I am planning my end-of-year mini course for seniors, a Writer’s Contemplative Retreat. I am thinking that I will begin each day with a gratitude list. I have been reviewing Mary Oliver’s questions, and also trying to watch my mind as I make my own morning list. I don’t necessarily think conscious questions into the open space of my brain, but there are trails down which I wander when I am thinking up my morning list. Here are some questions I might ask my students to get them thinking:
* What is beautiful? What fills me with wonder? What images have slowed me down and caused me to pause in the past day? What slows me down?
* What people do I appreciate? In the past day, what people have I noticed being extra shiny? Who does things to make the world a better place? Who helps me?
* What satisfies me? What makes me say, “Yes, that’s right”?
* What has surprised me in the past day?
* What helps me make it through? What helps me to cope? Life can feel downright difficult and wearisome sometimes. In those moments, what helps me to hold on and face the challenges?
This last is the one that compelled me to write that list this this morning. I realized that sometimes when I get to the last point or two–especially during times of high stress–I struggle to finish the list. My mind begins to drag and complain and remind me that I’m tired and exhausted and crotchety. But the discipline of the list kicks in–I have to finish the blasted thing, even if I’m grumpy. So my mind goes to the question of what will help me to get through the challenge and the stress.
It makes me think of the fairy tale archetype of the mentor who tells the lost child what to look for: “There will be a signpost that will show you the way. When you see the road passing between two hills, you know you are nearing your journey’s end. Ask the old woman who stands at the crossroads for a crust of bread, and she will feed you.” If I am feeling stressed, spending a moment in the morning to imagine the signposts that will help me to make it through the next portion of my journey helps me to find my way through without becoming overwhelmed.
1. Synchronous connections. As I plan my mini-course, I contacted a local church with an outdoor labyrinth, and I discovered that the deacon who works with the labyrinth is someone I have met and deeply admired.
2. The music teachers at Wrightsville Elementary. On Tuesday, The strings teacher couldn’t be there for the concert, and the music department head just leapt in and led the orchestras.
3. Blue herons flying above the highway.
4. Raccoon and deer in the hollow.
5. Making lists.
May we walk in Beauty!