Some Questions For You

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One of the blessings of pretending to be retired is having the time for reflection. Last week, I went on a silent retreat at Dayspring, a rustic spiritual retreat center not far from my home. There were no epiphanies or mystical visions, but I did have a restful day of walking, reading, and writing.

My meditative moments often produce more questions than answers, so I thought I’d pose a few for you, too — kind of a mini-retreat. Why not pretend to be retired for the moment, and pause to rest and contemplate some of life’s questions?

First, take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind. Relax. The world won’t stop spinning if you take a ten-minute break.

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Now – what interferes with your serenity these days? What’s causing you anxiety or stress? Are you worried about the past or the future, instead of enjoying this gift of today? Are there dark corners of your mind that need to be swept clean or old resentments that need to be scooped out and dumped in the dust bin? I’ve heard it said that holding on to resentment is like drinking poison every day and waiting for the other person to die.

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Where’s the color in your life?


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What fills your spirit with joy and celebration? Can you devote more time to these pursuits and these people? Are you laughing enough?

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How do you cultivate peace in your life? Could you be more intentional about it?

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Do you ever give yourself the gift of doing nothing? Does “doing nothing” make you anxious? If so, why? Are you avoiding emotions?


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Are there parts of yourself that you have locked away? Gated communities in your soul that block the scenery of your life? What are you keeping in? What are you keeping out?

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Are there fires that have grown cold? Things that used to warm your soul or ignite your passions but that no longer do? Is it time to scatter the ashes and move on, or could the embers be fanned back into flame with some attention from you?

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Why not “come away by yourself to a lonely place,” as Jesus said, and plan a quiet day to seek perspective on your life? To step back and look for patterns in the seemingly random twists and turns? Perhaps the boulders you keep stumbling over have lessons to teach you — maybe they are an important part of your journey.

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 Go ahead – sit on a bench and watch the morning go by.

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Spend the afternoon with a good book.

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 Most of all, enjoy the simple things.

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Things are Quieting Down, and I Don’t Like it One Bit


I’m a fan of the concept of “living in the Present Moment,” something recommended by spiritual sages throughout history and also by Pure Inspiration magazine.

I like thinking about it, talking about, writing about it, leading retreats about it. But I’m not very good at doing it — sometimes I don’t even like doing it.

If (as so often happens) it’s a sunny day, I’ve just sold an essay, and I’m walking in a field of daisies, then I’m down with the Present Moment thing.

Life Ain't All Daisies

Life Ain’t All Daisies

Most of the time, though, I either forget to live in it, don’t want to live in it, or have already moved on to planning my next Present Moment. Occasionally I’m obsessing about past Present Moments and what I might have done or said differently.

In Search of Discipline

Lately I am making an effort to clear my schedule — to say “no,” to refrain from filling every evening with friends or events, to just “be.” This didn’t begin as a spiritual practice; two happenstances coincided to bring on the intentional openness in my schedule. Well, three.

The first is that I’m working on my thesis. This is going to take serious discipline and organization, things at which I do not excel. I can get stuff done when I am essentially reacting — working with others under work plans and deadlines — but if I’m self-directed, big projects take some real doing. My inclination is to fill my time with everything except what I’m supposed to be doing. (My houseplants are extremely well tended lately.)

The second motivator was a meeting with my financial planner and an unpleasant surprise about my retirement plan, such as it is, which resulted in my beginning to keep a budget. It was truly a shock to find out how much money I spend and how much I waste. So I have to stay home more and be more intentional about my cooking, entertainment, and random purchases.  A spontaneous dinner out, a movie and popcorn (OK, and some Gummy Bears), a trip to the nursery for some annuals and herbs — these add up!

Thirdly, there is the chronic issue of my beyond-messy house. I bethought myself, “Self, if you stay home more, you can clean in all that spare time.” Not so much. I just mess up more. Well, that’s not completely true — I washed one-third of my bathroom floor the other night. Don’t ask.

Living (Uncomfortably) in the Moment

So there’s all this space. Space to live in the present moment, space to just be who I am, where I am. And it makes me anxious. Like something is supposed to be happening. Like I’m missing something. Like I *should* be doing something. Like I could jump out of my skin.

It’s crazy.

I’ve preached a sermon about this at my church; I’ve led retreats and classes about this; I’m in two weekly spiritual support groups where I often lead discussions about simplicity and silence and present momenting. I’ve stayed nice and busy preparing all those things.

Here I am, though, practicing what I preach. I am left alone with myself to remember how far I am from who I want to be, who I am meant to be.

Memories pop up. Feelings surface. Grief and guilt and shame emerge, and anger and angst.

I worry about climate change.

I remember that the odds are good I’m going to die someday, because people I love keep being sick and/or dying.

I know my discomfort is good. I even believe the dying part is good, intellectually. I know for sure there is a better place than this world because we have such a strong desire in our hearts for that better world.

One Thing is Certain

One Thing is Certain

Grant Me the Serenity

I’ve been working hard at trying to become my real, whole self. I made a life mission statement earlier this year, which helped, and my therapist and I continue to work through my childhood crap and how it affects me today. Of course, this means everything is all stirred up, but it needs to be stirred up in order to sift through the debris and silt at the bottom.

It’s all good, as they say. It just doesn’t always *feel* good.

Being here in my space, living in this present moment, leads me to pray and to meditate and to recall that I’m not in control of the universe. The only thing I can hope to control is myself.

There’s a prayer that’s used in Twelve-Step Recovery programs that I think says it all:

God, grant me the serenity (isn’t that an exquisite word?)

To accept the things I cannot change (friends, family, and me dying; mass shootings; government shutdowns)

The courage to change the things I can (dirty bathroom floors; my thesis; my finances)

And the wisdom to know the difference (does it have my name on it?).

I wish you serenity, friends.

Mountaintop Moment

Mountaintop Moment

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