The other day I was reading through Christine Valter Paintner’s latest book The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred and pulling quotes for her daily emails when I came across this gem. “Out of all the many things calling for attention: Which one is it the season for?”
In the season before I had a child my days were long, open spaces for contemplative practice. I journaled and practiced asana in the morning before teaching yoga classes. After lunch and a little rest I settled in for an afternoon of writing and work. When the work was finished, I took my dog for a walk then meditated for 20 – 40 minutes before dinner.
That season is long gone.
Today I find myself in the season of many hats. There’s my mom hat, my working hats, my teaching hat. My daughter, sister, and friend hats. My writing hat. My self-care hat. And my contemplative hat which seems to be growing smaller by the day. Some hats I want to wear are tucked away in boxes and stowed somewhere in my closet waiting for the season to change.
I lament their storage.
But when I ask myself the question “What is it the season for?” I feel liberated. I am reminded of the power of choice and freed from my need to do it all. Just because I have a child doesn’t mean I have to wear the mom hat. I could neglect my son, but I choose not to. Just because I’ve been teaching for over a decade and people seem to like my classes doesn’t mean I have to keep teaching. I could stop, but I choose not to.
The list goes on.
Truth is, I rather like my hat collection and think I’d be bored without it.
Back to the shrinking contemplative hat. I only call it shrinking because the actual minutes I devote to what might be called formal practice has reduced significantly. My 90 minute yoga practice is 30 – 45. My 40 minute meditation is but a few breaths at the end of asana, a moment’s pause before getting out of the car before work or picking up my son after. My daily journaling is sporadic.
The list goes on.
I tell myself that while practice is important because it keeps me rooted in what is essential it is equally important to keep it in proportion to the rest of my responsibilities.
Which is why I love yoga and the Rule of St. Benedict. They make it clear that practice is vital and should be responsive to the seasons. But more than that they prescribe the inner stance to be taken whether formal practice occurs or not. Thirty minutes of meditation, recitation of psalms, twisting and folding and opening the body are of no use unless I am also willing to live into the messiness of trying to be a good person.
As a little girl, when I had trouble falling asleep I would listen to books on tape. The Borrower’s is not my favorite story of all time but I listened to it often because of the narrator’s soothing English accent. After only a few minutes she got to the part about the family of people no larger than four inches tall “borrowing” hatpins.
“Butn’t hatpins?” asks the little girl to whom the story is being told.
“A hatpin, is a very useful weapon.”
And off I went to sleep.
It occurs to me that perhaps my small in duration practices this season are like hatpins. Useful little things that keep whatever hat I’m wearing squarely on my head, vertical of my heart, and easy to remove and reset when the hat inevitably slips in front of my eyes.
Which it will. Often. I’ll get overwhelmed, overworked, tired, snippy, anxious. That’s part of the season too. But what practice teaches me is that whatever state I’m in, I can take off the hat, take a breath, put the hat back on, secure the pin and remember that underneath it all, I am still me. Living this season, choosing how to respond, and loving being so very free.
*** I do not know if the current season for this blog has ended. Writing has been very difficult of late. I want to focus on a particular project and I’m not totally ready to give up these little notes. So hang in there with me as I discern. ***
Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings,
This piece to appear at AbbeyoftheArts.com on 12/12/2018