In silence, one awakens from sleep

“Nothing is so good for the soul as a spiritual retreat, where, in the requiem of prayers and contemplation, the soul makes The Contemplativeitself receptive to new insights and energies that come directly from God.
Windows are opened and new lights let in; a strong wind of resolution blows across the soul, driving away the dust that had too long covered it. In silence, one awakens from sleep…” — Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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Card name: The Contemplative

Sweat is good?

I’ve been thinking a lot about layers lately; that an experience can be looked at from so many different angles. If we are open to receiving, we can keep finding new, enriching meanings long after an experience is over. Peel off the top layer and you have another lesson, a deeper meaning, a story within a story. Reflecting on all of the layers makes life so much more rich, full and filled with purpose.

Things aren’t always what they seem; sometimes they are even more than what they initially appear. There are a lot of layers. Conflict can lead to resolution; discomfort can bring growth. I’m still peeling the layers off my trip to Europe, but I have a good start. I’m making a list (blog post to come), but so far there is one line, spoken by my cousin Jennifer, that stands out for me.

“Sweat is good.”

Yup. That’s what she said. “Sweat is good.” After sightseeing on a hot July day, two bus transfers (that took longer than a walk back would have), a missed train (that was within touching distance) and a frantic drive to the next town to catch said train, my only words when finally boarding, finding a seat and taking a gulp of water were, “I feel gross. I need a shower.”

Jennifer, who grew up in Germany and now lives in India with her husband, Santhosh, says, “Why?”

pics 3a

Why? Are you serious? I’m hot, I’ve been chasing transportation for half a day, I feel sweat dripping down my back as I speak, I’m already worried how I’ll have enough clothes if I sweat this much for 20 more days and before we go out for the evening, I need a shower. So I say, “Don’t you feel sweaty? And gross?”

And that’s when she says, “Sweat is good.”

I can say, I’ve never thought about sweat as good. Sweat is to be avoided. Sweat is discomfort. Aren’t we told not to sweat the small stuff? Not to work up a sweat? And the deodorant commercials that say, “Never let them see you sweat.” Nope, never thought of sweat as good.

After the hurried train ride back to Munich to meet my cousin, Jefferey, there was no time to shower and luckily, no time to even look in the mirror. We checked my luggage into the hotel and sped to the home of friends where we watched the World Cup, a game that put Germany one step closer to the finals. And ya know what? I didn’t even think about needing a shower then. And people (bravely?) sat next to me, so I guess I didn’t need a shower as much as I thought I did.

Ever since then, I’ve been peeling layers off the “Sweat is good” comment.

People all over the world live in discomfort. They are hot, sweaty, lacking clean water, hungry, hurt. The list goes on. And I just feel a little sweaty. People in big cities, even in my own country, walk farther every day to the subway station than I drive to work (less than a mile). In many cities and countries, people have no choice but to walk. They might not be able to afford a car. Or perhaps the streets are so congested, it’s just not efficient. Or there isn’t space to park the car when they get to their destination. I live in Nebraska, the land of endless cornfields and parking lots, but many cities are landlocked and walking is the only option. So I wonder, “Is my sweat better (or worse) than anyone elses?

Perhaps driving to school is a luxury I don’t need. Maybe my body would actually prefer the walk. Maybe it will be uncomfortable at first, but I’m thinking there will be a good lesson in bringing a little bit of Europe back home with me. I will walk to school. I will use my body the way people around the world use their body. I will need to get up a little earlier, wear some good walking shoes, take nice shoes to change into. I’ll feel a little sweaty. I think this is something I can do. I think this is a layer I want to peel off, a lesson I want to learn more about.

So I’ve been walking to school most days for a month now…and I like it. I like the quiet time on the way to school. I say my morning prayers and enjoy the huge Nebraska sky; I remember Germany and I use my body. And I’m a little sweaty when I get to school.
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But then again…I’m always a little on the warm side. (My age, perhaps?) How many people do you know who fan themselves with a hard tortilla, meant to be used as a plate at a medieval German restaurant (no utensils provided)? I’m not proud. I can use a tortilla as a fan.

My Heart Overflows

For almost 300 days, I was in, more-or-less, a perpetual state of Vorfreude, a joy overflowing with anticipation for my Benedictine pilgrimage.

vorfreude

I was filled with “fernweh”— a desire to travel, to have an adventure of independence and to see places that I knew I just had to see. That yearning has been satisfied, more than satisfied.

fernweh2

I’ve been home for 10 days now. My German monk-friends say after the vorfreude, it’s “nach der freude”, after the joy.  It’s all over, no more anticipation. No more joy. Typically I like closure. I like to finish projects that I start and check items off my list of things to do. I love that a school year comes to an end and that I can birth new ideas and goals for the next school year. Closure is important to me. But not this time. I don’t want this joy to end. I don’t want to stop remembering the experiences, conversations, laughs, meals, feelings, sights and insights. I want to capture it all and hold it inside for awhile. I don’t want to forget those 3 special weeks. I want to keep living it; writing about it; looking at pictures. I want to seal it in my memory. I want to easily recall, where did this happen? What did we do that day? What was the name of that restaurant?

fernweh

I was gone for 23 days. I was in 3 countries (four if you count the nightmare of the Paris, France airport); visited at least 15 monasteries, 43 churches or chapels, 26 cities or villages and over a half dozen breweries and wineries. I met a cousin I had never met before and spent time with other family that I hadn’t seen in 20 years. I was away from my daughter and husband (and dogs) longer than I ever had been before and there were moments of “heimweh”, homesickness. There was a collision of home and away about 2 weeks in. I wanted both. I wanted to continue the adventure, but I also wanted to come home. I’ve given those mixed feelings a lot of thought and decided it means I have the best of both worlds. I had an incredible journey and have a wonderful home to come back to. Both home and away reside in my heart.  My heart is full. Full and overflowing.

It’s going to be awhile before I find all the words to describe what I’ve experienced, but I believe the words will bubble up when the time is right. For now it seems SoulCollage helps me come to that coveted closure I need.  I call this card “My heart overflows”.

my heart overflows

I’ve been told that Germans have a saying “Vorfreude ist die schönste freude”; the greatest joy is in the anticipation.  There is truth to this saying… the excitement of the unknown, the fruit of the imagination…(sigh). My heart was full of joyful anticipation, no doubt. But, joy, oh, there is still joy… albeit peppered with sadness that it is all behind me.

There’s a lot of talk about living in the present moment (and I’m a believer), but looking forward to the pilgrimage was exciting! And I’m looking forward to the next thing to look forward to. 🙂 Being on the pilgrimage was unbelievable and I embraced each moment fully. And now that I’m looking back at it, I will pull fragments of what I learned into my daily life.  I think we don’t forget, we don’t put our experiences (good or bad) behind us, but instead we allow them to permeate us, to transform us.  Rather than the pilgrimage (or the joy) being behind me, it is within me.

Future moment, past moment, present moment; a collision of time.

Home and away; a collision of place.

They co-exist. They live in our hearts.

My heart overflows. Joy.

 

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