Still Waters

God leads me to still waters that restore my spirit.” – Psalm 23

Today is my birthday. When my 6-year-old daughter realized that earlier this week, she said “Great, can you wake us up early on your birthday so we can make you a surprise?”

Wait a minute…this is a trick. So sweet of her but that morning time is my sacred time. Waking my kids up early is the opposite of a birthday present.

I’ve often thought that the transition between my quiet morning time when I do yoga, meditate, read and write to the time when I get the kids up and ready for school was a hard transition because I was selfish and wanted more quiet time. But something I read this week sparked the thought that it’s really something deeper.

In those quiet morning moments, I find my own stillness. I breathe into the space beyond myself and feel that unity with the Universe. And in that place, the feelings settle, the rush quiets down and it feels like I see beyond all of our physical boundaries if just for a moment.

And I feel that love for my kids that came the moment they became real for me. It’s bigger than a reaction to something they’ve done or the way we express ourselves. It’s that pure connection between the core of them and the core of me, not complicated by any movement. It’s that overwhelming feeling that I get when I creep in and watch them sleep. They are quiet and I’m quiet.

When I’m still, it feels like I’m standing in one of the clear lakes in Northern Idaho we used to visit in my childhood on a hot day without wind. I can see all the way to my feet and beyond.

Then it’s time to wake them up – and any movement stirs the waters. I reach for them and stir up the waters between us. It’s time to accomplish things, meet a timeline and respond to any worries. It’s like going from my peaceful standing in the lake to a full-on water fight. I have trouble traversing that threshold because I miss the quiet view of my little loves.

It’s not just these relationships either. When I’m quiet and peaceful, all my relationships seem clearer and easier to understand than when we are in front of each other talking and stirring up all the things that come with interplay. It’s harder to feel the full appreciation for the depth of each relationship in the busier moments, I just have to hold the quiet snapshot in my heart.

My friend Betsy, who is a more experienced parent than I am, suggested what to do about my birthday. Get them up just a couple of minutes early – so I get my morning quiet time and then also get to feel their love in full audio as well.

Other People’s Writing: Dec 27th

I’m dedicating this dark and quiet week before the New Year begins to posting writing that has inspired me this year. To start, this meditation by Frederick Buechner who was a writer before he became an ordained Presbyterian pastor.

In addition to being an author and pastor, he has taught both religion and writing at a number of places including Exeter, a boarding school in New Hampshire. One of his students was John Irving, who included a quote of Frederick Buechner in A Prayer for Owen Meany. His meditations often strike me often as a writing lesson as much as spiritual guidance.

Silence of the Holy Place

What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort, as the huge monk in cloth of gold put it, than being able from time to time to stop that chatter including the chatter of spoken prayer. If we choose to seek the silence of the holy place, or to open ourselves to its seeking, I think there is no surer way than by keeping silent.

God knows I am no good at it, but I keep trying, and once or twice I have been lucky, graced. I have been conscious but not conscious of anything, not even of myself. I have been surrounded by the whiteness of snow. I have heard a stillness that encloses all sounds stilled the way whiteness encloses all colors stilled, the way wordlessness encloses all words stilled. I have sensed the presence of a presence. I have felt a promise promised.

I like to believe that once or twice, at times like those, I have bumbled my way into at least the outermost suburbs of the Truth that can never be told but only come upon, that can never be proved by only lived for and loved.

Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner

(featured photo from Pexels)

Collective Confusion

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

I had a birthday party for my daughter and for the first time in ages was together with parents of kids my age. The kids ran around the park and enjoyed the fun of playing together outside, some kids not having seen each other since her pre-K program was abruptly shut in March of 2020. Talking to the other parents, all masked and vaccinated, I heard over and over again the worry that there are no good choices for our kids as they go into 1st grade this fall.

I think this is the first time I’ve experienced this kind of confusion affecting a group collectively but I certainly have faced it individually. So I sat this morning on the meditation cushion to try to muddle through it. When there are no good choices, where do I turn?

I come back again and again to the awareness that something has held me up and nourished me even as confusion swirls around me. When I think I’m an individual making choices, I feel alone but when I feel I am a part of a Universe that flows like a river, I start to relax and float.

Listening for the quiet in any given circumstance helps me to settle. Imagining a pond, I can only see to the bottom when the water is still. When a rock is thrown or the wind whips the surface, I can no longer see the depths. So I still myself as much as possible to find the transparency again.

When I settled myself and relaxed this morning, I felt the weariness and worry that I attribute to this pandemic although as I write this I realize it may have also just have come with parenting. There is a little bit of self-pity in that worry as if am begging for someone to give me a break. But none of this is personal. When I laugh it away, I feel lighter as if I’ve gotten of one thing that is no use to me.

As I come back to my center, I find that I just need to find the right next step and that the Divine is present to guide me to it. When I see it this way, I stop worrying about how all this will work out and just return to now. I can accept that the water will get muddy again and first grade for my daughter might not go how I think or want but try to settle out of my confusion. There is some comfort knowing that other parents are struggling with the same but at the very least I can return and again to stillness so as not add to the collective momentum of disquiet.