Why would anyone need to take time out to figure out who they are. How silly. Of course, I know who I am. My wallet has a military ID card and VA driver’s license and if needed, I can produce a passport for identification. TSA certainly wouldn’t let me through airport security, if my documents didn’t uphold my identity. And then there’s the fingerprint scan when you go through immigration…
But wait, isn’t it more than that… How do you answer the question, “Who are you?” We are often inclined to respond with what we do. During cocktail parties, people ask the what-do-you-do question to triage whether it’s worth their time to chat with you or determine if more profitable pickings are elsewhere. Does what you comprise the extent of who you are? Who you are encompasses the roles you’ve acquired, however temporary in nature. However, as life rolls on, the roles often change. While you may be a mother, your “children” are now adults. The mothering role has transitioned from waking for nighttime feedings and diaper changes to a weekly check-in. While we like the shorthand identity that job titles and roles confer, if we don’t pay attention, our doing will crowd out our being–the essence of who we are.
It is not so much what we do but what we are that allows God to live in the world. Thomas Keating
Ash Wednesday, occurring next week, marks the beginning of Lent, when Christians observe the 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading to Easter. Christians use this season for renewed commitment to prayer, fasting and alms-giving with the aim of repenting and growing closer to the person we were created to be.
During Lent, my spirituality group is using a book to guide us through the weeks leading to Easter. Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederkehr expounds on Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer format marking specific times of the day. Dig deeply enough into different religions and you find common roots with other spiritual traditions. In Islamic countries, the faithful are called to pray five times a day; an element central to daily life for Muslims.
Whether to pause at all and, if so how often, is an individual choice. But, conscious pausing helps us attune to the present moment and be more awake to who we are and what matters. Think of this pause the way your phone needs recharging. Unless you plug in regularly, you may find yourself without juice.
The pause opportunities from the book are below. But you may find it more helpful to choose naturally occurring triggers such as coffee, tea or bathroom breaks. During your break, pause and be mindful of reconnecting to spirit.
- Pre-dawn: The Night Watch calls us to deep listening in the silence and mystery of the dark.
- Dawn: The Awakening Hour celebrates a new day with delight at the return of light.
- Mid-morning: the Blessing Hour challenges us to consecrate whatever work we are immersed in.
- Midday: the Hour of Illumination coincides with a time to nourish our bodies, strengthening us for continued service to making the world a better place.
- Mid-afternoon: the Wisdom Hour invites us to reflect on impermanence and replenishing; at a time that our bodies are naturally sluggish.
- Evening: the Twilight Hour marks the transition from work to home; business to sanctuary. Perhaps incorporate an expression of gratitude for the meal you receive.
- Bedtime: the Great Silence calls for a review of the day and examination of what transpired. Is there a need for forgiveness before surrendering to sleep?
Pause helps bridge doing and being; making our actions more aligned with who we were created to be. Consider pausing to reconnect; pausing to refresh and pausing to live with intention and attention.
© Joan S Grey, 4 Feb 2016
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