Benedictine Spirituality · Contemplative Photography · Spiritual Journey

The road ahead is uncertain. But isn’t it always?

The road ahead is uncertain. But isn’t it always?

Today’s weather, on this day of the inauguration, reflects how I have felt for several weeks now. It’s a little dreary, foggy, rainy; the road ahead is unclear.  But weather can change quickly in Nebraska, so I imagine that my feelings will likely change soon enough as well. There’s also a good chance that even if circumstances stay the same, how I see them will change. One day it won’t seem so foggy and dreary. I know this is true, both for the weather and for myself.

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Earlier this week I posted photos of the ice storm that created such dangerous conditions, closing schools and businesses for a few days; today there is haze and drizzle; and, tomorrow it’s supposed to be 50 degrees. Only in the state of Nebraska can we experience so many seasons in one week! As for my state of mind, foggy actually feels pretty good compared to the earthquake, tsunami-sized feelings that came on the heels of a simultaneously frigid and fiery election season.  But I know that how I felt November 8 is different than it was a month, a week, or even a few days ago.

Feelings change. How we see things change.

Recently I gave a friend a tour of my school—the school where I graduated from a few decades ago (ok, 3 and some change) and where I have been teaching for 20 years. It was such fun to show him where I’ve spent so many years of my life! And it was fascinating to see what he noticed and asked about—posters on the wall that I walk by every day, a family photo on my file cabinet that was taken several years ago, the items arranged on my (somewhat messy) desk. ­ He was seeing with different eyes than I do.

dsc_0880aWhen I started the next school week, I looked at my classroom, the walls and my desk with new eyes, wondering what he had particularly noticed. I realized I probably walk by the same things every day, not really seeing what he might have. What a gift it would be to put in different eyes to see from another’s perspective! For several days, I was more mindful, really noticing my surroundings. Sometimes my vision just gets a little foggy. I don’t see clearly or notice all that I could or should.

Likely, I will not only feel, but see, things differently in a week, a month, a year. Things will change in ways I can’t even imagine that will bring both joy and sadness. Embracing this uncertainty feels like the most solid, actually the only, response I can have right now. It gives me the opportunity to practice the Benedictine principle of stability of settling into the present moment of feelings and circumstance.  This uncertainty is my spiritual teacher; I will learn from this time.

What is certain, what I can count on, is that the road is there. The fog will lift. The journey will continue. Feelings will pass and new perspectives will be gained. And I’m on the road to becoming more of who I am meant to be each day.

“The temptation of the spiritual life is to avoid pain, to believe that being ‘spiritual’ means always being full of peace and grace, when in fact the whole teaching of the desert tradition focuses on the need to stay fully present to the often challenging and painful dynamics that happen within us. This is an area where stability roots us, remind us not to run away from feelings we dislike.” – Christine Valters Painter, PhD, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom

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“A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patience” means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere….Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her womb.” – Henri Nouwen, Eternal Seasons

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