In the late afternoon, when the cathedral is dark – but the afternoon light is pushing in through the windows – the cathedral nave is a lovely place to sit alone with God and one’s thoughts. The three of us just look at each other with loving approval and gratitude while Kai snores on the flagstone.
Lent begins tomorrow and so too my annual retreat. I will do what I always do on a retreat – what the monks of SSJE taught me to do: three one-hour periods of wordless prayer, some mindfulness writing, some gentle reading, some good friendship-feasting, lots of sleep, one hike a day and some limited but good food. I will take the time to be fed and to rest and to listen.
Times of retreat, whether five minutes during a busy day, five hours during a busy month or five days during a busy year are times to rest, stop the action, and go deeply into mindfulness. What is going on inside me? What am I feeling? What grief lingers in me like smoke after the snuffing of a candle or the dowsing of a house-fire. What joy after the acclamation of a change? What hope after a turn in the road? What longings need to be handed over to God like jewels on a velvet pillow to a monarch? What sins, regrets and disappointments need to be washed, fluffed and aired out like a quilt in a mildewed closet in New England? What pounding on God’s chest with tears of molten frustration need to maintain the psalmist’s echoes from ancient poundings? What small, new wildflower on a path, emerging, unlikely, from a crack in the stone reminds us of a similar flower blossoming in our soul?
As the days lengthen (lent-en) and the shadows draw out heightened definition in our lives like trees walking, taking time to stop the action, wander the halls of our soul and take an inventory of our internal lost and found might demand that we empty our hands, take the trinkets off our shelves, wipe down our refrigerator, sort our junk drawer and get ready for the Easter into which we are all, always being invited by the Magdalene whose tears at recognizing Jesus in the Garden have yet to dry.