Brother David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk who is known for his teachings on spirituality, most especially his writings on the virtue of gratefulness. Here’s a practice of his that I found this morning and thought worthy of sharing.
“Try pausing right before and right after undertaking a new action, even something simple like putting a key in a lock to open a door. Such pauses take a brief moment, yet may have the effect of decompressing time and centering you.”
As I clicked my way through my normal check of websites for inspiration this morning, my eye fell on an advertisement for a book offered by Franciscan Media. The book is called This Is the Life. Although it was attractive to me because of the picture of an ice cream cone on the book jacket, it was the tag line accompanying the image that caught my attention. See what you think.
Before we succumb to someday, let us inhale this day.
That one will give me pause, slow me down and keep me breathing!
Many times during the past week, the members of our assembly have been invited to take a short pause, sometimes as brief as two minutes, to gather ourselves and breathe into the present moment. The silence at those times is deep and palpable. Occasionally, as an additional prompt to renewed consciousness, we conclude the silence with a chant that has a become a beloved mantra for us during these days and, I trust, for the days going forward.
Sacred is our call. Awesome indeed the entrustment. Tending the Holy. Tending the Holy.
Yesterday we reached the mid-point of our time here in St. Louis. Our reward for work well done is an entire day to pause and relax and become tourists, regrouping for the second half of our work. So I’m off to meet my sisters from New York and Hawai’i, likely meeting up somewhere in the city others from Japan and Minnesota, California and Peru! And in our “play” we will, of course, be tending the Holy all day long.
I just picked up an issue of the Contemplative Outreach News (12/18) that I brought with me to this 2-week marathon gathering of Sisters of St. Joseph. Much of the issue was in homage to Fr. Thomas Keating who left this world last October but is still very present in the hearts of people the world over. Father Thomas was very skilled at articulating what was deepest not only in his own heart but in the hearts of all who listened to him as well. It was not just his words, however, that ignited the flame of love but his presence and his quiet enthusiasm for the love of God that burned in him and caught us up into a deeper place.
When I saw the above title in the newsletter this morning, I understood that whatever description was to follow in the article about Fr. Thomas, it could not capture the depth of the man or his love. I was not disappointed when I read the concluding paragraph.
In my ongoing work to fight homelessness, words are necessary. We connect with the suffering of our brothers and sisters through words. We change policy through words – spoken and written. We deepen our commitment to social justice through writing, reading and conversation. And yet, I will always be drawn back to Fr. Thomas’ teachings on the power of interior silence as the root of prayer and the foundation for our work in the world. (Jeff Olivet)
Yesterday the seven women who sat around our table in the midst of the 100+ Sisters wrestled mightily with the effort of expressing what is deepest in our lives: the meaning of our commitment to God, to one another and to our “dear neighbors” near and far. Several times during the session one of our two excellent facilitators called a “pause” to re-gather ourselves. Each time the silence in the room was profound and each time we began again, sometimes to struggle but also to know the presence of God in our midst as the meaning of all this holy work.
Today promises to be one of those days when I wonder how I can possibly do all the things I have to do in order to be ready for what comes next. As usual, the answer popped right up, this time from Macrina Wiederkehr on a circled page number of her book, Seven Sacred Pauses, which is subtitled Living Mindfully through the Hours of the Day. Whether or not I get all my tasks completed today, I hope at bedtime to feel as if all is right with the world as long as I remember the advice Macrina gives at this first hour.
If we practice living mindfully, we slowly begin to see the holiness of so many things that remain hidden when we choose to rush through the hours, striking tasks from the list of things we must accomplish by day’s end. It will be a happy moment when we remember to add the wise act of pausing to our to-do lists.
This pause can be as simple as standing attentively before a flowering plant or listening to the frogs in the pond. Perhaps we can stop for a cleansing breath: Breathe in the spirit of the hour; breathe in gratitude and compassion for yourself; breathe out love and encouragement for your co-workers, friends, family members. Your pause may be an awakening stretch, or sitting quietly and remembering your name. If you can learn the art of pausing, your work will prosper and be blessed. (p. 20-21)