well, i’m close to finishing 2 of my 4 weeks of vacation this summer. i haven’t been anywhere, but that feels ok. in fact, it feels necessary and important. of course there is the pressure to go somewhere. but it’s self-induced. the pressure to be like everyone else, scurrying off here or there on some vacation to some place in sweden or to another exotic country. well, that’s just not in the cards this summer for me. and ya know what? i’m totally ok with it. i’ve got other things on my mind…
like this one word that i’ve had floating around in my head for the past week: rest. i read something sunday about jesus taking his disciples with him one day on boat, seeking a solitary place so they could have some rest. a retreat. vacation. time to just be. of course, the crowd followed them because jesus was like a 1st century rock star. and while i can imagine that jesus was desperately seeking some alone time, listening to his soul telling him that it was time to recharge his batteries, he did not turn the crowd away. he gladly welcomed the crowd and all of their needs and desires. even though he’d planned to rest. something i would not have done. i would have sneakily found a way to “lose the crowd”, retreating into my apartment and refusing to make plans with anyone. or, if i couldn’t lose them, i’d spend all my time complaining that i’d rather just be alone. but that’s why he’s jesus. and i’m me.
but that got me to wondering… why? why am i so selfish with my alone time? and i immediately knew the answer to my own question: perhaps it’s because i’m not spending time alone on a regular basis, and better yet, when i have alone time, i’m not maximizing it.
jesus went away to be alone quite often, pulling away to go deep within himself. perhaps since he did it quite often, his soul was fed, and he was able to continue to serve others because he never let himself get drained. he never gave and gave and gave, without allowing himself time to reflect and just be. and so, his soul overflowed.
perhaps i’m so stingy with my alone time because when i have it, i do not necessarily use it productively: i do not fill it with things that fill my soul… journaling, doing yoga, meditating, dancing, photography, long walks, true quality time with my love & friends. to be brutally honest, more often that not, i get stuck on the internet, or with a movie. i’m not filling my soul properly, and so i’m not really ready to share myself because i always feel squeezed dry. i’m lazy with my soul time. i realize now that i can have all the alone time in the world, and it won’t matter unless i seek to be inspired rather than entertained.
i have forgotten what it means to be alone; and yet, i am this person, this nomad, longing for moments of solitude.
there are a group of people in life that intrigue me. they inspire me. they are people who practice a contemplative life. throughout history they have been called desert mothers & fathers. and while most people think that the desert monks and ammas (desert mothers) were only around during one certain time period in life, i beg to differ. i also believe that there are plenty living in our midst today. i have known a few women whom i call my “amma” (a word that means mother in many languages). these women have been contemplative, modern-day mystics guiding me, inspiring me, and journeying with me in life. people like elaine, linda, dania.
and then there are the mystics and desert mothers/fathers of history. people like julian of norwich, gregory of nyssa, john the baptist, athanasius, catherine of siena, thomas merton. all of these people (including the ones that have been in my life) live life a little differently that everyone else. they live life from deep within their soul… spending much time alone, relishing quietness & stillness, praying, meditating, thinking, writing, educating, counseling. however, none of these people lived, or live, a secluded life. they are members of their community, balancing their desire and dedication to nurturing their inner lives, as well as living out their love in the midst of the community in which they reside.
just like jesus did.
i realize that i am writing from a christian perspective, but that is part of my foundation/background. just because i am speaking from this perspective does not mean that i do not include great teachers, theologians, and spiritual guides from other religions, too, in my circle of inspirational mystics. people like buddha, rumi, ghandi, demeter & persephone, isis…
now back to my word: rest
the jewish community has a word that i love… shabbos. it is the word for shabbat or sabbath. most of us know what a sabbath is. the sabbath, or shabbat, is the day of rest for jews and christians. many people think of it as a day of prayer because jews & christians visit synagogues and churches on those days. but, the yiddish (jewish word) shabbos teaches me that it’s deeper than just one day of rest or prayer…
it is ceasing to create & withdrawing into our own essence. in other words, just being. exactly who we are. living from our soul for one day. doing those things which fill our soul, make our soul dance. it is breathing freely, knowing that just being alive is what life is all about, soaking in the moments, living one day with wild abandon, returning to the essence of who we are.
finding this word, shabbos, has meant a great deal to me this week as i spend my vacation days seeking rest & rejuvenation and trying to find a way to redefine how i rest, how i reconnect with this community of contemplative beings, to which i feel drawn.
when i was studying for my master’s degree, to become a minister (pastor), my friends & i had a joke. ok. they had a joke about me, and i played along because, in a sense, they were right. they teased me that because i was the contemplative one, the one always seeking some quiet place during the day, talking a lot about being rather than doing… that my life was all about me. that looking inward, drawing into myself, spending time in silence, finding signs of the Divine everywhere… was focusing too much on me. instead perhaps i should have been waking up and giving away every single second of my life to everyone else. at least once a day someone jokingly said, “…because it is all about you, liz”. i can’t say anything about other people, but i can say that, during this time, i had deep inner peace – even in the midst of turmoil.
those of us who crave some solitude, who love to read, reflect, ponder, write, draw, create, and generally have a calm, quiet, sometimes loner of a life, do that because we are drawing within ourselves. not to be egotistical, but to connect with ourselves, to connect with our souls, to connect with the divine spark, the image of God that we believe is in each one of us. and we believe that this world would be a better place if we all just took a little time to just be.
going inward does not make one more egocentric, it makes one more grounded. and being more grounded means that one can be filled, and then one can overflow, and begin share to one’s self with the world, to make a difference. doing things for the sake of doing things, or out of sheer “duty” is exhausting and not fun. seeking to be alone and then using that time for mindless internet surfing or sitting on the couch is also, in the end, exhausting and not fun.
but to truly be alone, to truly have a day of sabbath, to truly go within one’s self, and to truly follow one’s bliss will not only make a difference in your own life, but will most likely affect, change, and inspire those around you.
so, i’ve got a little more that 2 weeks left of my vacation. how do you think i’m gonna spend my time? it sure ain’t gonna be in front of a tv or randomly surfing the net. it will be filled with things that fill my soul and some intense quiet time on a daily basis.
basically, i’m just gonna be. and live life.
now i know why this word, rest, has been on my mind for a while…it’s about time that i reclaim my contemplative roots.