March 28, 2011

LASHA NORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Vacation, holidays, taking a break.

Sounds great — until you factor in realities such as a lost job, pay cut, just no way to get away.

Sure you can. Everyone needs to retreat from this chattering society so we can reconnect with ourselves — our authentic selves — who we really are.

To do that, “We have to get out of the mindset of always going, going,” says Sandy Prather. The executive director of Star of the North Retreat Centre, Prather borrows an analogy from Father Ron Rolheiser where he compares each day for too many of us as being in a car wash.

Your life is hooked up in the morning, dragged along tracks while being continuously scrubbed and then shot out at the end of the day.

“This is not mindful living,” advises Prather.

She suggests looking at the world through new eyes by reading one of Sister Melannie Svobada’s works (such as When the Rain Speaks, Traits for a Healthy Spirituality).

“They are short essays you could read in just one day, an easy read that invites you to change your point of view.”

RAMBLE, MEANDER

Another proposal from Prather tells the weary soul to ramble through a forest, meander through a lush garden, wander along a river bank.

“We are suffering from a nature deficit,” worries Prather. “Because of a fear of pantheism, we are not as connected and close to nature as we could be — the water, the sun, the gardens.”

St. Francis in The Canticle to the Sun reinforces Prather’s call for a connection with nature.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,

who sustains us with her fruits, coloured flowers, and herbs.

Kevin Carr practises this when he walks by the river valley and “just sit and be.”

“Everyone needs a time when they can disconnect from all of the things in their lives that keeps us so preoccupied,” says the executive director of Providence Renewal Centre.

He says “it’s almost insidious” the way society demands we be technologically connected 24-7.

“To be quiet, alone, silent, makes them almost fearful, afraid,” observes Carr. “Yet our human will demands we have time to find the centre of our own being, get in touch with our true self.”

Trappist monk Thomas Merton underlined this in his trademark succinct style, declaring “Solitude is a way to defend the spirit against the murderous din of our materialism.”

That precious silence is “when God speaks to us,” says Carr.

“Sometimes that means turning off all the gadgets and disconnect ourselves for a few hours.”

Or you can search out spaces of solitude within the city.

WALK, SIT, WANDER`

Walk the Labyrinth at Providence Renewal Centre. Sit in peace by the grotto by Faculte Saint Jean College. Wander through the Devonian Botanical Garden, John Janzen Nature Centre trails or even just along the riverbank.

“Just let the world go by,” prescribes Carr.

He practises what he preaches. He does a centring prayer at the beginning and end of the day — “Try to be with my God” — and when his schedule permits, goes out and sits in the centre’s grounds.

In his free time, Carr dabbles in painting, poetry while quietly reflecting as he travels on a train, or sits by a river.

NO URGENCY

“There’s no urgency; I’m not having to do it.”

Prather endorses Carr’s pace of living.

The key, she says is to get out of the mindset of always going, going, going. “Give yourself permission to live life at a slower pace and enjoy things. Food. Nature. Silence.”

The lovely thing about most of these suggestions is one does not have to wait until summer to practise most of the ideas.

“We can start doing it in our lives now,” says Prather.

For those who relish a break in the day, click onto Sacred Space, an online daily prayer run by the Irish Jesuits (http://sacredspace.ie). The engaging site removes you from your everyday life, guiding you through the prayer for the day, even slotting in a place to talk with Jesus.

As one embarks on this unfamiliar path, carry Pope John XXIII’s counsel in your heart:

“Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”