Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Challenge of Chaos: Thursday's Reflection

Bright and early worker men descended on The Little House to begin installing new windows--19 new windows. Our intention in our first years of living here is to make this house an even easier and more comfortable place for us as we age. Thus, the new garage that was built late last year. Also installation of central air conditioning,  plus other more minor adjustments to the mechanics of this vintage house. It is all good, and we are grateful we can make these changes. Of course they are not as much fun as new color on the walls or new chairs for the sun porch, which we call the snuggery, or the creation of new garden areas in the back yard, but we have lived in enough old homes to know how important it is to be good stewards of our homes. 

However, the process is not always so much fun, and this morning The Little House is in chaos. I chose to remain in the garret, hoping to get some work done in spite of the noise--pounding, buzzing, whirring, clanking, loud talking. I quickly discovered my meditation skills are not advanced enough to empty my mind while this kind of work is going on, and I found it difficult to read new material for my writing class, but I could copy and organize it, and I could respond to emails, and I could even work on blog posts. All was not lost, and the result--new draft-free windows--will be worth the temporary chaos. 

I know, however, I don't handle this kind of mess well. I keep a well-ordered and generally a ready for visitors home. I put away books and papers before I turn out the lights in the garret at night. Dishes are done before bed and the bed is made first thing in the morning. I work better that way, but sometimes chaos happens and it may last longer than this window project. What then?

And what if the chaos is not one of your choosing or one you have chosen to ignore until it is impossible to overlook or one you have even created yourself? What if the chaos in your life is not temporary, but will live with you, within you, for longer than you think you can bear? What then? Here's some help:
                         Let there be
                         an opening
                         into the quiet
                         that lies beneath
                         the chaos,
                         where you find
                         the peace
                         you did not think
                         and see what shimmers
                         within the storm.
                                    Jan Richardson

When I first read this poem at the beginning of this week of chaos, I marveled at the word "shimmer," for I have been encountering this word lately. Christine Valters Paintner uses it frequently in her book The Soul of a Pilgrim, Eight Practices for The Journey Within. For example, she uses it to describe the first step in the spiritual practice of lectio divina, which is a contemplative way to read scripture. In this first step we notice a word or phrase that feels significant and captures your attention; a word or phrase that "shimmers." 

Can you read your life, including the current chaos, in a contemplative way? Is it possible in the chaos, whether it is external or internal, to find an opening into the quiet grounding of your being? What shimmers, although all seems dark and dank, layered with mud and misplaced expectations?  Can you peer underneath what has disappointed and hurt you, what has demanded your energy, and where you feel sadness and perhaps even anger to find a glimmer of peace and calm?  What glistens under the gloom? 

This is the time to call upon your superpower. At church on Sunday the young people graduating from high school and church were asked to name their superpowers. "The ability to eat chocolate cake at the speed of light." "I can talk to dogs." "Even though I procrastinate, I know how to get things done." I suspect each of these powers will serve them well, although in forms and for reasons they can not even suspect now. Their responses made me think about my own superpowers. By the time we get to our later years we have acquired and used more than one, but today I call upon the superpower I call "putting one foot in front of the other."  I can do what needs to be done, in spite of the distractions and the chaotic interference. What shimmers in spite of the storm is a glimpse of the Big Picture. In this case, new windows. But more than that I see myself surrendering to what is possible now. Even in the chaos. That is the real gift. 

An Invitation
What chaos are you currently experiencing? Can you accept the invitation to discover what shimmers beneath the chaos? I would love to know. 

Jan Richardson
Christine Valters Paintner

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