Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Actually Happened on Ash Wednesday

Through a perfect storm of work craziness, tiredness, and a state of anxiety due to hunger (writing those down, I see themes emerging as far as emotional vulnerability is concerned), I missed my DBT group session yesterday. DBT is short for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a combination of group and individuals sessions that teach skills to help manage emotions, negotiate life in very practical ways, and basically, to thrive in the world as a sensitive person (or you could say, “a person who struggles with a mood disorder of one kind or another”). One of the therapists says that she wants us to become “sturdier.” The fact that I missed a session is kind of a big deal because you're "allowed" four absences in the fourteen month program – after that, you have to pay the $50 per session whether you show up or not. So I think it’s ironic that I missed the session by failing to use the skills I’m trying to practice in the group.

A little before 6 p.m. I managed pull myself into the present moment, and made the decision to miss the last 30 minutes of the DBT group in order arrive at the Ash Wednesday service on time. I arrived a few moments after 6 p.m., only to find that the service didn’t start until 7 p.m.

There’s a chapel at Calvary, small-ish, that I like quite a lot. There is an altar with lots of candles, so I lit one, closed the door, and set my phone to go off in thirty minutes. For the first time in a while, I was able to meditate.

Sitting on the floor of the chapel with my legs crossed, I focused on the candle flame. First I could feel my body gradually coming into itself. Legs connected to floor. I felt balanced, comfortable with my legs crossed, leaning back a little. I could feel the tension in my back, arms, and shoulders.

At the meditation retreat I attended over New Year’s, I cornered the (amazing, wonderful) instructor and asked, “Really, no, really. What does a peaceful mind look like? What am I trying to do?” She took my question seriously, and the most helpful thing she said was, “You may have to come back to your breathing 10 times, 100 times, a 100,000 times. The meditation is the spaces between the times you remember to come back.”

With her permission to fail/succeed a 100,000 times, I felt the freedom to explore meditation, and felt less frustrated, less wrong.

So the meditating in the Chapel was good. There were moments of stillness, quiet. There’s a great quote (source unknown) that goes: “If you’re busy, meditate. If you’re really busy, meditate more.”

I have less to say about the actual service, except that the scripture included one Psalm 51, one of my favorites:

Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.

Though it leads up to a dark time in the Christian calendar I like Lent. It’s popular to skip Christ-on-the-Cross and jump straight to the bunnies and baby chicks of Easter, but that doesn’t seem authentic to me. And my world gets muddy, frantic, so time to focus on the spirit, on God’s will for me in the world, is a good thing.

So with the grit of mortality on my forehead, I entered the next forty days (not counting Sundays).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This hain't the same, but I can relate to it. Thomas Edison having tried about 1000 different filaments while working on a practical lightbulb countered a statement that he had failed and suggested he had in fact learned a tremendous amount. He now knew more than one thousand ways not to make filament.
And his perseverence has helped to light a path for all of us (and especially for you nitebirds).