Earlier this week I had second thoughts about going to the Booktalk session I attend, even though we would be discussing one of my all-time favorite books, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The morning was gloomy with heavy rains and an unspringlike temperature, and the temptation to stay home and read and write was strong. Attendance is not taken. No one in particular in the large group of 50 or so people would be waiting for me--and there would aways be next week. Wouldn't there?
However, I remembered a conversation I had recently with a good friend. She and her husband had just returned from a month-long winter vacation in warmer weather. They had an opportunity to attend an event they both knew they would enjoy, but it was not in familiar territory and would take an effort to make it happen. They almost didn't go, for as she said, "It's easier not to," but they did go, and they had a great time and loved talking about the experience.
I went to the book discussion and, of course, had a great time, learned a lot and enjoyed the facilitator's insights and what everyone else added to the conversation. I am so glad I went, but "it would have been easier not to go."
I love my solitude and am generally content with the company of my books and my writing projects. I love the quiet of my days, the long stretches for solitary activities. I am rarely bored and in fact, there are not enough hours in the day for all the ways I want to use the time. I know how easy it is for me to just stay put, how often I build a fence around myself, and how much easier it seems to stay inside the fence. At the same time I know how I benefit and grow from being in the flow of the world with its unexpected interactions, the gifts of others' experiences and knowledge and perspectives, the potential heart connections, and the opportunities to stretch and grow.
For some the choices beyond the fence may be the easier choice, and it is much harder to choose quiet, alone time. The struggle is the same, however -- when to push beyond one's comfort zone and when one's first inclination, whatever it may be, is the wiser choice for one's spiritual growth.
It seems to me that the small, daily decisions are just as important as the big ones, for they are ongoing reminders of our values. The decisions we make uncover the contradictions within ourselves and expose how complicated we are and provide opportunities to wrestle with our fears and perceived limitations.
How do you know at any given moment what to choose?
Nancy Bieber in her book Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment, The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way talks about "open listening" and "expectant listening" as ways to listen with the intention of receiving whatever comes. She says, "The Spirit nudges us toward being more authentic, growing more into our true self."
For me, clarity and choosing what is life-giving is more possible (Notice I say "more possible," not "always possible.") when I adhere to a regular practice of meditation. Meditation helps me sort through the conflicting voices and observe when the thoughts are a form of defense and when a thought prevents me from being the person I was created to be. The form of meditation may change--centering prayer or just sitting quietly with my eyes closed and focusing on my breathing. Meditation helps me listen to my authentic voice.
Meditation helps me recognize when I need to move beyond the fence.