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October 21, 2020 at 11:07 am #4823officeKeymaster
Noticings…October 21, 2020
Last week I was on holidays and I was blessed to spend 3 days of it on a silent retreat on the north shore of Stony Lake. I lucked into absolutely perfect autumn weather. I spent most of my time in two places – sitting at the side of the bay (yes, I sang the song!), and walking on the leaf carpeted walking trails. Autumn is my favourite season, and this was about the most perfect expression and experience of autumn that a person could imagine. It was heavenly. But it wasn’t the weather that made it special; it was the spaciousness.
As I sat in my chair, basking in the sunshine, feeling the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze (did I mention that the weather was perfect?), I was able to get quiet enough to notice things. Some were obvious: the loons honking at one another, the regal blue heron gracefully swooping across the water’s surface, the fish jumping out of the water. I was even lucky enough to watch a family of otters climb onto a rock near me and playfully frolic in the sunshine. The key was that there was time to notice these things, because I made the time. There was quietness because I turned off the outside world (yes, even my phone!) and permitted myself time to just ‘be’, and reflect, and ponder, and write in my journal. And breathe! The spiritual word for this is spaciousness.
It’s harder when you’re not sitting still, but I found I still had that spaciousness as I hiked the walking trails. I’d stop along the way, temporarily captivated by the colours, or an oddly shaped tree, or just the glorious sensation of being alive in the freshness of a fantastic day and being utterly present to the moment. That’s spaciousness. The capacity to slow down within a moment and have the openness to notice the glory and presence of God that is surrounding you.
The opposite of spaciousness is noisy crowdedness. You don’t have to be with a bunch of people to experience that. You can experience noisy crowdedness while you’re completely alone. It’s things like our racing thoughts, our busyness, our endless to-do lists, our responsibilities, our social media choices, and our sense that the world can’t survive a moment without our constant fussing that creates so much noise and crowds out our capacity to be in the moment. Guess what? The world actually managed to make it without me for a few days last week! Not that my presence doesn’t matter, or doesn’t make a difference – just that my busyness is not what’s keeping the world spinning. That’s above my pay grade.
I’m very fortunate. I have the freedom in my vocation to be able to take a few days apart like this (although I haven’t done so in a couple of years – which is foolishness) and press my reset buttons, and get quiet, and remind myself of the gift and grace of spaciousness.
Now for the challenging part: to bring a sense of that spaciousness into the noisy crowdedness of everyday life. And it is a huge challenge! Happily, sacred spaciousness is so deep and penetrating that it resounds and echoes for a good, long time. I will carry that gift of spaciousness with me, hopefully through this season of challenges, and respond with gratitude. And I’ll carry the gift of the trail and the bay with me, and hope that the loons, and the otters, and the heron enjoyed the gift of my guitar as I played for them.Shalom,
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