You have a routine, you have a rhythm, and you’ve got each day scheduled so it runs like a well-oiled machine. The machine runs constant without taking a break, because it doesn’t know any other kind of motion than to strive, prove, earn, perform, and succeed. You anxiously hope the façade of strength and capability this machine portrays is believable, because deep down somewhere you know its parts are fragile and weary – everyday teetering on the brink of collapse. Are you familiar with this machine? I was, and still I contemplate firing it back up more often than I would like to admit. It was my life and the only way I knew.
That is, until I received the gift of disruption.
I was working full-time, my husband was working full-time, our childcare was arranged, the kids made it to their activities, we served at the church, we had clean clothes to wear, the dog got fed, and the garden was growing vegetables – in all appearances, the machine was running smoothly. Each part was doing its job, and I needed each part to do its job. I knew if one cog in the machine stopped working the whole thing would break down.
And then, one day it happened…our childcare arrangement unexpectedly fell apart. I know what you are thinking. What’s the big deal? Couldn’t this be worse? Yes. But was there much more going on here than childcare falling apart? Definitely.
Prior to this disruption I had begun feeling restless, wondering if there was more. Was there more to life? Something deeper, richer, freer? Was life supposed to be different than what mine had become? These sorts of questions didn’t have a place, didn’t have a function, within my well-oiled machine of daily life. But all of that changed when our machine collapsed, when we received the gift of disruption. No longer could we keep up this pace. We had to find a new way forward. My rhythm of life needed to change.
I ended up quitting my job – a ten year career in higher education. In this season of searching for who I was and what I was supposed to be doing with my life I discovered the Contemplative Way. Gradually, I learned about the rhythms and practices of this way. Through engaging in these contemplative practices a new slower, richer, and freer rhythm of life began to emerge.
I had participated in spiritual practices or disciplines in the past; however, they tended to be oriented toward the study of Scripture, listening to teaching, and offering wordy prayers. There is value in these types of practices. They definitely played, and still play, an important role along my journey. However, in this season my soul was longing for something different. Because my life had gotten so full and noisy I longed for space and time to slow down, listen, and just be. These things I was longing for happen to be the defining characteristics of contemplative practice – slowing down, listening deeply, and just being in God’s presence. Increasingly, I explored and read about contemplatives and mystics like the Desert Mothers and Fathers, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and twenty-first century contemplatives such as Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Gerald May, Thomas Keating and Cynthia Bourgeault. I learned about and began to incorporate practices like centering prayer and yoga into my daily routine. Other contemplative practices and tools I began to explore included lectio divina, labyrinth walking, contemplative art, theEnneagram, and spiritual direction. Slowly, these practices opened my eyes to see and ears to hear what more is going on within and around me each day. Joy, gratitude, and contentment seem more readily accessible from this way of living and being.
There is no magic in these practices; each one is simply an entry point. An entry point that opens us up to the movement of the Spirit within.
We all have of disruptions, big and small. Sometimes it’s a slow driver when you are late taking the kids to school or going to work. Other times it’s a health scare or death of a loved one. These disruptions force us to pause – to break our rhythm. This pause is often an invitation for us to really see and really hear what more is at work within and around us.
What does your current rhythm of life invite you to see and hear?