Nov 12 2009

Commit to Your Life



As I walked yesterday, thoughts about my prospectus swirled in my mind, as they have for months.  Fifteen pages seems so small compared to papers and projects I have previously written.  It also seems a tiny number in comparison to the stack of pages that will ultimately comprise my dissertation.  I have been learning from these chaotic thoughts and fears the difference between simply writing to fulfill course expectations and writing that flows from a much deeper place: from what compels me, from what wakes me up at night and begs to be expressed–not for myself alone, or for a grade.

As I wrestle with writing, a phrase keeps coming to mind: commit to your life.  There is no other life than the one I am living right now, so one option is to write. Now.  Not when I no longer feel panic. Not when I have a cottage by a lake or peaceful mountain view.  Not when I have memorized everything about my topic. Nothing will magically make expressing ideas from my visual brain into words any less difficult or writing from my passion (from the Latin passio, suffering) any less painful.  Certainly, there is also joy, but not all the time. The ideal time, setting, mood or  Susan will not suddenly appear.

If I wait, I will never write.

Or I could choose not to write. A perfectly fine choice.

But I can’t imagine that.  Oh, I can vow I’m done with it all, but something keeps bringing me back to the page.  Something keeps nudging me to commit to my life,  “put it in writing,” risk making some ripples, and trust that something good and beautiful can come of it.

Oct 19 2009

Begin Today


Vermont Autumn by Susan Forshey

“How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”

Last December,  I began this blog as an exploration of contemplative living, but over time, writing entries fell by the wayside. Humbly, I realized I did not have a clear understanding of what I meant by the contemplative life, nor what living it entailed.  My interest in contemplative spirituality is decades old and my fact-based knowledge was just enough to get me into trouble!

This summer I spent time pondering what daily ingredients make up a contemplative life.  Rather than formulas, techniques, or check-lists of practices (meditate for 15 minutes, read scripture, lectio divina, etc.), vivid and emotion-filled images came to mind: relationships of intimacy; committed community; a life marked by a spacious daily rhythm;  life partnership; restful sleep; meals that are a celebration of life, rather than a means of injury to my body or the bodies of other creatures; times of silence; work in balance with the rest of life; noticing beauty; attention to the earth; meaningful conversation; and lots of grace.  I found Maria Lichtmann’s understanding of  contemplative living helpful: a “non-consumptive” way of life.  Rather than driven by an insatiable appetite to consume life experiences and people, contemplation is a  patient and loving attention to whatever and whoever is in the present moment.

For me, attending to the present moment often takes courage.  I shy away anxiously, procrastinate, and distract myself through the vast array of technological or media options.  Practiced daily, this shying away can become a habit.  Living is full of small practices, day in and day out, like piano scales.  These embodied life scales are challenging in the beginning and then become more and more effortless, more habitual.   Not all scales are life-giving.  As I enter the next decade, I am asking : what small practices, what scales, will form in me the life I desire to look back on at 70?  What practices will craft a life of intimacy, courage, follow-through, rhythm, attentiveness, love, and grace?  As I live this day, how am I living my life?

Practice for today:   Attend deeply to the task that is causing anxiety.  Simone Weil writes that sustained attention to a difficult geometry problem also cultivates the practice of attention necessary for both prayer and relationship.  As I consider my prospectus, attending to its completion is a life-giving practice that will spill into other areas of my life.

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