On an unseasonably early spring day, I engaged in a simple ritual – picking up sticks. While the retreat house lawn needed a good clean-up, it certainly didn’t need me. At the pace I was moving, autumn would arrive before the yard was clear of branches. This was more about what I was needing – the yard, the trees, the birds, the sun, the breeze. There were even a few yellow flowers beginning to pop. It felt so good to be outside!
Weary from another long winter, I had returned to the retreat house with the intent of resting and re-energizing. I was also vaguely aware that I was in the midst of discerning a vocation change, but I was happy to put that on the back burner for another few months. My resistance was strong.
I slowly walked the five acre lot, scanning for branches, bending down to pick each one up, and when my arms were full, carrying them to the firepit and dumping them on the growing pile of sticks. I could have easily improved my efficiency by finding a wheelbarrow, but this wasn’t about productivity. This was a meditative practice for me, which I realize sounds loftier than the reality. I was simply picking up sticks on a beautiful, spring day.
Walk, scan, bend, pick up, carry, dump. Sometimes, my attention landed on the playful squirrels around me. Other times, I became lost in thought about a work related issue. Each time, I’d eventually refocus and become present to the simple rhythm of picking up sticks. Walk, scan, bend, pick up, carry, dump.
Finally, I rested. I dropped into a lawn chair, sipped from my water bottle, and scribbled in my journal. Suddenly, I had this startling sense of clarity. I was ready to make the vocational change that I had been resisting. Not in a few months but now. (Or as soon as I returned to work to begin the difficult transition process.) It was all so shockingly clear.
Of course, I talked this through with my Spiritual Director before returning home and then with my husband. Neither seemed at all surprised about what was such a startling realization for me.
A couple weeks ago, I took the big leap and left a wonderful ministry. What’s next? I have a general sense of this enticing invitation, but the details are fuzzy. I think my initial focus is to spend some time with what’s most important – being present to the simple rituals of life.
What is a simple spiritual practice that you engage in? How has it affected your life?
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