Yesterday I went to the Abbey in Lafayette for a personal day of mindfulness, a one-day retreat. Things did not begin so well:
- I had planned to work on my writing, but forgot my computer at home, in its travel case, on the chair at my work desk. I had to have that computer. How would I be able to write much with only a small journal? Should I call Steve to bring the computer from home?
- I was booked in St. Paul’s room, which I told myself is my least favorite day room at the Abbey–it certainly is the coldest of the three rooms, small, right by the walkway from the reception lodge to Bethany House. Would people be looking in on me? Would I have privacy? Would I be warm?
- I almost had to eat white bread for my breakfast there. Why didn’t I bring my own bread? Seems I can’t rely on those monk bakers to give me what I need. But then I discovered a small bag with several pieces of whole grain bread tucked under the big loaf of white. Relief.
- I forgot my morning vitamins & supplements. Daily vitamin C, especially, I don’t like to do without.
- I am sure there is more.
- Oh yeah, another of my Stabilo colored pens ran out of ink as I began my writing.
The early morning was full of challenges for me. All the things I wanted (HAD to have) but didn’t have, right here right now. I heard the spinning stories of my mind and felt the tension building in my body. After I put my things in my room, I wandered to the dining area and ate my breakfast. As I was leaving, I checked the bulletin board by the door. Brother Mark always posts great thought pieces and New Yorker cartoons, and I wanted to get my thought for the day. There, posted on the bulletin board, was a phrase from Guardini that caught my eye: readiness to hear and obey. I took that phrase back with me to my room. Hmmm. Readiness to be with what is? I remembered that Thay (Thich Nhat Hahn) often says we have all the conditions we need for our happiness; and the thought came to me, all my needs will be taken care of. All of my needs are taken care of.
Alice Walker calls herself an unbridled optimist who sees the glass always full of something. In her book, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, she wrote about the glass, “It may be half full of water, precious in itself, but in the other half there’s a rainbow, that could only exist in the vacant space.” I had just read this the day before my trip to the Abbey, and it was fresh in my mind. Hmmm.
A rainbow of possibilities in the space where there is no water, no computer, no heat, no whole grain bread, no vitamins, no “have to have it.” My mind shifted. My body relaxed. This is what I wrote about my rainbows for the morning:
- In this room are two beautifully crocheted blankets colored with blues, greens, purples, reds, browns, and white. The couch is steel blue with three magenta-colored throw pillows. Someone took the time to make this little room, looking across at the chapel with its iconic bell tower, nice and cozy. My attitude toward this room shifts with one moment of recognition.
- The colors in the room mix with the purples and blues of the soft viscous scarf I am wearing around my neck, and the steel blue blanket I brought is enough to keep me warm and cozy.
- Without a computer I wanted a larger journal to write in, so I went to the bookstore and found an exquisite hand-bound, gold embossed, acid-free forest sustainable paper book. The paper is even thick enough in this book to use color brushes and charcoal on the pages!
- I still have many wonderful colors of pens to write with.
- Why do I need vitamins today when I have plenty of sun and fresh air, with two healthy legs to carry me around the grounds and woods of the Abbey?
- I am sure there is more 🙂
- Oh yeah, most important, without a computer, I am just with myself. I can’t be distracted here by touching up other writing, checking emails, working on my website, playing music, etc. Just with MYSELF–simple, unadorned, here.
A glass not-full of water and “have to have”s is truly free to be the rainbow of here and now.