stream of consciousness: practices and generosity and being here

I didn’t have an particularly strong hankering to write today, but in January I made the goal to write once a week and publish at least every other week. I’ve done a pretty good job so far of making time and sticking to it. I was afraid I would give up because I would start to resent writing or run out of things to say. But so far I’ve liked indulging in this hobby and it turns the way my brains is always sprinting in a thousand different directions helps me find things to talk about.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m learning how discipline can actually lead to freedom when done correctly. When I use discipline to write even when I’m not sure I want to, I’m building the writing skills I’ll want to have when I have something really important or special to writ about. The simple act of starting when I don’t feel like it can be enough to get the creative juices flowing and the words coming. Today I chose to open up my browser and begin typing even when my computer took an obnoxious amount of time to start up and my internet was being shady. And now I’m glad I’m here.

Today’s stream of consciousness will be especially stream-of-consciousness-y because I have a lot on my mind, but in little snippets:

I started reading “Naked Spirituality” by Brian McLaren and I’m totally into it. I only started within the last week so I haven’t made it very far, but I’m relating to so much of what he says and am excited to bring healthy spiritual practices into my life, just as I’ve started over the past eight months or so to incorporate other types of practices into my life (just a few examples: making time for silence, making and eating breakfast every day and eating/cleaning it up in introspection or prayer, yoga, putting my shoes away instead of wherever I took them off, reading on my work breaks instead of scrolling social media, and then the whole getting up early to write once a week deal).

I’ve had a hard time with “spiritual discipline” in life because I’ve had an unhealthy view of it. I’ve made it all about personal piety or I’ve tried to fit into our culture’s favorite models of what that looks like. The truth is I don’t really like sitting still with a list of prayer requests and stuff. I’m not saying that practice is bad, but I don’t really connect that way. I get bored and distracted and overthink if prayer really does anything. And I’m not good at studying my Bible. I’ve had spiritual experience that make it hard for me to let go of faith in something bigger, but I get antsy and overwhelmed and anxious by all there is to know and all my scholarly/theological/existential questions and suspicions and doubts I have and the infinite number of sources I could try to find the answers in.

So I’m kind of trying to get to a place of spiritual practice on my own terms and in my own language. If God can only be accessed by scholars or “prayer warriors” then something’s wrong. It wouldn’t make sense for God to not be accessible by kids or people who can’t read or people who can’t focus or people without much time to spare or whatever because that’s most people. Not a very effective system.

Right now, just making time for silence is going a long way. I’m interested in Biblical/religious/philosophical studies but I’m trying to take it one step at a time. What I really feel a pull to right now is to develop not just good spiritual practices but also good mental health practices that will allow me to be more generous with my time.

You might recall in my last post, I talked about greed and possessions. One of the things I’m most greedy with is my time. A big part of this is because of how overstimulated I can be by environments and socializing and emotions (I was blessed/cursed with a sixth sense of picking up and feeling other people’s emotions, expressed and unexpressed–it an be exhausting). I’ve come to pick up on how important it is to refresh my mind, soul, and body, and am learning more ways to do this. To prevent wonky brain, I have to spend time alone without outside voices and noises and emotions and events. It’s non-negotiable for my mental health.

I can’t help but wonder, however, if I can build practices and skills that will allow me to use my time alone more efficiently and powerfully so that less time alone is needed. Then, as I said, I can give more of that time away to contribute to my community or to be listening ears for someone or to take my older friend who can’t drive to do the estate sale shopping she’s always itching to do.

I’m not trying or hoping to turn into an extrovert (I actually heard someone testify once that God had turned him into an extrovert, which I think is a damaging idea as introversion isn’t bad; extroversion is just overvalued by our culture, but the guy meant well). I will always need time alone, because that’s who I am and that’s what accompanies my strength of empathy and observation. Other people will always need frequent socialization because that’s what accompanies their strength of connecting people and setting things into motion.

One practice I’ve just read about is using the word here to center yourself.

Here is the simple word by which we show up…the way we name where we are–pleasant or unpleasant, desired or not–and declare ourselves present.

Here I am in the presence of a mystery… in the presence of a Presence who transcends, surpasses, overflows, and exceeds every attempt at definition, description, and even conception. Here you are,whoever you are, however similar or dissimilar you are to my preconceived notions of you. May the real I and the real you become present to one another here and now.

We are calling inward to our own souls, summoning ourselves to wake up, so we can attend to the Presence in whose attention we are held and in whom we live, move and having our being.

Here I am at this point in history… with all my problems and faults, all my embarrassments and mistakes, all my whirring conscious thoughts and all my subconscious rumblings and doubts… I don’t have to be somewhere else–right here is okay. In fact, it’s the only place I can be to begin to awaken spiritually. Here. Now. Just as I am.

Here I am, and here you are.

I feel like all those pieces from an entire chapter in “Naked Spirituality” make sense together, but I also read the words in between, so I guess you can let me know if they didn’t and I can implore you to read the book. The point is to remind yourself where you are, physically, emotionally, spiritually. To stop striving to be somewhere else. To bring yourself back when you’re drifting away.

I used this yesterday at dinner. It was after an emotional day, and my husband and I were in a restaurant with another couple. But the restaurant had TVs and lights in every direction. The music was loud and the crowd was big. I felt like I was floating in an chaotic abyss of sensory inputs and distractions and feelings. There was too much going on internally and externally.

The temptation to retreat into my own daydreams in order to conserve energy was strong. But I remembered the here practice and decided to give it a try. I repeated, “Here, I am here,” in my head, becoming mindful of my exact location, of God, of each person at the table, of the exact conversation. It helped block out other noise and thoughts and it made me more aware of the actual, real life humans in front of me. It anchored me and I was better able to stay present and enjoy our friends, despite the circumstances.

Of course, I crashed at home by myself and am enjoying the hours of solitude I’ll have today, but I’m grateful I was able to stay connected to the moment better than I would have in the best.

I’m excited to learn more ways to ground myself and to recharge my soul. I’m excited to free up space in myself to give back to the people around me. I’m curious what it will look like.

Have you experienced anything similar?

***

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luh u

 

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