Still Centre (written 2003)
Last night before sleeping I continued to read A Gift From the Sea, a lovely “meditation” written by a woman on vacation from her life as mother and wife. A central image she uses rang so true for me: the woman needing to the the “still centre”. Of the home, of the family, I think she means, writing this in 1955. She describes a wheel and the still hub. But I see these as descriptive of a single life, the woman's life. All the myriad activities in the outer rim pulling her off balance. Anne Morrow Lindberg, the author, observes that so often we put our energies into those rim activities instead of being still. She has such insightful things to say about the value of being alone and how traditionally a woman's role allowed for that, as well as for creativity through baking and sewing and teaching the children. Yet now, and she was speaking of a time when this was new, we let convenience items and machines catch all this up and we fill the space with chauffeuring and shopping and trivialities. She's not arguing for a return to the way it was, but for an awareness of how we use new freedoms. In the new millennium, with freedom from so much manual labor for so many, we've only spun the world a little faster, added spokes to the wheel with technologies.
And then I think of a friend's comment yesterday that she'd like to just read and study and meditate and how often I've felt those are my own true callings...yet these are generally viewed as trivial in the light of action and “productive contribution.” Are we letting the center be lost in our outer focus? For years now I've been stumbling along, trying to get this right again. To learn to be still. To stop focusing on production and activity. To be the still centre. It's hard work changing a lifetime of conditioning. I see how I devalued my own stay-at-home mother's role and modeled myself on my father. And I'd like to be able to tell her I'm beginning to be able to see this differently.
From a friend's unexpected death recently rises another great wave of cause and effect. Here in my life, this event makes me aware of the choices we make, the precarious preciousness of each day, each hour. Mindfulness is a kind of magic that allows time to accommodate all without a sense of panic or rush. Remembering how when I immerse in the moment nearly any task is joyful...marking, cleaning, sorting...not just baking, writing, reading, walking. If I'm there...remembering where I am, working to be present, then I live the moments of my life and don't lose them to wanting to be elsewhere. What fills my own life are activities I've chosen and people dear to me. Do I need a separate place, a vacation like the one Anne Morrow Lindbergh took, to relocate this still centre, or can I find it in the midst of this?
If my parents were alive, I'd call them this morning to chat. Take time I didn't always take. I miss them. And love them. There is an impulse now to draw in those I love, even those gone from me. Although tired, I am shot through with a kind of twanging energy as well. So much living to do. Yet I feel patience and awareness, not always within reach, are possible in each undertaking right now.
Easy to see how others add stress to their lives with their choices. But we can be blind here, caught in the spin of the wheel itself. I try to look at my own life to see where I have made choices that do this. Commitments that mean stress and worry. Recognizing the need to commit to space to be still.
So this morning, vowing to make time for quiet contemplation...lighting a special candle Mom gave me the last Christmas of her life. Morning light is murky. I play Gregorian chants that are set against the barking of one lonesome dog I'll soon go out to. His doggy companions aren't enough and he's only content when people are around, a mirror to the busyness of bustle so many people choose. I send him loving thoughts. Write a little. Sit a little. Anchor in to keep a still, clear view.