I wanted to write a post for the solstice, so I was wandering around the internet and found this great remembrance from Petrarch of the women bathing in the river at midsummer to wash away the tragedies of the coming year. If only we could…
In some ways, the summer solstice feels more like the coming of new year to me than the winter solstice. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent so much of my life on a “school year” schedule, where June means that you are promoted to the next year of study, to begin in the fall. Or maybe it’s just that the world is so alive at this time of year, and in December, it’s hard to remember that things are just dormant, not dead.
Take a moment today to wash away whatever is holding you back from the coming year – we may not be able to stop the tragedies by washing them away, but we can always rebirth ourselves into a new way of seeing the world. Why not today, on one of the most celebratory days of the year?
The body says what words cannot. ~Martha Graham
It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity. Nor is it easy to make a special time for non-doing and to keep at it in the face of everything in our lives which needs to be done. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Riding the wave of powerful cleansing energy from my Reiki attunement, I thought I would just continue to feel better. After all 21 days of cleansing and balancing just happens, so why wouldn’t it be possible for me to just feel energized by that? So I continued to do too much, and stress too much, and after the first few days, I fell into bed without doing self-Reiki, and went to work in the morning without doing meditation…and you know what? I feel lousy.
In some ways, even though I do feel less drained than I did before, I feel worse, because now my body is even more aware of what I’m doing wrong. When dinner is cheese and crackers and applesauce, my body knows that something is missing. When I’m too lazy to take my vitamins before bed, the things those vitamins are supposed to be balancing act up. Now, all the messages that my body has been giving me all along are too loud to be ignored. Something has to give, and my health has been that something far too often. Even now I feel the ache in the back of my throat and the dull pain in my temple that means I’m dehydrated and overtired, and last night I was wide awake in the middle of the night with thoughts bouncing around in my head.
Self-care is not optional. I knew this when I began training to be a psychotherapist; I knew that in order to treat and care for others, I had to have a way to care for myself. And yet, as soon as I get busy, it’s the first thing I let slide. I wasn’t going to write today – caught up in the whirlwind of final papers, I thought, I should take this time to write papers, not to write something “frivolous”. But this is important. This blog post may not change anyone else’s life, but it’s a reminder that I am committing once again to changing my own. I need to write. I need to sleep, and meditate, and eat good food, and do yoga, and do self-Reiki and make myself a priority. Because when I put everyone else first, we all lose out, because I can’t give them my whole self until I make sure that I’m making myself whole.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; but spiritual beings having a human experience. ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“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.