Neither is life. That’s why we need artists.
It has always been easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the roles and responsibilities I choose to shoulder. My choice. But even knowing that, there are times the weight of my world is crushing.
That was the case twelve years ago, when I prayed to the angels for guidance. They whispered “go camping.” I did.
It was a two-month solo retreat up the coast of West Michigan that changed my life. That is the power of stepping away from routine, for welcoming solitude and silence, for being willing to experience the unfamiliar in order to grow.
As I hiked the state and national parks along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, I discovered pitching a tent is not for sissies, that starter logs do not generate heat, that electricity at a campsite can be used to run a heater as well as recharge a computer, and that April in Michigan can be downright Arctic.
I also learned the power of artists, the unique ability they have—through their work—to unlock what I call the “heart-center,” that place from which we gain strength and find the ability to balance the demanding and often-competing priorities of life. Artists inspire, influence, and delight. Two, in particular, were ideal fireside companions that spring of 2008.
“Sometimes it feels to me that my mind is in one place, my emotions are in another, my body is running along trying frantically to catch up, and my spirit is out to lunch,” BettyClare Moffatt wrote in Soulwork: Clearing the Mind, Opening the Heart, Replenishing the Spirit.
That’s me. My mind chatters incessantly—usually chastising myself for some past blunder or worrying about some impending doom. My heart bleeds easily from wounds inflicted, boundaries needed for survival nonexistent. My performance expectations for my body are the same as a decade ago, maybe two. And my spirit is often drowned out by the noise and confusion of the other three.
The gift from Moffatt was an integration meditation summoning all four to a meeting. “Ask them to come forth in a room inside your heart that you have set up for them,” she instructs her readers. “Ask them what they need from you, from each other.” She assures me that in asking, I will not be disappointed.
And I never am. For when I can get my body, mind, heart, and spirit balanced and working together, I can carry the world of my choosing a little easier. Even more so when I add prayer.
But what is prayer? I had never given the subject much thought—beyond the frantic cries for help during crises—until Sophy Burnham joined me at the campfire. In her book, The Path of Prayer, she wrote, “How we pray, and when, reveals everything about what we think of God. Which is to say, what we think of the meaning of life.”
I pulled both books off my sacred bookshelf this week—as I prepare for the retreat I am facilitating on water. In addition to delving into the universal meaning of prayer and its practice across faiths and tradition, she included the following poem by an anonymous poet.
As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God.
But then instead of leaving him,
Because he was my friend,
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How can you be so slow?’
“My child,” he said, “What could I do?
You never did let go.”
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