Friday, November 15, 2013

Present in the midst

Driving home from Cleveland, I noticed a peaceful patch of woods and longed to be there, out in Nature and away from the artificiality of the hospital. Granted the Cleveland Clinic sways one with its perks – a Starbuck's, Joseph-Beth Bookstore, fitness center, rooftop labyrinth etc. – but it's still  chock full of white coats, needles and sick patients. And those dag-goned florescent lights. For all of the hype about families and healing, why do they still insist on such lousy light. I even read a 2012 study the clinic conducted that touted how much natural light promotes healing. Enough reason to do away with the freaky, green-cast low light. I wasn't sorry to leave it behind.

I so craved Mother Nature and thanks to the wonderful Artsy Fartsy volunteers who took over for me, I had a free Saturday afternoon to recover from the week. After peaking outside, I knew my recovery meant getting out there. Turns out, I spent the time working myself into a sweat and shedding layers while I methodically raked the front yard. It was so cathartic. I'd considered swimming, but I felt the need to also be productive, not just physical. Raking fit the bill, neatened the yard and burned off the stress.

I began to feel the fibro effects of the past weeks, so I left for Quaker worship early, early enough to spend an hour-and-a-half in the silence. I sat alone a spell, soaking in the sacredness. I was able to feel God's kingdom here and now. Slowly others trickled in as the regular worship hour drew neat. I heard the musician rustling paper and opening the stand. Others whispered. I grow more centered with my eyes closed. Soon, someone smelling of soap and sausage sat next to me. I was immediately permeated by their energy. The celloist commenced what sounded like a prayer, my prayer. I reluctantly opened my eyes to my friend Patia. "I thought you could use an angel," she said as she kissed my cheek, embraced me and offered her hand. 

Hurriedly walking to yoga, already five minutes late, I happened to glance up and was struck by the crisp, clear and vast sky. Last time I'd noticed was on the rooftop of the Cleveland Clinic. I hadn't given it another thought. Frankly, I haven't given much but my mother another thought in the past two weeks. 

The silken sky reminded me of how much more there is to life than my current obsessions. "Lift me out of my littleness," I murmured as a prayer. It's all too easy to gain that microscopic, myopic view, magnifying our concerns way out of proportion. And forget. Beauty. Nature. Creation. Spirit.

I met my dear friend and first yoga teacher, Renee, to finalize details for a workshop on sacred pain we are planning for March. We agreed to meet somewhere between West Chester and Milford and my Quaker Meetinghouse seemed like the perfect spot. It's affirming and amazing to be on the same page with someone else in the work I am called to. Both of us have struggled for years with chronic pain and both of us desire to help others. She's a yogi and counselor, I'm the artist and minister. We make an awesome duo. I stuck around after Renee left, re-connecting with our minister. I have missed my Meeting, being away for my mother and so involved with my family and studio the past year-and-a-half. Walking joyfully and lightly to the car, I see a voicemail message from my father. He says my mother has been moved out of the ICU. THANK YOU, I sing and dance.

I sink my teeth back into centering prayer and am struck almost immediately in my brief lectio-divina practice. The Thomas Keating devotional focused on the present moment. I continually try and fail at this discipline. I know it's important, but never discovered why until I savor this reading. The phrase "the end of time" grabs, almost strangles, me. Not end of the world or humanity, as so many interpretations claim, but the end of time. I find it so very freeing. I live so constrained by time. Pushed and rushed. What would it be like to live outside of time? To do and act when Divinely inspired?

The passage speaks of the Second Coming as the end of time and also when we access the eternal within. The Divine, Keating writes, constantly breaks in on linear time and that each moment of chronological time IS a link to the Divine when we are sensitive enough to Spirit. In essence, it said to me, in the present, we can access God. WOW, I think, WOW. That's why there is a practice of the present moment, an opportunity to connect. A place when God reaches us.

Interestingly, in the evening, I attend a Quaker Quest in-reach session at my Meeting. It's been such a long time since I showed up to be with people outside of worship when I'm not facilitating. It proves to be such a joy to sit with people I've just met,  others I've know for years and explore what God, Jesus and Scripture mean to us. No right or wrong answers. This session gets interrupted by a series of texts and voicemails from family members trying to arrange for my mother's return.

My youngest wakes up sick and I get a little anxious as I am supposed to return to Cleveland with my dad next week to bring mom back to rehab. Yes, I want her home. Now. But not if I give her something. I talk myself into NOT skipping yoga and am rewarded with a giant hug from a longtime Meeting buddy whose work has kept her away a few years. It's a wonderful reunion. I get a good workout, run a few errands, check on my sickie and head to the studio. And the anxiety mounts. I remind myself that I've had a few terrific days in getting back to my work and making spiritual connections. That I have felt God present and that she will figure all of this out. The burden is not mine.

Oh yeah, I remember.

• How do I remain centered when the world is moving ahead?
• When circumstances are tough?
• How does Nature rejuvenate me?
• How does worship nurture me?
• What spiritual practices connect me with Spirit?

A semi week of normalcy
amid the broken
trips to the clinic

my 16-year-old
wants to cuddle
and watch movies

who am I to say no?

my 13-year-old
calls me in dire
pain as I direct
her to an ibuprofen
until I get home

my husband's
out the door
to a convention

and my mother's
still far away

almost too much

until God
breaks in, which
I am pretty sure she
is doing continually

it's just that I am
being present

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