We each have a breaking point. I reached mine one recent Sunday morning when, just before noon, I realized that I’d been awake for four hours and doing homework for four hours. I was reading about Lectio Divina (spiritual reading)—the practice of reading Scripture and meditating on a passage—and finding myself uninspired. Then came the advice: one should engage in Lectio Divina every day, for half an hour. I considered this momentarily, and then readied my hi-lighter, and wrote, “Ha! Ha! Ha!” in the book’s margin.
Ever felt this way? You’re a student, or parent, or overworked employee, and the endless advice from physical and spiritual gurus drives you to vomit? We’ve all heard the claims: run for a half hour, read for a half hour, pray for a half hour, and then stretch until you break. Hyperbole perhaps, but there seems to be no end to the things we all should do for at least a half hour each day in the hopes of lifting moods, souls, and butts.
But who has time? I’m in grad school now where the class motto seems to be ‘If you stay sane, you’re not well.’ Life’s crazy. How do we make time for sanity? How do we make time for God? According to my text, we should all sit for 30 minutes a morning, read Scripture, and pray. Not bad advice, but not advice we all can—or even want to—do.
I know this feeling well. The sun descends, my eyelids droop, and the heaps of laundry and dishes loom like the confessional after a rowdy summer weekend. But my mind is swirling and I know I need to pray. So lately I’ve turned away from books and words and turned to a prayer that requires no thought at all.
It’s called contemplation, as suggested by Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk. In a televised interview, Father Keating spoke of how to get to know God and, inversely, how to let God get to know you. He claimed that even the weary could develop a friendship with the Divine. He suggested to viewers that they, after a long day, find a quiet corner in which to greet God. Then, in silence, they should tell God of their fatigue and that they just want to sit with Him. Then, they should sit—thinking of nothing, just being with God—for five minutes.
It’s not easy. Still, contemplation gives my mind a chance to rest and my soul a chance to rejuvenate. And it’s practical; I can contemplate at home, on the bus, in the library before class.
Mostly though, contemplation provides peace; it’s a five minute break during which God expects nothing of me and I expect nothing of God—except the friendship that inspires me to keep on keeping on for the rest of my crazy day.