All these mindful things

4

Today is the second day of Lent.

I sat alone a few rows from the front last night at Saint Francis with ashes on my forehead, still uncertain of what this year’s lenten discipline would be. Then a phrase came to me. “Be mindful.”

Mindfulness is something that has been missing from my life. I realize now, to my sorrow, that most of the mindfulness I used to have was tied to being a professional Christian. I was paid to be mindful. No one cares if I’m mindful now. And my mind has mostly been full of mundane things these days. Getting my client hours billed. Handling basic and simple human considerations. Making a living, as they say.

Today I pulled out my lenten satchel. In it are various items that have called out to me over the years. I spread everything out on the coffee table in front of our fireplace. These items represent my attempts at being mindful of my place in the Universe. These items rose to the surface of my awareness as I searched for God. Everything on the table has tugged at my heart. Everything on the table I have followed, not understanding why, but honoring the way my mind turned to them with such passion.

These things excited me, made me happy, were small obsessions for a season. The collection includes:

  • Several writing notebooks. My latest and some old ones.
  • Pens, mechanical pencils, and drafting tools.
  • My copy of Euclid, along with the proofs I’ve worked and some artwork that sprang out of one of the proofs.
  • “The Symbolic Life” by CG Jung and “Inner Work” by Robert Johnson, along with copious notes taken from each.
  • Two rosaries, of my own construction, Anglican in style, along with the cross given to me by Saint Francis at my confirmation last year.
  • My beloved Greek New Testament and partial translation of the Sermon on the Mount.
  • My NRSV New Testament, battered and bruised. The one I preached from at Covenant all those years. Actually, this is a replacement copy that spanned perhaps the last 8 years of preaching. My original New Testament I mailed to Hugh Elliott after I had a strong impulse to do so. I wonder if he has any idea how precious that New Testament was to me and that I still think of it.
  • Fountain pens and Mont Blanc black ink, along with vintage ink drafting tools.
  • Various sketches I made as my fascination with perspective grew, along with a protractor I used to carry around to examine the angles of what I was seeing.
  • Labyrinth sketches, including some drawings of the negative spaces of labyrinths.
  • A vision I had for what a church could be and should be. I wrote it down almost in a trance in the mid 90s. I used to believe the vision was possible. I no longer believe that, but I keep it nonetheless.
  • A pocket watercolor set. Purchased because I saw Paul Soupiset using this set and loved watching him paint with it. Have yet to use it, but I feel these watercolors will have a part to play in my life someday.
  • A notebook containing my efforts at calligraphy years ago. As I look through the pages, I see that I mindlessly wrote “Not to own a thing” over and over and over in a careful and tidy script.

What do these things mean? Why do I carry them with me? What am I to do with this strange collection this year?

This year. 2014. The season of Lent. 40 days of mindfulness.

It occurs to me that these silent items on the table in front of me are dream symbols, gathered over years of dreaming. I used to exegete the scriptures for a faith community. Perhaps my call in 2014 is to exegete these symbols for myself. Perhaps some ancient and sacred fullness in me needs to be born again. Oh, do come to me, Spirit of truth. Spirit of mindfulness. Come to me for I am empty and so far away.

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  • MattG

    The way in which you describe longing is what keeps me coming back. I’m an obstetrician who just delivered a stillborn baby early this am. Ashes. Dust. Longing. All of those things. Thank you for continuing to write.

  • Jason Dan Moore

    My collection of faith items is different in that they are all things I acquired from someone else (much like Hugh’s Bible). An interesting look at mindfulness that is applicable: http://deerparkmonastery.org/mindfulness-practice/the-fourteen-mindfulness-trainings

  • Ashevillian

    How brave of you to share these things with us. They are very beautiful.

  • pastordt

    Amen to this prayer – for you and for me, too.