Sometimes, Enough Is Enough: Finding Spiritual Comfort in a Material Worldby Marsha Sinetar
Tired of rush or pressure? Meditation can inspire and restore spiritual confidence. For many people, however, this spiritual practice is too rigorous and time-consuming to maintain, especially for today's busy professionals. Now Marsha Sinetar explores the concept of a "casual" contemplative life, one that is flexible and informal, tending toward spiritual reflection. Simply changing circumstances will not necessarily lead to the fulfillment of spiritual dreams. What's important, Sinetar says, is a mode of being, or a state of mind: reflective, observant, considerate of eternal things. State of mind in turn creates states of harmony, assurance, and comfort. Here, we learn how to reap the benefits of Sinetar's contemplative practices she's found so critical to the balance and improved health we all desperately crave. Sometimes Enough is Enough can help us all attain a clearer, cooler state of mind wherever we may find ourselvesbe it a city apartment, a suburban home, or a thatched cottage by the sea.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 5.77(w) x 8.61(h) x 0.80(d)
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Shouldering the Beams of Love
Return to thy rest, 0 my soul;
For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.--Psalms 116:7
It is said that the friends of an old desert monk pleaded with him to discontinue his asceticism. He stuck to his ways, replying, "I tell you my children that Abraham, when he saw the great gifts of God, had to repent for not having striven beforehand."
So it goes with those of us who seek a simple, reflective life. Our companions may grumble. They warn us away from our changes. They fret. They cling. They give advice and caution reasonably, "It's foolhardy to try to shape a contemplative's lifestyle without joining a cloistered community. Don't buck convention."
So it went with me. As I made plans to live a casual, secular, contemplative life, my worldly colleagues got out of joint. Edgy. The traditionally minded -- those who have been called the active livers and householders -- counseled against a solitary life. They called it "treacherous" and warned me, "Be careful. Don't move out to the hinterlands on your own." When I drove off in my little blue Honda for the lush, green hills of northern California, most scoffed, "How will you earn a living? Who will you turn to in that remote spot if things sour? Hardier types than you have failed."
I'd considered that. I knew myself. I knew then (and more so now) that my naysayers were simply being overcautious. My mind's eye could see the life I wanted. Crystal clear. I was not seeking an easy life but rather the tenacity to meet the demands that flow out of answering an authentic call. I wanted challenge -- a holy adventure. Plus,I needed something new by which to understand everything old. Like it or not, I had entered G. K. Chesterton's world of "elfland" where, if we are sane, a kind of worldly reasonableness makes us nutty. An Amanda Cross character -- Harriet, the "imperfect spy" -- captures another elusive element of my intended revolt. As Harriet explains, healthy revolt begins when we question societal "shoulds":
Always beware of people with principles. I don't mean general principles like the Golden Rule, or that Hebrew who stood on one foot and said something about treating one's neighbor as oneself. I mean people who grab onto a structure, usually one that's been inplace, untested, for years, maybe for centuries, and feelso cozy inside it that they don't want to be moved out.
I'd squandered too many years living under a cloud of dread, dutifully, secretly outer-directed. And I felt anxious. The subtlest expectation of my elders became my command. That had to stop. It was time to break out of that rut. Sometimes, enough is enough.
Today, some twenty years after leaving a cozy conventional nest for my wilderness of choice, I feel like Abraham gazing upon God's great gifts: I repent for not beginning this adventure sooner, and wonder why I've stalled my next steps, which puzzle, nudge, and beckon even as I write.
Pure stillness draws me ever deeper into stillness -- into the more profound silence of foreign, uncharted woods and an easygoing, reflective life, the structures and self-disciplines that gather no moss. One is not always thinking, I should do this now ..., or, I shouldn't do that.... What a gigantic relief. Given a proper focus for each day, the tasks and movement of the day are just appropriate to its purposes.
On some tape or other, when he was asked how to tell if one were spiritually illumined, Thomas Merton cited an ancient Buddhist precept: "When you're hungry you eat. When you're tired you sleep." Precisely. That's casual. While that's a soothing thought, such fuzzy rules of thumb are what most of us cannot stand, no less fulfill, mired as we are in overeating (or dieting) and in oversleeping (or insomnia), obsessed as we are with doing what we think is expected. We need a healthy imagination to break out of ruts. We need wholesome autonomy, the ability to say, "Yes," "No," and, "No more of that for me, thanks," as if we mean it. We need a holy ideal to aim at "or what's a Heaven for?" All the propriety and reasonableness in the cosmos cannot deliver the benefits of a vision of spiritual possibilities.
For that well-honed vision, contemplation is a must. We'll want to keep it at the forefront of our mind. Our home is Heaven said the saintly parish-priest John Vianney: "On earth we are like travelers staying at a hotel. When one is away, one is always thinking about going home."'
As I see it, to be a casual contemplative is to trust what Merton calls "the cell" -- the space, time, and condition, of our humdrum life. We'll trust the ordinary roll-out of each day to teach us what we need to know about "going home." In the cell, we'll feel homesick for our sacred truths, and that's a blessing. Homesickness turns us toward the light. It is a truism that to overcome earthly constraints, we must first transcend them from within, correct ourselves on the inside in order to change the outside. Contemplatives sit in their cell to change, or to fly home to Heaven.
One of the first things one learns is that, in a sense, one is completely flawed, not a monk or a contemplative at all, merely a child of Life in the earliest throes of actualizing "the fruitful lessons of solitude." To embrace ironies like that we can't be too reasonable. We can't keep polarizing events into "good" or "bad" boxes, and must not be so highbrowed as to reject the lowliest of grungy tasks as holy teachers...
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