The Center Holds

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”
–W.B. Yeats “The Second Coming”
I am an introvert; my mind is always busy.  It rushes and chatters, a waterfall over rocks, leaving me desperate for silence.
For something like seven years, I have practiced Centering Prayer´╗┐, a Christian contemplative practice somewhat akin to meditation.  I have practiced, I should say, in hopes that some day I might get better at it, might access that mind-peace that so many claim they find in it.
To no avail.  Instead, I spend countless minutes chasing mind monkeys, and occasionally stumbling upon a smooth lagoon of soft waves and sweet breezes.  But only occasionally.
This morning was no better.  Amid the background noise of my darling hubby watching Sports Center in the next room, and my cat purring loudly at my side, I settled down for prayer.  The kitty then decided that my prayer period could only benefit from her methodically sticking her claws into my leg as she kneaded my thigh.  Finally, fascinated by some video or other on the computer, my loving partner began to blast some sort of mechanical noise over the murmer of the TV.
I could only laugh to myself and attempt to refocus.  Surely, Lord, you are in the midst of things falling apart.
I felt the prayer period was a mega-fail.  I spent more time refocusing than focusing.  Just how was I to meet God when I could not even hear Him?
Oh, well, try again next time, right?
And I headed off to work.  I was surprised to find, though, that the time of day when I usually start to get a bit frazzled, hadn’t arrived quite on schedule.  I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting it to appear any moment. 
But it did not.  By the end of the day, when I checked my state of mind (this only sounds strange if you’ve never taught in an elementary school classroom — you do not have time to check your state of mind during the day!), I dipped deeply into a clear calm in the core of my soul.
And where did that come from?
Many teachers of Centering Prayer say that there is no “wasted” prayer session.
Perhaps they are right, after all?
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What I’m Reading…

I have always been an avid reader, from the time my chubby hands could barely hold the book that I had memorized and was now “reading” to anyone who would listen, and it amazes my husband how I can read multiple books at the same time.  It amazes me how he can not read multiple books at the same time!  Here is a peek into my current bookshelf.

The Art of Slow Reading by Thomas Newkirk.
Bought for me by my principal as a “professional development” tool, this book surprised me in the first few pages.  It graduated almost immediately to a “reading for fun” book.  (Shhh — don’t tell my principal — I don’t think we’re supposed to enjoy “professional development.”)  Newkirk begins with the premise that when it comes to reading (and many other things), speed is not necessarily an advantage.  He proceeds to demonstrate in voice-laden exposition six practices that help readers to literally wallow in good writing.  If you are a reader or a teacher of reading, this book will inspire you!

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
I’ve enjoyed reading several accounts of life in Afghanistan and have been amazed by its troubled history and the immense personal strength of its citizens.  This story, told by an American journalist, displays the beauty of bravery in the most powerless citizens as the Taliban conquered the country.  This book  courageously lays bare the facts but weaves a thread of compassion throughout the narrative.  I am still early in the book, but I am looking forward to developing a relationship with it as I continue to read.

The Gospel According to Moses by Athol Dickson
This is my second attempt to read this tangled mass of exposition and narrative.  I had to get about fifty pages in before I could sense the rhythm of the book, but now I am determined to finish this time.  Dickson tells the story of his visits to a Jewish Torah study (Chever Torah) and the insights it provided him about his faith.  Although the prose is clumsy in places, I applaud his open mindedness to questions and ability to tie together the threads of Judaism and Christianity.

Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C. Merrill
This book makes me a bit uncomfortable in a sense, but I figure that in discomfort there is growth, so I push ahead anyway.  This is not the Psalter, and I cannot read it as such.  But there is beauty in what it is — a reimagination of the Psalms from a certain point of view.  I take issue with certain key phrases that Merrill uses, like “ego,” which I feel has no place in poetry.  However, she does manage to capture much of the rhythm of the original psalms with a certain contemporary flair.  Not a read for the faint of heart or even for people whose roots are deep in fundamentalism.

So there you have it — a tiny taste of what I’m reading.  What are you reading this week?

Alas! A Failure Already…

The Great Farmer’s Market Experiment is going well…that is, it would be going well if I were actually doing it.

Unfortunately, I fell prey to the high gas prices (almost $4/gal., thank you very much).  Publix, our nefarious local grocery store, offered $10 off a $50 gas card if you buy $25 in groceries.

The temptation was too much for me, and I caved.  I bought ice cream and frozen-meals-in-a-bag and Cape Cod potato chips — vast numbers of highly unhealthy things with so-not-local-or-humane-ingredients.

I guess that’s why they call it a process; I shall forgive myself and begin again next week!

The Great Farmer’s Market Experiment

…otherwise known as “A Break from Couponing Never Hurt Anyone.”

A little background — I’ve been a mildly avid (as opposed to extreme) couponer for almost two years now.  I follow two different deal blogs, pretend to organize each week’s coupon inserts from the newspaper, and manage to usually save right around 50% on my groceries each week (on average).

Lately, I was surprised to find that my stacks of coupons I brought to the grocery store were getting smaller and thinner.  And the sale ads were looking less appealing.

Perhaps the ads and coupons had changed.  Or perhaps I had changed.

Recently, I’ve begun reading a several books about our food — where it comes from, what is in it, how it is grown.

And with that growing knowledge has come a sense of responsibility.  See, I’m not really liberal, and while I care about the environment, I’m not extreme in that sense either.  But it struck me that stewardship means taking care of and being responsible for the plants and animals around us.  Even though Jesus didn’t say “Thou shalt not eat factory farmed food,” I think the compassion we are called to live into extends to more than the people around us.  Indeed, if we are to be truly a loving presence in this world, we must be more aware of the ongoing effects of the actions we take.

That being said, I have also realized that being aware, being present must be practiced and walked out…day by day.  I cannot find change all at once.

With that in mind, we have embarked on The Great Farmer’s Market Experiment.  This is our way of hopefully changing what we buy a little bit and being more aware of what we eat and where it comes from. 

Resolved: we will shop mainly at the Farmer’s Market during the month of April with the exception of certain items that cannot be bought there (mainly dairy products).  We will work towards saving our extra food budget money to be able to buy humanely raised meat from a local farm.

So, with much patience for steps backward and much hope for steps forward, we are working towards more simplicity in our food supply.

And may our efforts make us more loving as well.

Amen.