intertwine
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intertwine

Both my kids napped at the same time! Would I choose productivity or healing?

This amazing thing happened on Thursday. Both my two-year-old and five-year-old took a nap at the same time!

This is now the second time that this magical event has occurred since my stay-at-home-working-dad duties began (March 10th with St. Paul teacher’s strike straight into COVID). Almost as rare as a Pink Super Moon

Earlier in the day I was feeling overwhelmed. It hit around 10:30am. Other days it’s 9. Sometimes 7:30.

In that 10:30-near-breakdown moment I was starting a new email campaign for work and getting the family prepped for a walk while helping Etta finish an assignment and feeling guilty that Silas had just watched 35 minutes of television.

But that was then! This was NOW! This was the time!

The heavens parted at 1:55pm.

I was going to get shit done! And I wasn’t going to feel bad that Etta was staring at an iPad. She was staring at the back of her eyelids.

I opened up my laptop and begin thinking about what to accomplish first. I had this brief moment where I thought, “I didn’t get my morning meditation in. I could do that now, but this moment was so right for productivity… “

I sat on the fence a while. The visitation of grace may have been that my computer was due for a software update. I chose “Restart now.” While the updates loaded, I opened the email app on my phone. My daily meditation email from the Center for Action and Contemplation was there unopened. I could at least read it while I waited. That’d be an efficient use of the time…

I did. Profound stuff about “mystical hope” from Cynthia Bourgeault.

And with that, “I” was done for. Her words, and the conversations I’ve been having with fellow Intertwiners about gentleness and “enough” and spiritual practices, and this book* I’ve been reading — they all confirmed what I needed to do in that moment.

I needed to shut everything down. I needed close my eyes, sit in silence, and pray.

And so, I did.

Twenty minutes of silent meditation.

This was a reenactment. You would have laughed watching me try to take this photo using my chin.

Twenty minutes of Centering Prayer. My practice.

And, it wasn’t this blissful nothingness. My head was noisy. Almost constant chatter. But I silently and gently spoke my sacred word — letting the noise be — consenting to the presence and care of a power greater than me.

20 minutes. Sitting. In silence.

The to-dos sat, too, during this perfect window for “productivity.” What needed to be done on the list would be done, but what needs to be done more than any of those to-dos right now is healing.

I need to heal from the story of “never enough” that has me trying to do so many things (perfectly) at once, leaving me overwhelmed each day before I squeeze the ketchup onto my kids’ lunches.

We need to heal from the story of “never enough.” The story that has many rushing to “get the economy running again.” Yes, we need to work. And yes, people are suffering because of stay-at-home orders and quarantines. But what the majority of us are suffering from isn’t COVID, or even economic hardship. Our struggle is with the pandemic void of meaning that has been revealed during what some are calling the Great Pause. Our struggle is with the revelation that our worth and value as human beings — that our very identities — have been reduced to measurements of how efficiently and effectively we Produce and Consume.

We’ve believed the lie that our primary identity is Consumer. And in a society of NEVER ENOUGH, we’re doomed to be consumed. This is the spiritual void. This is the disease. And, sorry, there’s no going back and flattening the curve.

But there are a variety of effective (even transformative) treatments available.

Listen. Listen in the silence.

The medicine is bird song. Buddha-wisdom. Sabbath.

The treatment can be found in the stories of Jesus, Tao verses, 12 Steps, and Rumi’s poems.

It’s not a war we have to win. It’s learning to rest in Earth-Mother’s arms. It’s learning to live into the story of enough.

Before Etta fell asleep, she asked, “What does courage mean?” The tornado sirens had sounded as part of Minnesota’s Sever Weather Awareness Week. She doesn’t like storms. I told her courage means to “take heart,” to be brave, and to make choices and act even though you might be scared.

This is a scary time for many. Fear has us acting out in all sorts of ways. Sometimes we’re fighting. We’re going to win this war and all the other ones. Other times, we’re trying to escape it all. What we really need is the courage to sit in it. We need to learn what this pandemic has to teach us about our personal and societal soul-sickness (i.e., NEVER ENOUGH). And with practices (like Centering Prayer — which Thomas Keating called “the Divine Therapy”), and through the power of together (aka Community), we’ll slowly learn to trust that with “quiet mind[s] and centered heart[s]” the true course to healing will be found.

Let’s sit in this together. Let’s gently speak sacred words, letting the noise of NEVER ENOUGH be just noise that slowly gives way to silence…

Bird song

Enough

*Alexander Shaia, in his book Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation, writes, “Amidst confusion, amidst the demands of others and one’s internal clamoring, stop. Leave. Go pray. Go chant. The true course is found in a quiet mind and centered heart.”

He’s writing about the Gospel of Mark and this sequence of stories occurring around the Sea of Galilee in which Jesus, “[w]ith the rhythm of the tides…prays, then goes out; returns to pray, then goes out again.”

Mark, to which Shaia ascribes a primary question of “how do we move through suffering,” was written around the midpoint of the first century to a community of Messianic Jews in Rome. This community would have known “shelter in place” as well, but COVID wasn’t their fear. Instead, it was becoming the scapegoat of an emperor (Nero) and being fed alive to starved dogs in the Circus Maximus.

Shaia sees the stories of Mark as instruction to scared families and individuals, hunkered down for fear of death. He lifts up Mark’s call to develop one’s inner life through honesty, silence/rest/meditation, and committed action. All with the support of a mentor and/or community, and all with a growing trust in a higher power, which this community would have called Christ.

I highly recommend Shaia’s work. It’s speaking gently and clearly a pathway through this pandemic wilderness.

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