Lately I’ve been splashing around in the waters of contemplative prayer. Like a kid. I’m no expert. I don’t understand how it all works, but I’ve found some water I want to jump around in. Ironically, it’s the kind of water that makes me want to stop jumping around. To sit, to be still, to feel every sensation, the cool liquid my toes can drink from, the sun settling softly on my tightly wound mind.
The last few mornings I’ve started each day with centering prayer. I sit in my armchair in my office, focus on my breath and use the word ‘spirit’ as a focusing point. Breathe it in, breathe it out. There is spirit here. Magic here. Wonder here. Christ here. The sitting perfectly still part feels kind of like planking. Or holding some other kind of stretch. Like when you can feel the muscle stretching, straining in physical exercise. I can feel my mind stretching, straining. Wanting to snap back to familiar fidgeting, distractedness, permanent state of rush. But instead I choose to sit through the stretch and let it grow me.
For each of the last few nights I have closed my day with the Examen prayer. I sit straight against the back of the bed (if I lay down, I’ll be asleep in seconds), and I run through my day in mind. I see myself: so rushed, so distracted, so anxious. I see brief moments where I was present. Kind. Available to my children, my wife, myself. I see the seemingly wasted moments and the deeply wonderous ones. And as I hover over my day in my memory, I speak to God. How could I have done this differently? Where were you breaking through amidst the ordinary? It feels like I am sifting through my inner world. It feels like a muddy bundle of sticks and leaves and treasure that I am holding in my hands. Some of it is very ugly. Some of it is very beautiful. God promises me, we are sifting through it together. This bundle of muddy nature that I am; we are making something out of it.
I feel like I have been fascinated with the contemplative for a long time. At least at a theoretical, cerebral level. I like the idea of it. But right now it feels like I am beginning a practice. Like a child learning to ride a bike. It is a fumbling and beautiful and clumsy thing. But I can feel the brief moments of what it could be like, to ride this bike down a glorious hill, to feel the wind, the spirit, hammering me with glee. So I will keep splashing in these waters. I will keep trying to ride this bike. I will keep sifting through this muddy mess with God.