I’ve been longing for quiet and while the buzz of traffic, the noise of a television, the ringing of my telephone and the “clink, clink” of cat collars can sometimes seem like too much, the reprieve I truly seek is from the constant hum of thoughts streaming through my mind.
All day long I hear my own inner monologue: I have a headache. Why does my head hurt? What should I make for dinner? I’m hungry. Is there still chocolate in the cupboard? Have I been eating too much sugar lately? What is on TV tonight? I need to catch-up on my email. How many papers are due this term? How many more books will I need to buy? Can I get them at the library? What about Summit? Is today Wednesday or Thursday? I feel like I am forgetting something. When did I last talk to my parents? I’d rather be at the barn than working on my play. But, I really need to work on my play. I need to catch-up on those collages I promised to make. Have I already gotten the mail? Is tweeting really better than facebook? How would I know? Do I care? Should I care? Maybe I’ll just cancel all of it. Why are the cats hovering? Oh, crap, I forgot to feed them. I’m a bad cat mother. At least the litter boxes are clean. Dang, it’s hot in here. I need to turn down the heat. Heat. Heat. I need to eat. I’m so hungry . . .
The constant hum of monkey mind thoughts is maddening. Thoughts jump crazily from one topic to another and move so quickly I cannot keep up. I am exhausted. I have found that the more outer stimulus in my day, the more chaotic my thoughts. The more school work that I do, the more television I watch, the more time I spend online, and the more appointments I have to keep the more my thoughts feel like a jumbled mess. If I do not take the time to get quiet and make considerable effort toward slowing down I become agitated, short-tempered, overwhelmed, unfocused, depressed, and anxious. There are certainly some stimuli I can remove from my day, but I am not about to drop out of school or drop out of society (although there are times I am tempted by both). I have burned out again and again and again, but all of that burn-out has led to the discovery that spiritual practice is, for me, the best solution for balancing the chaos.
My spiritual practices used to consist of Buddhist meditation and Wiccan ritual, but as I have journeyed through divinity school the scope of practices has opened up and I have been exposed to traditions from religions around the world. I have also discovered that spiritual practice does not have to be rooted in religion or religious language. As long as it brings the practitioner a sense of calm, peace, love, kindness, and authenticity it can, in my opinion, be considered a spiritual practice. Of course, dear readers, I encourage you to determine for yourselves the qualities you desire in spiritual practice, but this is a good place to start.
I currently have three primary practices in my life that bring me a sense of quiet in the midst of life’s chaos: Keeping the Sabbath, Writing Practice, and Spending Time with Horses.
While I do not keep the Sabbath every week, I keep it at least twice a month. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I look forward to that 24-hour period of quiet. In our home, the television goes off, we disengage from the internet, we put aside work and school obligations and we rest. Truly rest. It is a day of peace that I cannot currently live without. The wisdom of this ancient Jewish practice is undeniable. On Friday evening I light two white candles and invite the presence of God into our home. From sundown on Friday to Sundown on Saturday our home is filled with the indwelling presence of God and we rest in that space. Transforming chaos into peace.
Writing has always been a part of my life, but not until the last few years have I come to embrace it as necessary aspect of my spiritual well-being. My life does not work without it. Writing provides me the opportunity to move past monkey mind into first thoughts. It puts me in touch with my authentic, creative self, to the place within me where God dwells. I become the creating soul I was always meant to be. Writing allows me to feel like myself without the chaos of monkey mind. As soon as my pen hits the page I come alive, I relax, I settle into Presence.
Horses are my new love. I am in the barn at least twice a week walking beside horses, talking to horses, looking into their sweet brown eyes. I am addicted to their sweet smells, the hay and cedar of the barn and no amount of cold or rain can keep me away. Horses take me right out of my mind and right into my body. Being with them is a form of meditation. They are the ultimate in present moment awareness. There is nothing they do not notice and in order to be with them, I need to be just as aware, just as conscious, just as present in order to be safe. We awaken to each other, present in each moment, together.
Each practice quiets the noise. Each practice restores calm. When I am blasted with the chaos of this world turning to spiritual practice brings me home to center. But, I must remember that each is indeed a PRACTICE. It is not enough for me to write once a month or visit the barn only on sunny days. I return again and again to what I know nourishes me and in the returning I find God.