When our children were younger I read a philosophical article about the value of boredom. It resonated with me because I saw the need to counteract the urge of society to feed children with stuff - films, ads, games, entertainment. Boredom might not be the exact word, but the main idea was that times of quiet "nothingness" are the prerequisite for creativity. It is a great thing to wrap up children in love 24/7, but this doesn't mean to paste them up with entertainment all day. It is a good thing to realize, in a modest way, that real ideas, good ideas, come from the inner world. In practical terms we ensured that each of the children had a required half an hour alone, without external stimulus. Time in the garden or quietly in a cozy niche. Think time. Zoë still calls this "Zoë time" today. Only in stillness and yes, boredom at times, can true creativity unfold. And it did. And it always will. Because of the richness of the world of ideas which can't but express itself constantly.
Pockets of stillness for adults are a walk around the block. A study with the sole aim of learning and growing - not to fix something. Half an hour of no interruption from texts, the facebook messenger, tweets. Time to observe and be quiet. For busy parents rushing from A to B a quiet moment in the parkinglot. A ride with the bike without aim. Moments of reflection in an armchair (no smartphone near by). Time with a cup of tea by the window contemplating. Not pushing anything, just being. Sometimes the silence is filled with angel messages, sometimes it is just - silence. Quiet. I can talk about it also, because I put as a professor and now as practitioner of Christian Science healing appointments with myself into my calendar which I played for keeps as I did and do with appointments with others. In these times I reflected, I read the new Christian Science Sentinel or a passage in the Bible. Without agenda. Just quiet listening. I have come to observe this rule to express itself in my experience: True listening is yielding to true unfoldment.
Pockets of stillness are crucial for survival - they distinguish existence from being, they connect us with a positive sense of unity with our divine source. They teach us to listen. They reveal in modest and gentle ways the dignity and worth of being. And they strengthen our resilience to express more individuality, less mass thinking in our life. And this every day. Because, as I wrote before: The way we live our days is the way we live our life.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of the Science of Being and the most outstanding healer of the modern age, gave this advice to a totally stressed out pupil, infusing the note with her remarkable sense of humour and wisdom:
“You can take my method, bar your doors, and then hold your solitude with moral dignity by meeting the merciless selfishness of callers with a fixed rule and the divine imperative Principle to be alone with God and never break this rule till you have your interval of study and prayer. I am an exception to all peace on earth – but not to “good will.” The mail and the male and the female claim undisputed powers to break my peace and rob me of all individual exemption from labor. But you have no need of thus surrendering your rights for others. I have written this in bed in the still hours while others sleep, - after 3 o.c. in the morning.” (Mary Baker Eddy, cited in Lyman Powell, The life of Mary Baker Eddy, p. 182).
No wonder that she could write about "an indefinable pleasure in stillness, soft, silent as the storm's sudden hush." (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 3) With pockets of silence in your day, the pleasure of stillness is yours - every day.
It is the prerogative of the spiritual view to see that everything from God's perspective is very good. When something in the human experience isn't good, it is not the end of it. It never ever happened that eternal Truth yielded to limited belief. God, Truth, has always the last word, because it was the first and only word in the first place.
In the last weeks I noticed a little word, that I have come to appreciate and love even more than before. It is the word "effort". It has to do with attempting something, with struggle, with humility and following - but also with work, exercise, resolution, and achievement. Effort tells us that work matters, not just inspiration or feeling. In the healing practice of Christian Science every case is healed. Often healings are quick and permanent. But sometimes a case is tenacious, the healing takes longer, and then effort kicks in. Especially when the mental muscle to carry on seems to have disappeared. It is all about thinking.
In the healing practice this effort is not something you do; it is something you don't do, and that is: Give up.
When recently a friend shared with my husband and me insights into the nature of the cross and the crown, as beautifully displayed on the textbook cover of Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy, the interpretation of the cross as symbolizing "a spiritual effort" stood out to me. And when this week's Bible lesson, which Christian Scientists study diligently, included the term "effort", I felt I had found a gold mine. What is effort? What distinguishes effort from human will? How is effort linked to "effortless being"? I know that healing is not a human accomplishment but a divine gift. But then: How are the cross and the crown linked?
In his second letter, Peter writes:
"In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God's promises." (2 Pet. 1: 5. NLT)
To make an effort is all about honesty, about the desire to put the ego out of business, about the willingness to learn. Effort needs understanding, f.e. that homework is for you, not for the teacher (that is why cheating doesn't really help). Effort needs love. Effort is different from human will - it is trying, really trying, and resisting the temptation to giving up too early. Honest spiritual effort is the opposite of skepticism, hopelessness, negativity, and cynicism. It is moving forward and willing to let go of past views and learn something new about the goodness of God. It is also not pushing failure into God's camp. The basis of a true effort is a deep and unflinching love for God and man - and a resilience to let this love shape every aspect of our experience. Buddha is reported of giving this advice to the spiritual seeker: "There are only two mistakes one can make along the road of truth; not going all the way, and not starting."
Many Christian Scientists will tell you, that the healing of a tenacious physical problem, a torn relationship, a disastrous financial situation, messy circumstances at work or at school came shortly after they felt they had reached the end of the rope. But willing to go, with Buddha's words, all the way. I remember finding a location late a night, alone in unfamiliar territory in a different country, precisely the moment when I felt I was totally lost. Often the healing comes when we continue to to cherish gratitude, humility, and good just one minute longer, not giving up. Meekness steps aside, expecting to see Love, and only Love at work, and the spiritual laws of Truth and Life carry the day.
We are not alone - there is a mighty power supporting each one of us. There is hope and a sure reward to goodness. Here are two pieces of advice by Mary Baker Eddy - out of many in her published writings:
"Success in life depends upon persistent effort, upon
the improvement of moments more than upon any other
one thing." (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 230)
"Let us rid ourselves of the belief that man is separated
from God, and obey only the divine Principle, Life and
Love." (Science and Health, p. 91)
The illustrations to this blog are from the famous Rutland Psalter, a sumptuously illumined manuscript produced ca. 1260. They remind me in the unique and for me very moving medieval way that spiritual life is about effort - and about joy at the same time. Because we know how it all ends.
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and as a writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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