Sunday, June 15, 2014

Episode 27: Open Hands (my invitation from Henri, Richard, and Thomas)

It might seem counter intuitive to some of the less-than-flexible among you (ahm, Klaassen family, I'm lookin' at you), but my favorite sitting position is the classic human-ball. Curled up, knees under chin, arms wrapped around my shins--this is me at my most comfortable.

I like snug spaces--right next to someone I love in a one-person easy chair (sometimes much to their dismay), relaxing in a tiny hammock--the smaller, the tighter the human ball, the better.

Those of y'all who know me (easily-excitable-jump-from-one-thing-to-the-next-heart-on-her-sleeve-me) might be surprised by my spiritual companions this summer-- for about the past month I've been journeying with the contemplatives; Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen....

It hasn't made me into a calm and serene human being; sitting still for more than ten minutes is still difficult; finding the quiet center still makes me crazy; but it has got me thinking about this human ball of mine, this posture I assume so often.

In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands--a life where we are not ashamed of our weaknesses but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands. 

I read these words of Henri's (yep, we're pretty much on a first name basis now) while curled up into a ball, one hand holding the book, the other wrapped around my drawn up legs....and I had to stop and pause for a moment...

Nothing about my posture was open--back curved, knees to stomach, head resting in the space between legs, I was closed off, drawn-in....

....what if, for me, contemplation looked like opening up a bit--unfurling myself--trying life with these open hands Henri praises?

What if this curling up and drawing in, wasn't just about comfort? What if it was a way I tried to close myself off, protect my heart, shield my spirit...wrap my fingers around the undercurrent of mild anxiety that usually flows through me and attempt to contain it?

Maybe, for me, a foray into contemplation is an unwrapping, a slight letting go, a loosening of my grip?

I do not know where you are leading me/I do not even know what my next day/my next week, or my next year will look like./As I try to keep my hands open/I trust that you will put your hand in mine/and bring me home./Thank you, God, for your love./Thank you./Amen (from With Open Hands, Henri Nouwen)

I type now with legs stretched out in front of me, back straight, chin's not much but it's a start, a step toward open hands, a step toward this invitation to unfurl, free my spirit, root myself in all that is.

May it be so. 

Thephoto was taken by friend of mine Max Cooper; you can check out his work (and hey, maybe even pay him to take a few pictures) at his website: a dark topography.

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