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Abbey Bookshelf: Silence & Sabbath Edition

I have been listening a lot these days.  My life feels full and rich and I am also feeling a bit gluttonous for wanting it all, not really wanting to say no to anything.  There is a playful, exuberant little girl inside of me relishing the sheer abundance of possibility.

And yet there is also my inner hermit who hears the call of spaciousness, the invitation to make sure in the coming months as my work energy shifts and continues to pick up speed, that I also have time to spend with my beloved, with my dear Abbess, with my amazing friends, and oh yes, time just to be with myself.  Time to listen for the Holy One singing in the stillness, drawing me forward with the sacred thread of my calling.

For a long time I have felt pulled between my inner hermit and the more expressive part of myself who loves to teach and discuss and be present to the world in all its wondrous possibility.  I am experiencing a shift somewhere deep down in the ground of my being — a movement toward integrating these longings.  The far wiser part of myself (another of my inner cast of characters) whispers to me, stop wrestling so much, it is all gift.  What would happen if these parts of yourself sat down together and really listened to one another?  I am eager to receive the wisdom of such a conversation.

My time at the hermitage is now over for this season.  I don’t know when I will be able to take the opportunity again, but for now I accept it as sheer gift and will be mining the insights for months to come.  A friend recommended Teaching the Dead Bird to Sing: Living the Hermit Life Within and Without by W. Paul Jones and my used copy just arrived the other day.  I opened it at random and my eyes fell onto a passage about creating a hermitage in your home, essentially a sacred space set aside for stillness.  I have such a space already but have gotten out of the habit of using it since I would wait until I was out at the cottage these last few months. I think it is time I reclaim this space at home.  I need to sit back in that chair and listen for what it has to say to me about this new season ahead.  I need to invite both parts of myself into that space to listen to one another.

The other week while at a Jewish bookstore picking up kosher wine for a Passover seder, I saw this book on the shelf titled A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home.  In addition to my love of Sabbath practice, and especially the Jewish traditions around it, the book had a beautiful cover and lots of inviting illustrated pages inside.  I recognize that claiming the sacredness of Sabbath practice is more important than ever and this book is filled with resources to help me reflect in ever more meaningful ways. My inner hermit delighted in this purchase.

Each of us is a multiplicity of selves.  We are filled with a wide spectrum of energies and passions, that can often feel conflicting.  What might happen this week if you named two or more of those “competing” energies within you and invited them all over for tea?  What might happen if you didn’t have to choose anymore, but could find a way to live deeply into the gifts of both?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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11 Responses

  1. Well it sounds like a virtual tea party may be in order! And everyone is invited. :-)

    Bette, I also swim between feeling grounded in the multiplicity and then at the next wave a little off balance again. There is so much goodness in the world.

    Thanks SS! Yes, such a marvelous group that comments here.

    Tess, I love the idea of the different friends and reading habits as well, really gives more flesh to this idea. I have been so enriched by my Jewish friends’ practices of honoring Shabbat.

  2. Oh as always I feel so in tune with you, and the different rhythms of life you describe so well. The many images of the sea you’ve shared with us over the past few months come to mind here – the pull and push of the tides.
    I LOVE the idea of having a tea party for my different selves. It really struck me reading this how many there are and how separate I keep them. To some extent my different selves have different friends, different reading habits etc.
    I agree with Rich on the wonder of Heschel’s book “Sabbath”. A friend lent it to me some months ago and I’m feeling half guilty and half hoping she’s forgotten. (Hope you’re not reading this, L!)
    You know I wish the Christian church had not changed the Sabbath to Sunday. Of course the reasons are obvious, but I cherish the sense of connection with Judaism and sharing the same Sabbath day would really enrich that.

  3. Your words so beautifully capture your own feelings and life, all the while provoking us, your readers, to contemplate how those words play into our personal habits. I never leave here disappointed – by you or by those who contribute so richly to your posts! The tea party is an intriguing tickler……. Thank you.


  4. well now….i like this idea of inviting all of my selves to tea! a lot of the time i do believe that my challenge in life is just to figure out a way to actually combine all of my selves and interests into one handy and clever vessel. sometimes i feel that i’m close to perfecting the Recipe, but then i always think of another ingredient to add! ahhh…..the Mystery of Life. thank you for your sharings, christine… comforts me to know that i am not alone in this dilemma.

  5. Such a delightful array of voices and responses here in my comment box, I am blessed with such wonderful readers.

    Good to see you here Hudson. :-)

    Welcome blisschick, always good to meet another kindred soul. I love the image of “no same self” — I have never heard it quite that way before. Thanks for this gift.

    Rich, I would love to hear how reading that book in the desert impacts you. Blessings on the rich time ahead!

    Yes lucy, you do often get to see the seeds. :-) Thank you for your words about your own Sabbath, as I read them I feel this release and joy, something I will pay attention to.

    Sarah, yes I agree that there are many kinds of Sabbaths! And I love your connections to zen tea drinking as a way of Shabbat and Alice’s tea party. I do indeed see them as the incarnations of her energies but hadn’t thought about that story in a long time, thank you for the image!

  6. Christine, wonderful connectedness with Sabbath! It could also mean “rest” even during a day of work, that is, resting inwardly by simply being present. Occurs to me as I write, that in Zen, the expression of Zen masters, “have a cup of tea” is surely the Way of SHABAT! “Tea Party” reminds me also of Alice in Wonderland. Is it possible that all those characters she meets and sits down with at the tea party are incarnations of her own energies? ((-:

    from “Through the Looking Glass,” by Lewis Carroll:
    “There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

  7. ah, sounds like a conversation i participated in not so long ago :-). i love the concept of inviting the “competing” energies over for tea. it would be quite a tea party indeed. the last two sundays have been wonderful times of rest at home. true sabbath for me. i had forgotten how much i like to have stillness while surrounded by my family and the sounds of the neighborhood (not always something easy to achieve!) most often i seek the stillness when no one else is around. for some reason sunday now reminds me of your words about the competing energies…i realize they are of my own nature and also of my own making sometimes. as always, i move away from your blog with more to ponder. thank you!

  8. Such synchronicity, Christine. I read the Jones’ book several years ago and it still haunts me in a beautiful way. I may try to get my hands on another copy of it before I head out to the desert next week. Also, in my grad school class at Loyola this year on Mystics, I was blessed to read “Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Sheer joy and such beautiful poetic words. Blessings!

  9. What a wonderfully precise and helpful set of questions. I, too, am torn between a hermit self and a (very) social and extroverted self (who happens to teach now and then). My hermit self is often frightened of this extroverted self, worried it will take over and there will be no more art, no more deep writing, because all of my energy will be used in expressing how to do these things to others. I am in the process of helping to open a local, nonprofit adult learning center (of the literary and culture type not of the GED type) and my hermit, as you can imagine, is wigging out. So your questions come at exactly the right moment. How, how, how? We are so blessed with these many gifts and yet so tempted to judge one as better and to turn our backs on the other. This judgment, I think, comes from our desire (especially if we had a difficult time growing up), our desire for consistency and sameness in ourselves and others — rather than embracing the Eastern concept of “no self” or more accurately “no same self.” We are different every single day and isn’t that wonderful? It certainly allows for much play if we dare…

  10. “Each of us is a multiplicity of selves.”

    Such an important insight, Christine. I know the power of these selves within us, and the wisdom and richness that each brings. They most certainly have something important to say to each other, and in concert and harmony, to say to us all. I hope and pray that you will be able to keep listening and to integrate the hermit, the teacher, the artist. Actually, I hope and pray that for myself as well.

    Something tells me that you will be successful at said integration. :)

    Thank you for being here, Christine. Thank you for calling us deeper.