its own time, in its own rhythm, and my mind clears in a way that no silent sitting still has ever done.
So why do I keep trying to sit? Because it’s hard. Because even though once a week I stretch, roll, curl up and intuit my way to mental stillness, I know that I have miles to go. And if I can sit for ten minutes on Monday, there’s no guarantee I can sit for another ten on Tuesday. But I can keep trying.
Meditation is not a contemporary Christian practice. It’s not something I learned at my church, but it’s also not something that separates me from my Christian roots. Anyone can meditate, no matter what their beliefs. Growing closer to yourself, and opening your mind can also bring you closer to God. But it isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be.
Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that I am God” - and for me, the knowing is easier than the stillness, and it always has been. But both parts are important. Being still is not enough by itself. Knowing God (or universe, or infinity, or peace) is not enough by itself. Because that moment where we can find stillness and peace with ourselves and the universe – that’s rare, and precious and worth striving for. Even though it will always be hard.
“There is a great temptation to suggest to myself or others where God is working and where not, when God is present and when not, but nobody, no Christian leader, priest, or pastor, no monk or nun, and no spiritual director has any ‘special’ knowledge about God.” ~Henri Nouwen
So, there’s an election going on. And while my vocal, political, feminist voice wants to shout to the rooftops that certain candidates who claim to know what it means to be Christian, or right, or moral, are anything but, I’m learning that it’s more complicated than that. My cousin commented one day on Facebook that she hates how Christian has become a word that people use as if it’s bad, tainted, ruined by those who are in the public eye and claim to speak on behalf of Christians. And I want to say that they don’t speak for Christians, I do…but I can’t. Because as much as I want to say that I’m right, I’m moral, I’m Christian, it would be just as untrue as when the other side says it.
No one can tell what mysteries God has planned for us. Whether we call God by the name Allah or El, Inanna or Vishnu, Earth Mother or Adonai, or any other name, none of us has the answer. None of us is right. And yet we all are.
And the high-achiever, the A-student, the reader of books in me wants to rail against this. Wants to scream and cry that there must be a right answer. That’s why I like math so much – there’s a right answer. But here, there is only being in the moment, listening, and exploring. There’s no answer key for this.