Thursday, June 12, 2008

Early Morning, Late Night

At this stage of my life my home is usually quiet unless I'm cranking out the rock and roll on my CD or DVD player. If I get out of control, my wife, who is younger than me but seems older, will ask me the question I have been asked my entire life, "Are you deaf"? For the last month or so there's been a little more activity in my house because my son, Nick, has been home from the seminary. This week, however, he has moved into a local parish and is living with a priest and one or two other seminarians. During this time he will be going to school and focusing on some classes that are not his favorite subjects but are required for his eventual graduation. Going to school this summer will also allow him to shave off a year from the time he will attend his seminary in Indianapolis. So, my wife and I are temporarily back to the empty nest for the third or fourth time. This creates a potentially dangerous situation for an Olympic level napper like myself. If there's no music playing, and sometimes even when there is, all the ingredients are perfect for naps. I have a routine I can't seem to break easily. Work forces me to get up early and I actually love the early morning. After a day of working, and after my evening meal, I am often seduced by the allure and warmth of my Lazy Boy chair. I go head first into REM sleep and I soon find myself in all kinds of dreamscapes. When my inner alarm goes off or when my wife walks in the room and says, "Are you going to sleep all night", I get up and slowly return to a coherent state of mind. Here's where it gets challenging. As the night goes on I get my "second wind". The later it gets the more I want to stay up. You see, I love early morning and late night. It's the whole middle part of the day, with it's frantic pace, that I don't like. Since I am a mature and responsible adult I know I can't burn the midnight oil too I am right this moment...because I need my usual six hour nap so I can get up and go to work in a state of semi-alertness. So, before it gets too much later, I will turn off the blues music I am listening to and walk upstairs to my bed. Maybe I will watch some David Letterman to help me fall asleep. Maybe he will do the "Top Ten Reasons Mikey Should Go To Bed".

In the major religions there are contemplative traditions but I also think you can be a contemplative person without necessarily being a religious person. In my mind a contemplative person is one who takes the time to stand back or step away from the fast pace of life and simply breathe. The contemplative is someone who likes life in the slow lane. It's about being awake enough and present enough to not only notice the flowers but also willing to stop and smell them. It's practicing mindfulness which is being present to life in all it's details. Perhaps you are aware of the story of the prophet Elijah in the Book of Kings in the Hebrew scriptures. He had challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a duel. To make a long story short, Elijah won so they ran him out of town. He hid in a cave on a mountain. While in the cave there was thunder and lightening and earthquakes and all that kind of stuff but God was not present in them. Finally, there was a small whispering sound like a gentle breeze. Elijah hid his face for in this God was present. The contemplative person is one who has achieved an interior quiet that allows him to notice the small whispering sounds in life where God is often present. If you are constantly running through life, busy all the time, stressed out, and meeting yourself coming and going, you will miss such opportunities. Slow down and be alive.

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