I wake up, look out the window at the vibrant green trees, breathe deep of the fresh country air. This lovely peace lasts for roughly 12 seconds, until the day’s to-do list crowds my mind, urging run, run, run. Do this, do that, hurry, hurry, hurry.
Of course, my complaint is as common as dust. If your calendar is anything like mine – and I suspect it is – each day is filled with appointments, reminders and tasks. Unstructured time is virtually non-existent. In a word, we are busy, busy people. Even my morning meditation practice along with the hour I take to read poetry and chapters from spiritual growth books (never novels!) have that flavour of Worthwhile Tasks That Must Be Done.
This constant doing distracts me from genuinely exploring the territory of my soul. It fatigues. It parches my soul. I know this. And yet the doing feels like a drug – I keep returning to get the adrenalin hit resulting from the constant internal revving up to get more and more done.
The poet Marie Howe, with her trademark precision about the dilemmas in ordinary modern life, accurately captures our modern addiction to busyness and distraction in her poem Prayer. Even though we yearn for that deep, spacious connection with spirit, we turn away to “more important” things like “the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage /I need to buy for the trip.” In the heart of the poem, Howe asks “The mystics say you are as close as my own breath./ Why do I flee from you?” even as she turns away to rise from her chair.
Laughing and crying at the same time, I recognize myself in the poet’s voice. “Why do I flee from you?” Maybe, just maybe, now is the time to let that question truly sink in, and stir things up. But first, let me finish this blog posting so that I can slide under the wire of my self-imposed commitment to post before the end of the month.
Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention – the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.