Our world, life, sorrow … we grieve the environment. We worry about the future of our countries. We feel sorrow over our church. Swirling turbulence that feels out of control. Our control. Maybe even God's control? We wonder … mostly we fear in the quiet, unknown corners of our heart … the uncertainty of not knowing can gnaw at our hearts as we go about our daily business, wishing it would go away.
These days, news headlines, social media posts, talk radio and Flipboard articles can easily decenter me. They seem to scream in my face: "Look at me! Bet you don't have an answer to this! Just give up and jump in the downward spiral of darkness that is lulling so many to sleep. … What can one person do anyway?"
Sometimes I wonder if that is part of the Evil One's plotting to destabilize our souls, so inundated by this web of ongoing social conversation and commentary about everything.
I use the words decenter and destabilize intentionally. The horrific and frightening situation in both church and country cries out to be engaged with truth, justice and contemplative peace. It can feel like we are doing something important and useful by writing a comment, expressing our anger, vilifying the opposition, and any other manner of spouting off that makes us feel good about saying our piece and putting people in their place.
This behavior, however — when it arises from a reaction to forces within us that we can't even name — pulls us out of our true connected-to-the-Kingdom self. Our interior castle. Our garden, sealed. The home where our Master abides. The sacred temple of the Trinity we have become. Our heart space.
We may be out there stating what is true, but how are we saying it? With what intention? For what goal? With words that heal or words that divide? Ultimately, we can always stop and ask ourselves, "Is God asking me to say this, in these words, in this place, at this time?"
It is in our heart space that we receive after deep contemplative listening. That we unfold within the wisdom from God who makes diamonds of our dust. We have been created to hear the voice of God and His word. In a loud and noisy room, we all know we hear little. And if we are doing the talking in that loud and noisy room, we are so full of ourselves we receive nothing. Instead of unfolding, we clamp down in a hardened, empty shell of self-importance.
So how do we return to our heart space so that we can live in the turbulence of our age? How do we attune our heart to the deepest place within us — where wisdom is born, where God makes himself visible through us? How do we welcome both our own true voice and God's Word, so that we can be God's Voice that the world so longs to hear?
Here are three simple practices I have deepened in these past weeks. One of them might help you:
I try to feel into the hardness of my sure and safe way of living and become more spiritually sensitive to the woman within who is vulnerable and who trusts God's leading. I give her the chance to speak to me. I might write at the top of a large white piece of paper: "I need to tell you this …" And listen to what she has to tell me.
Sitting in quiet, contemplative prayer, I imagine my heart full of light. Perhaps I imagine a candle burning within me, or I imagine the face of Christ there. I pray the simple prayer: Lord, may all within me honor you. Then I imagine everyone's heart filled with light. I remember that God is present in each person today struggling to find the way forward, and I pray: Lord, may everything within all of us honor you. Amen.
I try to ask myself often during the day, "Why am I doing/saying/writing this?" If I can offer it to Jesus and spiritually sense his blessing on it, I continue with gentleness. If not, I seriously reconsider. If we lose our connection to God-in-us we cannot trust that our words and deeds will be God-through-us living in the world.
The simple child's image of flying a kite has some wisdom to it. As long as the kite is held by the person who is flying the kite, it can dance, dive and soar in gentle breezes and gusts of winds. The minute it breaks loose from the hands of the person who is flying the kite, it is taken who knows where and becomes the plaything of the wind, and eventually trashed somewhere far from where it first caught the wind and soared to the sky. We are like kites in the hands of the Master. He will never let us go. As long as we do not snip the thread that unites us to him, no turbulence need frighten us.
[Kathryn James Hermes, a Daughter of St. Paul, is the author of the best-selling book Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach as well as a number of other titles. She works with individuals online at pauline.org/heartwork, and her newsletter can be found at pauline.org/sisterkathryn.]