“The sacred duty of being an individual is to gradually learn how to live so as to awaken the eternal within oneself.” John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (4)
Today is Ash Wednesday signifying within the Christian tradition the beginning of Lent, the forty days of spiritual preparation before Easter Sunday. A week ago today, The Scientist and I made our way home from our first-in-a-decade warm winter sojourn. We both like Alberta winters, so it wasn’t so much an escape (especially this year in the midst of an especially balmy El Nino system that’s been wreaking havoc on our city’s winter festivals) as a time for rest and renewal, with minimal decision-making and distraction.
Packing, I finally decided to bring my tablet to continue work on the project that emerged during my first writers’ retreat in December. (I’m happy to say I did spend a warm afternoon under the cabana’s thatched roof typing away on a new love letter. Not finished, but the bones have been set and now wait to be fleshed out once I’ve done a bit more research and reading.) And I did check emails, only to delete spam and non-essentials so as not to be overwhelmed by an inbox of hundreds upon my return. I’ve learned that’s a sure fire way to quickly undo the benefits of any time away. Good plan until my little ASUS Transformer refused to turn on. And then I received the unexpected gift of being unplugged. Talk about a transformer!
I’ve come to know that not only am I an “adapted extrovert” – deeply introverted at heart but out of necessity and habit have learned to be “out there” and engaging – but I’m also highly sensitive by nature. Regular doses of silence and solitude are necessary for my health and well-being. Also, prone to anxiety and worrying, I’ve realized that too much time on computer, e-reader, and cell phone, especially in evening, overstimulate my already finely tuned system and thwart sleep. If I’m to read at bedtime I need to feel the weight of a book’s good story in my hands to soothe, settle and sleep.
I’ve never been a big “tweeter” or “instagrammer,” and seldom go to LinkedIn except to occasionally update my profile or announce an upcoming event I’m hosting, but I really like Facebook, for lots of good reasons. So it caught my attention, when at our family’s Ukrainian Christmas celebration a few weeks back, I heard my thirty something nephew-in-law refer to Facebook as “Facecrack.” It didn’t matter that I knew I used Facebook as a contemporary form of social activism, to “wage beauty” as an antidote to the day’s grief and terror. (OK, and to save a good recipe or bit of decorating whimsy.) I knew I was hooked. For all its good, I saw how much precious time I used scrolling and sharing, distracting myself from Life, filling in the pauses meant to restore if left empty. I felt the extent to which I’d be thrown off my centre, awash with emotions like despair, fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy in reaction to what I was reading. And while intellectually I know there is nothing wrong with these emotions in and of themselves, the stew they created inside me took more precious time and energy to process or ignore, and then emerge ready to focus on whatever I knew really needed my attention. So it came to me yesterday morning as I journaled that I’d continue to abstain from social media as my Lenten practice. I would fast – from Facebook – observing the ritual undertaken by devotees across time and faiths, “to awaken the eternal within.”
I was born on Good Friday in a Christian Lutheran home, so its archetypes, stories and rituals resonate deep within, and I uphold many traditions, though now, woven with the richness coming from the various spiritual traditions I hold dear to my heart and being. This ritual feels right, now. I trust how it came so spontaneously, with no pre-thought, appearing in black ink from my pen as I wrote on the white page of my journal. This is my “sacred duty.”
I look forward to what will come in these next forty days. I look forward to the pauses that invite noticing. I look forward to time reclaimed to write my love letters, to heeding my heart’s ache that I live my life aligned with its calling.
Annie’s calling. Time to take my ally for a walk…another sacred duty.
If you are called to follow a practice “to awaken the eternal within,” I invite you to join me in two spring-time offerings, Lectio Poetica and Painting from Within. For details and registration please go to my website’s “Upcoming Events” and complete the contact form. I’ll be back in touch via email or telephone.