Today’s Quote: Saint Francis de Sales

Slow on Road“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”  — Saint Francis de Sales (1567 – 1662) via BrainyQuote.com

This sounds a lot like Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904 – 1984), who would often direct his students to move quickly, but without hurrying. What does that even mean? At first hearing, it seems like a zen koan, one of those paradoxes that leaves you scratching your head and no closer to enlightenment. But as I practiced the Feldenkrais Method, I experienced what he was talking about. Beyond teaching people to notice when their muscles contracted in uncomfortable and inefficient patterns, he was also teaching a way to find peace of mind. He taught that straining, hurrying, or over-reaching are signs that we’re being driven by some unconscious notion – or habit – that has nothing to do with being present in the moment. One might say that our ego takes over, and achieving our goal becomes more important than the way we get there.

Saint Francis de Sales, a Roman Catholic mystic during the early years of the Protestant Reformation, recommends a practice of mindfulness when he says, “. . .do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.” When “the whole world seems upset,” in any moment, his solution is to return to the spaciousness and peacefulness of a quiet and calm mind and spirit. My common first reaction is to want the upset to be solved immediately. When I try to “muscle my way” to a solution, my ego is in charge, and even more difficulty ensues. To act from a quiet and calm mind takes a lot of practice!

Saint Francis de Sales makes it sound very simple. But I have the sense that he knew such a practice would not be easy. I think he knew the world would always seem upset, in countless small and large ways. I imagine that he spent a lot of time in stillness, waiting with a quiet and calm spirit for guidance from the still, small voice within.

The Christmas Elephants (in the room)

Image via iStockphoto
Image via iStockphoto

I’m deeply moved by this blog post from Krista Tippett, the host of the radio program “On Being.” It is full of resonance and truth-telling.
Why I Don’t Do Christmas

Reflections on what I call “the Christmas Elephants” of commercialism, compulsive busyness, excess, and comfortable sentimentalism are always prickly. She has helped me to reflect further on the larger meanings of the coming of Light into the world, and how I might bring more light to the New Year.

How about you?

When the time called Christmas came

Christmas LightsThis year, 2014, marks my first “time called Christmas” among the Quakers.

I’m a Baby Quaker, a Proto-Quaker. I first started visiting a Quaker Meeting about nine months ago, so I have been expecting that New Things might be born around this time. I have attended regularly, have participated in a book study group, and am about to complete the Quakerism 101 course. All of these experiences have accumulated, or soaked in, in such a way that this Christmas season is qualitatively different than in previous years.

I had already given up most of the trappings of the secular and religious cultural Christmas. Although I attended or sang at Midnight Masses for many years, I have blissfully been in a “church free zone” for about eight years. Our family wryly celebrates Festivus on the 23rd to allow for travel and time spent with the families of significant others. We have a nice dinner together and exchange simple gifts. The dog and cats have been the primary beneficiaries of this ritual, although this year there is a toddler grandson who will be the focus. Christmas Day is filled with quiet time at home, a take-out dinner, and good movies on Netflix.

This year, my habitual holiday funk-fest never took root. I remained relatively unruffled as decorations started to appear before Hallowe’en. The old seasonal depression and remembrance of traumas past just never appeared. I hung lights on the front porch the day after Thanksgiving, because it was warm outside and because I love lights and I love The Light. I’m not sure if the rest of my non-Quaker family notices a difference in me, but I surely do. I still have clients to see and a few gifts to purchase, but I don’t feel the stress and pressure of previous years. This year, I am more calm, more patient,  and more mindful, relishing times of rest, refreshment, and silence. I enjoy my family and my loved ones more. It’s not so much that I have embraced simplicity, as that Simplicity has embraced me.

All I want for Christmas is to be in communion with the Christ Spirit, the Inner Teacher, The Light. As I nurture that connection and work on “the inside job,” my role in the outer world becomes more clear and powerful. So this year, when “the time called Christmas” comes, I will be mindful, and ready. Like on any other day.