From time to time, life will look like this. It will feel like one is boxed in, stuck, looking out at freedoms or simply open spaces which we do not currently enjoy. Advent can be a dark time for anyone for whom loss is pregnant in them. Losses of all kinds; lost friendships, lost jobs, lost visions of life as once imagined, lost hope for changes longed for, lost physical ability due to age or illness, lost physical intimacy once enjoyed, lost income or status – these losses can feel very heavy in Advent when so much of our culture is working so hard to smile into a season of candy canes, packages tied up in bows, Christmas puddings and sparkling trees.
We pass sad people in Advent and Christmas the way we pass the homeless on the street … averting our eyes, speeding up, bracing for a possible reach-out when one is unwelcome. For some, addictions will loom large. Active addictions will inflate as a way to anesthetize the pain while suppressed addictions will knock at the door of our psyche asking for air time and offering relief only to exchange one grief for many others.
Going back to the basics of spiritual life is the only answer. Hot tea, a lit candle in a dark room, a comfortable chair and a determined effort at stillness will bring us back to our center. For some, repeating a mantra is helpful while others need absolute interior silence. For some a conversation with God is helpful and for others, simply looking at a beautiful or meaningful image centers the mind. Regardless, the work (and it can be hard work) of staying still and waiting on God’s arrival is not just an Advent thing, it is a human thing; and is the only way to pass along the walls and portholes of our lives until we reach an open door. And even then, silent stillness and its inherent mindfulness is the only way to see the door when you get to it. And still, even then, a still centeredness will be the only way to know that if is the right door and not, perhaps, one further down the wall.