Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Night In The Cold And Dark

On Tuesday night, as I was quietly doing the laundry and generally relaxing, a storm blew up. I vaguely recalled a weather forecast about "potentially high winds" but I didn't really think much about it. Later I realized that several tornadoes had touched down in Louisville. While I was in one room, my wife was in another watching a cable station not realizing there were weather alerts. It began to storm and the wind was blowing but it didn't seem that bad. Then, the lights dimmed and went out. They soon came back on but then went out again. They didn't come back on. We sat around in the dark for about an hour and then decided to just go to bed. I expected to wake up in the middle of the night with the television and every light in the house on. That didn't happen either. With no alarm clock, I didn't wake up until daylight. The temperature inside my house was 47 degrees. Thankfully, I have a gas hot water heater and was able to shower. I had none of my other usual creature comforts. Except for the hot shower, I felt like a homeless person living in an abandoned building. I have a whole new appreciation for electricity and heat. The local power company got the power back on around midday on Wednesday. I was very grateful.

On top of the no power crisis, my wife, who is also a diabetic, tested her blood sugar and it was off the chart. We debated whether she should go to the ER. Like all of us who are diabetics, she struggles with maintaining acceptable blood sugar limits. Lately it's been tough and she's been starving to death trying to get it down. Rather than risk going into a diabetic coma, we opted for the ER. After some tests, a $50 copay, and two hours of our time, she was diagnosed with a broken blood tester! Her blood sugar level was actually very acceptable. Better safe than sorry! (I didn't mind sitting in the ER. It was warmer than my home.)

On one of my past visits to the monastery, 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 sometimes seem to be spinning out of control? It is not easy and it is often challenging. It is 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. 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 in our park and pretend I am invisible. Sometimes we may need to incorporate some calming rituals into our lives. 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 business, 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.

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