A health professional I know wanted to offer a class on survival tips for this busy holiday season but people told her, they were too busy to attend. We laughed about it but it is a sad commentary on the way we celebrate many holidays. And the way many move through each day.
A writer, Robert Benson, once wrote that we move so fast that often if we stop to think about it, we can get ourselves tired for the next day as well. We often live on the edge of exhaustion, not realizing how tired we are.
What to do? I find a morning stretch or yoga sequence to be a refreshing way to begin the day. I listen to music while I eat breakfast and read the morning paper – the images and noise of TV are too jarring for me in the morning. I make a list of things to do and calls or emails to send – a way to focus the day. I get up from my desk often to get or refill my cup of tea – a breather from looking at screens and a time to say hello to co-workers. I don’t read all the ads that come in this season – there is way too much stuff in my life.
What do you do? Breathe deep and have a blessed holiday season.
Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese opposition politician, chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She spoke once about the need for three kinds of courage. The courage to see, the courage to feel and the courage to act. To change any situation, all three kinds of courage are needed and each day we can practice small acts of courage. Seeing what is around us, lifting our eyes from computer screen and phone screens and noticing. Letting our hearts be touched by pain and joy. Doing small acts of kindness and gratitude.
Courage to see, feel and act.
Thomas Merton wrote, “Let me seek then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayers, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all.”
Summer, two brightly yellow goldfinches have been visiting the feeders and the rose- breasted grosbeak is singing a beautiful song. Summer, the thunderstorm with crackles of thunder and daggers of lightning and the fresh smell and clean air after the storm. Summer, purple sunsets and fluffy clouds. Summer, all is turned into prayer.
I have been a potter, making plates, cups and bowls. It is hard work centering a lump of clay on a spinning wheel but there is such joy when it is spinning smoothly, perfectly centered, ready to be opened and shaped into a vessel for use. Two hands listening to the inside and the outside of the clay as you pull up the sides ever so gently and smoothly.
I think pottery is one of the reasons I love this quote from Irenaeus, an early Christian writer. May you be soft and open to God’s touch.
“It is not you who shapes God, it is God who shapes you.
If then you are the work of God, await the hand of the artist
Who does all things in due season.
Offer God your heart, soft and tractable,
And keep the form in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
Lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of God’s fingers.”
We like to make choices. But can there be too many choices and what is the effect? I heard Dr. Sheena Iyengar speak on the subject. She said the number of items in a grocery store has risen from 37,000 to over 100,000 in a couple of decades. Do we need that many choices of jam? She reported that when we are overloaded, we procrastinate, make worse choices and often feel less satisfied with our choice.
A retreat center is a good place to take a deep breath and make good choices. It is an art and it takes time and information.