I recently returned from a 7-day silent retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Those of you who keep up with my posts (thank you so much, by the way…) may recall that I am trying to remember that I am actually a human “being” rather than a human “doing.” Immersing myself in solitude for a week, other than an hour each day with a Spiritual Director, is a soothing balm for the soul. It offers a sense of peace. Tranquility.
In the quiet, I can hear my heart speak.
The weather during the week of my retreat was brutally hot – each day and night, with temperatures in the mid-90’s. And did I mention no air conditioning??? That’s right; for the person whose idea of roughing it is room service, there was no air conditioning to be had. While I tried to sleep, two small fans moved the hot air around me like a thick blanket.
I was miserable.
Which got me to thinking (a good thing to do on a retreat)… What did the Desert Fathers do? What did people do before electricity? In fact, the advent of electricity certainly doesn’t ensure that even a majority of people on the planet have access to it, let alone have the luxury of air conditioning.
How did people survive? How do people survive? They did, they do – and so could I.
Which brought me to a few things I wrote in my journal that I was grateful for, like modern medicine, eyeglasses, medication, physicians (you can tell at that point I was worried about heat stroke).
Truly, without those things, I would either be dead, blind, or lost inside myself.
Which brought me to this journal entry on May 31st:
Without flight, I would never have traveled to so many countries, met so many wonderful and diverse people, did so many exciting things…
Without paper and the invention of the printing press, I would have never read all of the tens of thousands of books and writings of scholars and saints, of humorists and philosophers; the works of classic literature and fantasy, of mystery and love stories, of essays and politics, of angels and cake recipes; their words challenging me – healing me – inciting me – knowing me…
Without God’s gift of creativity to the artists and creators of music and poetry, paintings and sculptures – I would not know of beauty that speaks to my soul in a language that is universal…
Without farmers and fisherman and growers, I would not have delicious foods and spices and sustenance to nourish my body and to break bread with friends and family…
Without carpenters and engineers and architects, I would not have a home to live in or roads to travel or bridges to cross or cathedrals with buttresses that sing to my soul…
Without botanists and horticulturists, I would not have flowers that carpet the fields with color or trees that reach up to the heavens or plants that can heal the body…
So I made myself a promise that I would remember to not take things for granted, and to think of 5 things each day for which I was grateful.
So here is my first gratitude list:
2) Cats (especially Freddie and Peanut).
4) The Hubble Telescope.
5) You – reader of my blog – friend.
Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person:
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pour them all out, as they are, chaff and grain together,
knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then, with the breath of kindness,
blow the rest away.
~ George Eliot, 1819 – 1880 ~
Love is the only force
capable of transforming
an enemy into a friend.
~ Martin Luther King, 1929 – 1968 ~
American Civil Rights Activist, Writer
When we honestly ask ourselves
which person in our lives means most to us,
we often find that it is those who,
instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures,
have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds
with a gentle and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us
in a moment of despair or confusion,
who can stay with us
in an hour of grief and bereavement,
who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing
and face with us the reality of our powerlessness,
that is a friend who cares.
~ Henri Nouwen, 1932 – 1996 ~
Dutch-born Priest, Writer
we all stumble,
every one of us.
That’s why it’s a comfort
to go hand in hand.
~ Emily Kimbrough, 1899 – 1989 ~