A surprise package arrived in the mail this week.
It was a book called ‘Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest‘ (by Bonnie Gray) that my friend Zoe had so thoughtfully had sent to me after reading of my ‘spiritual awakening/breakdown‘ last month.
Through the haze and fog of self-rediscovery I’m starting to see a couple of strands pulling together into the promise of hope.
I stumbled upon a age-old monastic practice recently which involves a daily practice of naming your ‘consolations’ and ‘desolations’. The idea is that at the end of the day, you examine your experiences and find those that gave you spiritual energy and life (consolations) and those that drained you and pulled you down (desolations). After a few weeks of engaging in this framing of a day, I’m starting to see more clearly the habits that I perpetually fall back on (frantically cleaning, doggedly multi-tasking, busily burying myself in to-do lists) are the soul-drainers that I am consistently identifying, and the choices that don’t come so naturally (sitting down to watch the kids play, taking time in the garden, losing myself in ‘The Eleventh Hour‘ with Eli) surprisingly keep cropping up in the ‘energy-giving’ column.
Reflecting upon my ‘desolations’ of the past few weeks, it became clear that the moments that suck the most life out of me and drive me to explode in anger or frustration, are the moments that I overreach out of my realistic capacity and struggle to juggle all the balls that I’ve thrown into the air at the same time. And then, after the failure to manage, comes the wave of shame and self-criticism. This morning it hit me that this defeating cycle is kind of like throwing a fistful of rocks into a bowl, grabbing the hand blender and lamenting the shortcomings of the appliance instead of realising that the task was completely outside the scope of the instrument’s capabilities. Hopefully this moment of clarity will allow me to extend myself a little more grace when I end up letting a couple of the balls drop for a moment.
In the book, Bonnie Gray pleads with us to find ways of making rest a regular rhythm and to stop perpetuating the notion that stopping to pause is an optional extra. It is in these moments, the ‘whitespace’, that we find clarity, perspective, space to breathe, flashes of inspiration, focus, spiritual connection and relational riches. Only a few weeks ago I would have potentially scorned this message, or glossed over it as applicable to other people, instead of allowing it to shoot into my soul as the truth that it is.
Now, I find myself gravitating to the hammock to watch the sunset after blowing kisses to the last child having tucked them into their cosy beds. I actually enjoy going to the cafe to read a book and journal by myself. I savoured the relaxing head massage prior to getting my hair cut this week and didn’t let my mind drift to to-do lists or dinner preparations. With mango ice-cream and strawberries in hand, I interrupted Dave’s PhD work, telling him to follow me out to the front lawn to sit in our cane chairs and enjoy the twilight together. I staved off the artificial urgency of dinner preparations (which usually hit around 4-4:30pm) setting up an intricate water slide construction for two excited little boys. Dave picked up some Espresso ice-cream on special last night and we shared it together on the hammock while reflecting on the richness of the day.
Inefficient lingering. It’s not one of my natural strengths. My mind is always ploughing forward to the next task, the next plan, the next party. Staying in the moment, watching the fire, staring into the sunset, savouring the last sip of coffee, standing next to someone without saying a word, lying on the grass and looking at the intricate wings of a ladybird.. all these things are gradually becoming ‘the way’ in my mind, gently pushing aside the task manager in me to make way for greater things.
It’s as if my character DNA is (slowly) shifting, though it definitely helps that Dave is now on school holidays and the summer weather lends itself to lingering and being in the moment. But I’m trying to be more brave in my choices, to prioritise relationships, shrieks of laughter and just ‘being’ over mess, chaos, routines and naptimes. Hopefully, by the time the seasons shift and the house is solely my domain once more, I can carry over these lessons to the new year.