Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ora Et Labora

When I was at the monastery on Sunday, Fr Michael, one of the monks, gave a short presentation on "Ora et Labora". This is a Latin phrase that means prayer and work. It's at the heart of the monastic life. Since most of us in the room were not monks, the discussion centered around being contemplative people who live and work in the world. Based on conversations I have had with people, most of us work in fast paced, often hectic, and sometime chaotic work environments. How does one stay centered? How does one remain calm? How does one return to the center and the calm when you are pulled out of it? How do we function as the eye of the hurricane when events and other people around us seem to be spinning out of control? It is not easy and it is often challenging. It is even difficult for me and I am a calm, relaxed person by nature. Some days it is a continuous battle to control my day instead of it controlling me. There are no magic solutions. I try to practice mindfulness...doing one thing at a time and being where you are...but this is difficult in a world that demands multi tasking. I still work at it, however, and it does help. Sometimes I just stop and breathe. Other times I stare at some of the nature photos on my calendar. Nature calms me. I imagine myself in the place I am looking at. On my window sill, I have a small Zen garden with a tiny rake. Occasionally, I turn around in my chair and gently rake the sand. Other time I may listen to a nature CD. People think I am working but I am really visiting the rainforest in my mind. Depending on the weather I may go outside for some fresh air, silence, and solitude. I may simply sit on one of the benches and watch the water bubbling in the fountain. I guess the bottom line is we must open ourselves to some calming rituals. Almost everything I have described is free but the payoff is worth a great deal. I can't remember the exact quote but a holy person said something like this. Everyone needs one hour of silence each day. If you are really busy, make it two hours. Monks refer to their heart as a cell. "Cell" is a monastic term for room. We all have the ability to enter the cell of our heart whenever we wish. This is our quiet place and it is with us wherever we go. If you haven't been there in a while, I recommend a visit.

No comments: