You know how spiritual gurus encourage you to pick a word of the year, something profound and inspirational to help you navigate a new year? Well, I found mine the other day. I had contemplated some lofty sounding words, but I don’t even remember them now because when this word fell on me, I knew it was the one.
My word for the year is going to be cushion.
When I have a lot of activity then I need to cushion it with some non-activity, some silence and solitude. When I have a lot of sitting, I need to cushion it with more standing and walking around (this I’ve learned from my back injury.) I love the “vorfreude”, the anticipation of travel, but my adventures need to be cushioned with the feeling of contentment when arriving home, sweet home. And the times when I think I can pour just a bit more information into my brain by reading one more article or one more chapter, I shall give myself a cushion, the needed space for new thoughts and ideas to bubble up.
Once I was taken with the idea of cushion as my one-word guide to freedom and happiness in 2018, I couldn’t stop thinking about the various applications. For instance, I should like to give myself a soft place to fall, a cushion on those days when I am too hard on myself. And when I’m too hard on others or expect too much, I can imagine a cushion between them and me. I can be a little softer and a little more forgiving, a little less rigid and a little more relaxed.
Really, it’s about balance, an invaluable tool of Benedictine spirituality that helps one stay in present moment experience, having enough silence and space to listen with the ear of the heart.
I remember how Fr. Mauritius demonstrated what balance looks like at a retreat he directed. Standing in the center of the room, which represented having a perfect balance, he shared that it is impossible to always be in a perfectly balanced state of being. Rather, what we do is go a little too far to the left (say, with committing to too many social engagements) or a little too far to the right (perhaps, with too much isolation.) To demonstrate how we so often get out of balance, Fr. Mauritius physically ran to the left side of the room and bounced off the wall. And then to re-correct, an attempt at finding balance, he ran to the opposite side of the room and bounced off that wall.
Our life is a constant attempt to achieve some kind of balance, but perhaps our efforts can be made more gently. This bouncing off the wall is what I would like to avoid in 2018….with my cushion. Instead of overcommitting, I will take the time to ask myself—will this be too much? Am I overcommitting? Is this a physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy way for me to spend my time?
Additionally, I shall allow myself the cushion of time needed to make any decision. There is no need to rush, to overcommit, to bounce off that darn wall so hard. I shall gently bump into the ever-so-soft cushion I have gifted myself as a reminder to listen to the ear of the heart.
Speaking and silence.
Together and alone.
Activity and rest.
Prayer and work.
The connection between these two good options is the word “and”, not “or”. We need both. We need balance, yes, but we can give ourselves a cushion, the opportunity to rest knowing that perfection is not expected. We listen. We act. We pray. We readjust. “This is how a Benedictine’s day is. It is always changing, alternating—praying, working, resting. This is captured in the Benedictine motto, pray and work…The most important word is ‘and’.” -Fr. Mauritius Wilde
Perhaps, this cushion, this soft place to fall, is what love is.
I want to give that cushion, that love to myself. I pray my loved ones know that I can be their cushion, a soft place to fall when they need to know the love of another. “Love one another.”-John 13:34
And, finally, for myself and others–to remember that meeting God in prayer is the ultimate cushion. “God is love.” 1 John 4:8
“In place of confusing life patterns, the security of a healthy balance”, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB
“Listen to the Word of God”, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB
“Our Life is a Balance”, Being Benedictine, January 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina
My 2017 Word of the Year—Be Excessively Gentle: A New Year’s Un-Resolution, SoulFully You