My reflections springing from the C.S. Lewis quote I first included here continue...
They continued one morning this week as I sprawled on our comfy little sofa (thank you, Heidi!), thinking about my day and all it might bring, all I hoped it would hold, and all the failures and successes, joys and sorrows that come my way largely unbidden. Sometimes life feels like a wild ride that I have absolutely no control over, though I desperately try to control it much of the time, or am unable to enjoy it because I am clinging on, white-knuckled, for dear life. Often I feel lost in a mist of events, tasks, thoughts, desires - those wild animals I wrote about too. And this particular morning I was thinking specifically about how my true values and real goals often get lost in a flood of chores that need to be done, things that 'happen to' me rather than that I choose, and - most sickeningly - things that I purport not to value as highly but which I nonetheless spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on.
As I reflected on this, a longing rose in me to be saved from those things - both inner and outer - that pull me away from the path I most want to walk (or, in other words, which some/most of me wants to walk!); a longing for my life to be full to overflowing with the things I love and crave, admire and aspire to, rather than the lesser things that I either want to escape, or simply want to waste less time on! Something else happened as these thoughts went through my mind: our wonderful little, grey cat Stripes (obviously named by a child!) jumped up onto me looking for attention and affection and, then, for a place to snuggle down and sleep. There was no room on top of me if I wanted to continue reading or writing in my journal, and she struggled to find a comfy spot near my feet because of all the many, glorious throw cushions I have made and scattered around! Afraid she would give up and take herself elsewhere, I pushed a few of the cushions off the sofa to make some space for her, and then it hit me: It is true that much of life comes to me unbidden and uninvited, that I do not have the level of control I wish for, even over myself, and that I cannot force the divine Life to come to me, bringing the freedom and love and balance that I need. But I can make space for this Life to come to me. I can make space, through prayer and through other intentional choices and activities, as to what I will and won't give time and energy and attention to throughout my day. This is what the mystics and monastics have known through the centuries: that we humans need intentional practices to empty ourselves of the things we do not want or need, or free ourselves from too strong an attachment to them (i.e. disciplines of abstinence such as fasting or silence) and to make space for or engage with those things we long for more of (disciplines of engagement such as generosity and service). Just as I cannot make the cat come and grace me with her warm presence, and yet AM able to make the space for her should she choose to settle with me, so I also cannot force Grace to make its home with me, but still I have the choice to create spaces in my life so that there is ROOM for this Grace, this God, that I long to know and love and follow more closely.
So, that day, I made some very simple choices before I began my day - very personal choices, that would not be appropriate for many others, but which were ideal for making space for what I want and limiting the space I give to the things I value less, or which can side-track me:
- Today, no facebook or blog-trawling
- No sugar or caffeine
- Pausing before responding to requests or demands or melt-downs from my dearest daughter
- Giving time to some work I had long procrastinated over
- Not buying anything we did not need in order to try to fill some void in me with stuff
- Choosing to work out how to look after myself if I get tired and grumpy, rather than soldier on and make myself and everyone else miserable!
- No criticizing my family members, not even subtly, but stating my wishes and/or frustrations clearly and being willing to let them go when necessary
I made these choices intentionally and 'in the sight of God', asking as I did that the spaces I thus created would be flooded by the sort of energy, love, compassion and wisdom that I cannot create or muster up, but which might just surprise me if I desire and ask and leave enough room.
“Contemplative practices, then, are means by which we become prepared for grace to surprise us. They are ways of opening our hand so that we can receive the gifts God wants to give us. […] By using them we prepare ourselves to receive “the good coincidences” of life: the priceless, quiet gift of well-being; the gentle habit of living deep and loving well; and sometimes, even, the lightning strike of inspiration or ecstasy that arcs by surprise into our souls from the fullness of God.”
(Brian McLaren, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, p. 95 and p. 97)