Friday, June 16, 2006

The Healing Power of Being

I’ve just read Paul Lacey’s Nourishing the Spiritual Life (Quaker Home Service, 1995, 1999), knowing that I need to be better about taking care of myself. As I try to be more aware of what really helps me, what nourishes my soul, I have discovered that one of the most soul-restoring things I can do these days is to sit out on the porch. Especially when the weather is nice, I find this just heavenly. Often I bring a book; right now, I’m on the porch with my laptop. But I find myself taking long pauses to just Be.

I look out on the activity around me with enormous interest. A neighbor encourages her toddler along the sidewalk. The child’s father returns home from work, and the child squeals with delight. The starlings are all worked up about something. A sheriff fails to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. I hear the thumping bass of a car off in the distance. The wind chimes ring occasionally in the gentle breeze.

But most magical to me are the trees. They are so grand and beautiful this time of year. And for some reason, I have always found the sound of wind in the trees amazing, even other-worldly. Trees are Beings, tall and grand. They don’t rush about in frenetic activity. If they have a kind of awareness (I like to think they do) it is an awareness that is highly tuned to subtle changes. They don’t need the high stimulation that mobility offers us animals (animal = animated, self-moving). They gain their wisdom instead from deep awareness of what happens to be immediately around them.

And I can relate. To feel the wind and the warm air; to hear the many different sounds; to watch the animated-beings stir about, but not to stir myself—this is a wonderful state of being. Sometimes I feel I could do this all day. To just be aware, without pressuring myself to Do—without needing to decide anything—is amazingly soul-restoring. It feels important.

Maybe it is that pure awareness (as opposed to selective, directed attention for a specific purpose) fills us in an important way. We spend so much of our lives pushing ourselves to be efficient and productive. So we narrow our attention just to what we need focus on to complete each task at hand or make the decisions we need to make. In this, we can miss a lot. We become vulnerable to a kind of spiritual malnourishment—like if we obsessively followed some strict diet that turns out to deprive us of some essential nutrient. Just as in eating we need to reconsider our diet if we are beset with cravings and our health begins to falter, so too in our spiritual lives we need to reconsider how we direct our attention if we find our spirits flagging.

Just by allowing myself some porch time, I have found my joie de vivre returning.

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