Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Stillness at the Break of Day

I have never before lived in a place where I could experience such utter stillness and absolute silence as out here in the desert. This is particularly true in the morning when I get up - usually at dawn. I take a cup of coffee and, especially if I am alone, I go outside into my meditation garden facing East, and I greet the dawning day.

As I sit in the stillness and silence, I try to practice the discipline of "mindfulness."  I try to clear my mind, focus on my breathing, and simply sit in a state of awareness, allowing the Holy Presence to break through my defenses and seep into my consciousness. 

You would think that it should be fairly easy to practice "mindfulness" sitting in the profound stillness, with only the sound of cooing doves and rushing hummingbirds to distract me.  But I struggle with being "mindful," and I have difficulty sitting in the morning stillness in that meditation garden - always distracted by the many random scattered thoughts that constantly barrage me.

I sit still and breathe, and then suddenly I begin to "think about" the emails I must answer that morning or  I remember some calls I have to make, or strategize what I will do in an upcoming appointment. I am even distracted by thinking about what I will write in today's post on this Retreat House blog. 

As I thought today about my many distractions, I happily recalled a poem I recently came across by Marie Howe (featured on Krista Tippett's radio broadcast,"On Being.")

Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention - the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for my trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

I say I "happily" recalled this poem as I reflected on my distractions because I have found Ms. Howe  to be a kindred spirit.  Her poem gives me hope that I am not alone in my soul-searching struggle.

Maybe that's why they call the practice of "mindfulness," a spiritual discipline.  I'll just have to keep working at it. 

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