The following is a post I was required to blog about for my Models for Urban Social Transformation class. I was actually supposed to save my response until the end of the semester, but recognizing my anxiety levels over the type of school work being required of me, the fear of failure and the fear of transformation all provoked me to blog now and practice mindfulness now, and every day. No waiting.
"Strike the thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp dart of longing love, and on no account think of giving up." (The Clouding of Unknowing, author unknown, c.13th century)
I was going to wait until the very end of the semester to post here, but as my anxiety increases daily over trying to understand theories and concepts, putting those down onto paper, plus trying to pull down threads of a pie-in-the-sky vision back to earth, I know I need to reflect and 'be' daily. If I don't, I will crash. To be honest, I am terrified — not just of failing, but of the transformation this all will bring. Is this what transformation feels like?
So in answer to the question: have I done this exercise? Yes. Daily.
One suggestion was to go outside, but where I live, if I go outside by the end of the semester for 30 minutes, it might mean a brisk winter walk or it could mean I freeze to death (funny side of northern Canada!). Besides, I'm an autumn baby and I love the colours, the leaves, the smell of woodsmoke on the air, the smell of earth going to sleep, the autumn rains… everything. So this is my place of being: in the fall when it seems like the world is dying when really it is being prepared for a deep stage of growth in ways unseen. I go outside and simply allow my senses to be overwhelmed by the fall season, and my thoughts slowly subside so that I can absorb the beauty of the moment.
Early Autumn, Lac La Biche, lakeshore
When the snow flies — which could be anytime between now and November — I'll go out for my favourite winter walks at night. When it's snowing, the world truly does turn into a wonderland and it seems to be that whatever evils or injustices that surround us are hushed… stilled… put to sleep through the purity of a million flakes falling at the same time. It's all so quiet, even on busy streets, as the snow absorbs so much sound. The effect is indescribable. On these nights, I hardly feel the cold at all the beauty is so humbling.
When it's not snowing, the colder temperatures make the stars shine brighter it seems to me. Countless points of chilly light reflecting diamonds off the snow on the ground make me feel suspended between heaven and earth; I'm almost afraid to breathe because my breath on the air might interrupt this tableaux of frozen worship — both still life and stilled life.
So what does it mean 'to be'?
It means a million different things and more. It means so many things and it means so much that we have eternity to live it out. To me, being means dwelling in the moment. Each time and place has its darkness, it struggles, its evils, its challenges, its exhaustions and taunts; but each time and place has its beauty, stillness, and wonder created to be just that moment by our Artist God. For me to be, I need to deliberately set out to discover these other aspects of moments, away from thesis, from anxiety, from my sense of failure, inability to understand, or whatever brokenness I might have brought to the moment.
First Snowfall 2011, Mom & Dad's
When I discover what Christ has brought to the moment, there is a nano-second flash of brilliance followed by deep humility. I have found that place of being; I need now to accept it, absorb it, be transformed by it, share it, and remember it. To be is to discover what Artist God has created in wholeness, and not simply what I have done to pass the time.
I will have my moments of "I give up!" and "I can't do this!", but I know I will also have a semester full of autumn and a semester full of winter. These are my places where I can and will be.