As I prepare to return to work following two weeks of stay-cation time, I am thinking back over how I spent my time and what I carry forth with me into the program church year ahead. I did a lot over these two weeks, none of them exactly what I thought I was going to do. I anticipated a quiet two weeks of reading, writing, yoga, walking, and maybe a drive up to Door County Wisconsin to visit a good friend. Instead, when my husband also managed to get much of this same time off, we became project oriented. Our biggest project was refinishing an old make up table and converting it into a small desk for my home office. We also entertained and celebrated our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary and our daughter’s twenty-fifth birthday. It was a fun, busy time.
In contrast to the busyness of this stay-cation I also took time every morning to read and reflect with an on-line retreat offered by Jane Redmont on the writings of Dorothee Soelle. Redmont posted each day a poem, a meditation, a prayer either by Soelle or in tandem with Soelle. “A Novena Retreat” engaged us in a spiritual dimension inviting the participants to slow down, breath, read, pray, ponder, and engage in “Spiritual Exercise.”
I am by nature a physical person. (For more on this idea see my previous post). Thus the idea of engaging in spiritual exercise works for me. I need a daily dose of this kind of work-out, too. Most of the time this means my life-long practice of daily meditation, usually about thirty minutes in the mid-afternoon. It also means some time reading, reflecting, and writing.
Here is something Redmont offered us on the last day of the retreat:
“Practice is very simple. That doesn’t mean it won’t turn your life around..Sitting is essentially a simplified space. Our daily life is in constant movement: lots of things going on, lots of people talking, lots of events taking place. In the middle of that, it is very difficult to sense what we are in our life. When we simplify the situation, when we take away the externals and remove ourselves from the ringing phone, the television, the people who visit us, the dog who needs a walk, we get a chance – which is absolutely the most valuable thing there is – to face ourselves.” (Charlotte Joko Beck)
The paradox is that spiritual exercise may require one to sit still, become silent, and be present to the moment. But without this kind of daily exercise I simply cannot do anything else well or with integrity.