Staying awake and staying alert is often difficult. We get cluttered with so many things to do, so many people to see, so much to read or write, that we seem always to be multitasking. While some people will want to convince you that multitasking is a skill we all need to learn, I am not so sure it is a good and healthy practice for our spirits.
For years I found myself coming to the end of the day, mostly satisfied, but very tired, and unable to tell you much about who I had seen, what I had done or more important, what and who I had missed. A wise friend of mine, Fr. Bill Quirk, (RIP) long ago told me that if I was not having three epiphanies a day I should not be preaching. At first, I thought Bill was teasing me, but after a moment I knew he was serious, and I knew that if I didn't slow down and pay more attention to everything and everyone around me as a gift from God, my preaching would be shallow.
Still I resisted Bill's advice. For years I claimed that because I was brought up in a city I didn’t have much of an appreciation for nature, but in truth I was more concerned with getting things done then having a contemplative spirit, making me was fast sleep to God’s grandeur all around me.
Recently, while on retreat, I learned again about how important it is to “stay awake,” and pay attention. In the first day or so of my retreat, as I entered more deeply into the silence, a quiet peace came over me. The more quiet I became, internally and externally, the more alert I became to everything around me. Each evening, because it was so hot and humid, I would take a walk in the neighborhood of the convent where I was making my retreat. On each succeeding walk I noticed that I saw more, heard more, wondered more about everything and everyone I was passing. While usually I try to power walk for some exercise, I was strolling, smelling the summer flowers, remembering my childhood neighborhood and simply enjoying the act of walking, and listening and seeing. While I know that a retreat is a privileged time that we usually can’t replicate at home, slowing down and breathing deeply was the first step in staying awake for me. More, the silence fired my imagination and filled my spirit.
Are you rushing so fast and furiously that you are missing life in all its glory? Are you pushing forward in order to avoid a painful situation in your life? There’s a wonderful song by Chuck Girard that you might want to listen to today just for the delight of it. Click here to listen. (Slow down)
By the way, please feel free to comment on any of these posts. Several of you have written directly to me about your insights. Please feel free to share them with everyone by commenting on the blog itself.