Happy Labor Day Weekend!
With Fall, I have committed to offering a practice a month. With September upon us, it seemed timely to offer a simple breath practice.
The two most powerful impulses of my life have been the urge to create and the urge to be: a set of opposites which I am still learning how to honor and balance. The means of learning how to manage the polarities of my life has come through living the active life contemplatively.
Ultimately, the gift of living the active life contemplatively calls each one of us to balance our being with our doing that we might nurture what Quaker Parker Palmer calls “a hidden wholeness.” In his words: “Until we know the hidden wholeness we will live in a world of dualisms, of forced but false choices between being and doing, that result in action that is mere frenzy or in contemplation that is mere escape.” To move beyond the duality of seeing action and contemplation as opposites—an “either/or” choice—ultimately, we need to integrate the two.
Not that true contemplation draws us simply inward; contemplation ultimately moves us outward to care of our neighbor and planet. As Joan Chittister, one of the great contemplative activists the 20th and 21st centuries, writes:
Contemplation is a very dangerous activity… It brings us face to face with the world, face to face with the self. And then, of course, something must be done. Nothing stays the same once we have found the Source within. We carry the world in our hearts: the oppression of all peoples, the suffering of our friends, the burdens of our enemies, the raping of the Earth, the hunger of the starving, the joy of every laughing child.
The gift of learning to live the active life contemplatively is then that we are come to nurture compassion for others and ourselves. When we step back from the frenzy of activity that drives so much of our lives, we are afforded the opportunity to choose a way of being that is not only sustainable, but leads to the flourishing we so deeply desire. We need both the contemplative and the active.
How will you honor the need for both in your life and work? Perhaps, a place to begin is as simple as pausing to take a breath.
Take a breath.
A deep breath! And release.
What does your breath have to tell you about the pace of your life?
About the stresses you are experiencing?
About the tension in your body?
Your level of energy?
Have you confused the active life with a life of frenzy? If you were to stop doing something for 24 hours, what might it be? How will you live your active life contemplatively? Or your contemplative life actively?
Over this next week, allow yourself to pause as you transition from one task to the next. Pause and receive the gift of life that each breath provides.