I recently had a conversation with a student in which I confessed that I had not been practicing what I preach. I feel that my calling as the university chaplain at a small yet bustling and stressed campus is to be a minister of sanctuary, providing the space, opportunities, and reminders for all to find Sabbath to rest, pause, breathe, and to care for their souls. It is hard to fight against a culture that measures success by how much we get done, and a rite of passage to complain about how busy we are. As I was preparing for this new school year, I heard the still small voice inside my heart reminding me to stop. To do less. To be more. And yet, in each interview for my position, I was asked what MORE I would be doing, which NEW programs I would add IN ADDITION TO what I was already doing. And the loud and numerous voices overpowered that still small voice within.
I scheduled an array of programs, one for every day of the week. I have been visible and have had well-attended programs. I have reached more students and developed deeper connections. I have been able to minister and share God's love. But I have not been able to rest. I have hopped from one activity to the next until my brain is a jumble and my body is at the point of collapse. And after several tearful nights of taking home work in order to plan for the next day's events, I've realized that I can't keep going at this pace. I am exhausted. And I'm not modelling the rest and peace that I want students to value.
I've made my commitments, though, and I can't see anything that can be surrendered at this point (certainly not my sweet family, who is seeing less and less of me). But I know my focus and my attitude must be adjusted, and I must find Sabbath in whatever pockets of time I can. I've been working to shut my door more when I need that boundary to process and plan, and yet, I also appreciate the renewal that visiting with my students can bring. Sometimes human interaction is strangely just what this introvert needs. I have been trying to walk weekly with a minister friend, giving us time to catch up. Lunch dates with my handsome husband are always good for my heart and spirit. And when I truly need to hide and have some "me" time, sneaking away to the library to catch up on a little reading is always a treat. Running as often as I can and my weekly yoga class allow me to care for my body and renew my energy. And I've canceled one event this weekend (with some prodding from my students) so that I can take a much anticipated trip to the beach with my family.
I realized, though, that I can't always control my schedule or its demanding pace. A minister's job is full of unplanned crises. So I must learn to somehow find calm in the midst of my busyness. I've been reading a book entitle One Who is Not Busy: Connecting with work in a deeply satisfying way. It uses some Buddhist koans and meditation exercises to teach the principle of "simultaneous inclusion" which is the ability to be both "busy" and "not busy" simultaneously, finding focus and flow in our work so that we find pleasure in each task we complete and doing everything with our whole heart. This is the antithesis of multitasking; instead, it is about applying singular focus to what we need to work on right now. It involves not classifying tasks into "work", "home", or "pleasure", but engaging all of life in a flow.
Many studies have shown that true contentment comes from living in the moment, not anticipating what is to come, or longingly holding on to the past. The trouble is that the present is often stressful and messy, especially in a household of two young children. There are tantrums and lessons to be learned. There is noise and clutter. Something always needs to be fixed or explained or taken care of. But I'm seeing more and more in my children's insistent voices is what they really need is for me to stop and listen. One exhausting night, my daughter was insistently repeating, "listen to me, listen to me!" over the clamoring of her brother, and when I finally did, she took my face in her hands and just looked into my eyes. Nothing else needed to be said.
It's a journey for me, but I'm working on embracing the William Morris quote I found while reading Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home:
"The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life."
I'll start now, with this moment...