Saturday, September 02, 2006

Resting, Truly Resting

On this Labor Day weekend, I'm thinking about resting and not laboring. It's become a cliche in our culture to talk about how busy we all are, and like many cliches, it's largely true. Many of us find ourselves going nonstop from morning until night, and then collapsing in front of the television, which can shift our focus, but isn't truly restful. One thing I have read in many essays, blogs, and books, is how often a diagnosis of cancer causes us to re-examine our lives, and how we spend our time. I have joined those numbers over the past three months as I recovered from surgery, took family vacations, and contemplated how I choose to live my life, including time to rest.

In his blog, Leroy Sievers doesn't talk much about the spiritual aspects of dealing with cancer, but in his August 9 post, he did ask his readers for "new tricks." He was seeking new ideas for getting through the day, making life with cancer more manageable. He received over 100 responses to that post, and I think it's because his question so resonates for those of us with cancer. And, even without cancer, we can all ask how we want to make our lives work better.

True rest, I think, can be a spiritual discipline, and many spiritual discplines can help us truly rest. Many of us churchgoers know that the words "sabbath" and "sabbatical" derive from a Hebrew word for rest. The sabbath is intended to be a time for rest and reflection, but I think none of us need to wait for one special day of the week to rest and rejuvenate. So, as I have been contemplating how to change my life, to slow it down, to find more rest and rejuvenation in my daily life, I have been contemplating spiritual practices and how my living and working space can support stepping out from the busy-ness of daily life.

Meditation and Centering Prayer. For many years, I meditated regularly, but after the birth of my (now 10-year old) daughter, I found it hard to maintain, and stopped meditating. Two years ago, I returned to a regular meditation practice, initially just one day a week, and, when I was joined by a friend in that weekly meditation, it became a grounding highlight of my week. Over the past few months, I have chosen to return to regular meditation. For me, meditation is a time to sit in silence and to listen for the voice of God. Some days my mind is very busy and I need to bring my attention back again and again to my mantra (a simple sying that grounds me in God's presence), and some days I feel truly lifted out of my busy mind and into a spacious and holy place, if only for a few moments. I believe that the spiritual discipline of meditation is a powerful tool for deep rest.

Sacred Space. I have always tried to maintain some space in my house for sacred objects and photographs of loved ones who have died. I have added a new sacred space this summer in a corner of my bedroom, a small table covered with the first silk scarf I painted containing images of water and sky, and then laid with a candle, a smudge stick (for cleansing the air), a few crystals (because they are beautiful and can absorb energy around them, I believe), and a few special books. I also lay on the table a strand of beautiful prayer beads and a pocket angel with the word "Harmony" on the back, given to me by my meditation friend. Just looking at the table grounds me, and sitting next to it in meditation creates a corner of grounded, quiet, sacred energy.

And, when I meditate I can wrap myself in a colorful hand knit prayer shawl, made for me and prayed over by loving friends.

Sacred, Spiritual Reading. Whether it's the Bible or something written more recently by a spiritual teacher, reading about the inner world, the world of spirit, offers me the potential for grounded, healing thoughts. I am going to be writing more later about some of the books that have moved me, but for now, I want to mention a pamphlet sent to me by a professional colleague and friend who is a cancer survivor (Thanks, Elizabeth!) entitled "How to Survive and Thrive in the face of a life-threatening illness." A healing group from her church put together a lovely booklet with personal stories and reminders about things that can be healing; prayer, dreams, loving companionship, spiritual reading, living in the moment, art, and holding hope. This book just arrived in the mail yesterday, but already it has spoken to me powerfully of the commonality of our struggles with cancer, and the power of spirit to mend us, spiritually and, sometimes, physically.

Reiki Energy. Five years ago, I was trained to be a Reiki healer, which essentially means trained to channel this energy. I'm not going to try to explain the process here, but I do want to say that I feel the energy fill my body when I open to it, and that I do believe Reiki opened a channel to universal healing that is available to all. (That may sound a little strange to you if you have had no experience with Reiki, but I am speaking for myself and what I know.) I am grateful to the friends who have asked me if they can channel Reiki energy to me from a distance, and I would not hesitate to seek a Reiki healer for hands-on work if I felt in need.

As I come to the end of this post, and look at where I began, I wonder if this all reads like a lot of work, and not rest at all. Setting up the routines and making the time for it may feel like work, but once I am in the rhythm of attending to my need to rest and rejuvenate, then each of these offers solace, peace, rest and comfort. Taking care of myself doesn't have to be work, but it does require intention and attention.

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