Monday, February 8, 2016

45 Minutes

One of my biggest struggles with motherhood is that there is never alone time.

We can joke about how a mom never has a moment to herself - not even to pee or shower. Even if I am home without the kids or husband, there are piles of laundry or a sink full of dishes nagging at me.

I've never understood how there can be so many outside demands of my time until I became a mom.

And it doesn't get better. It just gets different. As a mom to newborns and infants, the demand is constant for life sustaining things like food and comfort and physical care. As toddlers, we add in a new level of safety demands. As my kids have grown, their demands on me and my time haven't lessened - they've just changed in nature.

My day is generally jam packed with demands on my time, my energy, my abilities.

There's this idea that we have to make time for ourselves. And I used to do that with exercise. But even then there is a "must" sense to it. There is an expected outcome, a sense of this being a task.

Even when I sit and watch TV, I am usually doing something else at the same time.

How did I become this person? How did I get to be so... worn thin? And I know I am not at all alone in feeling this way.

I attended a retreat this past weekend. And it was filled the things you expect - connecting with others, self reflection, sharing, lots of laughter. But there was an hour set aside for Scripture reflection through a process called Lectio Divina. I've "studied" the idea of Lectio Divina and thought it sounded like something I'd enjoy. But I've never been able to make time for it. At this retreat, we were given the Scripture and then given an hour to find a place where we could comfortably read, reflect, meditate, contemplate.

I struck out down a broad path by myself. And I was attracted to a woodsy area off the path. I had brought a blanket along so I climbed in amongst the brush and trees, laid down my blanket, and sat down.

The view from where I sat

Psalm 139
13 For You shaped me, inside and out.
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
    Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
15     You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
    carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
16 You see all things;
    You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
    You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetnessof it.
17 Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!
    How grand in scope! How many in number!
18 If I could count each one of them, they would be more than all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!
    Even when I wake up, I am still near to You.
I read the Psalm and then I just sat with my eyes closed. I listened to the sounds of nature around me. Birds and a woodpecker and geese - some nearby, some far away. I felt the sun on my face and saw the glow of light through my closed eyelids. I heard the sounds of a family off in the distance, children playing in their yard.

I read the words again. I focused on phrases that stood out to me - mother's womb, for example. I felt like I was cradled in Mother Nature's womb, secured from obvious sight, hidden in a tangle of branches.

The view of my "womb" from the path
I wanted to write. I began to jot down thoughts and impressions on the paper that carried the Scripture.

I sat still in my spot and listened but with my eyes open. The blue sky, the white clouds, the wild field on the other side of the path that will soon begin to burst alive with new growth, the tree branches that will form buds and grow new leaves.

I realized that I needed to check the time because we had an hour for the activity and then had to meet back together in the lodge.

It had been about 30 minutes. I had been sitting still and quietly with no demands on my time for 30 minutes. I was surprised but then I did a little self assessment. I didn't feel... bored or restless or anxious. I felt calm and relaxed and peaceful. Moreso than I have felt in a very long time. I had brought markers with me and spent 15 minutes sitting in my little womb and just colored. My mind was clear. My heart was peaceful.

I think that's the closest I've gotten to the idea of "zen." Not the actual Buddhist practice of Zen but the common idea of a sense of zen.

When it was time to return to the lodge, I stood and stretched as best I could from within my nest. I picked up my blanket and carefully made my way back to the path. I stretched again - more fully this time.

Over the past 2 days since the retreat, I keep going back to that time in the trees. Those 45 minutes of quiet, of being alone, of no demands, of my mind not wandering to the list of "to do's" waiting for me. The calm, the peace, the awareness of life.

And now I have a longing for more of this experience. An awareness that this isn't something I should schedule or make into an expected task to check off my list. But maybe, when life is feeling hard and overwhelming and stressful... maybe I need to go find a womb, a nest. A place where I can sit and connect to the earth and the air. Where I can be silent and still and simply exist in God's presence.

sig jan 2014 photo owlsig.jpg

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