I woke up this morning intending to go to church, but as I sat with my coffee at the dining room table, reading the final (and extraordinarily uplifting) pages of Cynthia Bourgeault's little gem, Mystical Hope, I found I was having a lot of trouble staying on task.
It's been an unusually clear fall here (normally by now the sky would have been cloudy for weeks), and we had our first hard frost last night. So I kept getting distracted -- first by the fog rising off the water into the cold air, then by the color of the rising sun on the Olympics, and finally by the cacophony of the seagulls at their morning feeding.
This, then, was the view through my dining room window this morning: is it any wonder I found it hard to think about leaving? Especially when I knew both my front steps and the roads would be icy...
And so I decided to meditate instead of going off to church. But as I sat I realized the seagulls were echoing a sort of internal cacophony: I was feeling really fragmented, with a lot of different voices competing for attention, both in my head and in my body. Some of this is because I have a mountainous to-do list today (we leave for the annual Walker Family Thanksgiving on Tuesday) but some of it is also just that I'm learning to listen to all the parts of me that are clamoring for attention.
For some reason it came to me that perhaps the reason I've always been so fond of Winnie-the-Pooh stories is because all those characters are alive and well in my psyche. Perhaps if I could identify the different voices, I could begin to choose -- or at least question -- who might be in charge at any time.
So here they are, not necessarily in order of appearance or preference:
Piglet: whiny, huffy, frequently annoyed, wishing he were more important or valued than he is; his is the voice that snarled so unattractively when I realized my husband hadn't put away the leftovers he brought in from the car after our dinner out with friends last night.
Roo: naive, squeaky, bouncy, always demanding attention -- a bit of a lightweight.
Tigger: enthusiastic, fearless, with a strong tendency to accidentally offend by just bouncing into other people's anxiety zones; seems to thrive on prickly situations.
Pooh: shy, insecure, anxious, not very self-aware, eager to be helpful but socially awkward.
Rabbit: officious know-it-all who really doesn't; always tripped up by his own ego.
Kanga: motherly, protective, with a pretty narrow view of the world, alert to danger; can be vindictive if threatened.
Owl: detached, a bit pretentious and scholarly; not as wise as he thinks he is.
Eeyore: depressed, negative, martyred, always assuming the worst, manipulates with his victimhood.
Christopher Robin: bright, aware, amused, affectionate; loves the others despite their foibles and serves as the uniting link between them all.
Obviously I would prefer to be a more unified being. And, lacking that, I would LIKE Christopher Robin to be in charge. But at the very least, I wish I could feel the way he does about the others when they take over... So what holds me back? Cynthia has some final thoughts about that:
"What holds us back from unified action is fear, the inevitable product of being trapped in that smaller, isolated self; of being in "egoic consciousness." But in the contemplative journey, as we swim down into those deeper waters toward the wellsprings of hope, we begin to experience and trust what it means to lay down self, to let go of ordinary awareness and surrender ourselves to the mercy of God. And as hope, the hidden spring of mercy deep within us, is released in that touch and flows out from the center, filling us with the fullness of God's own purpose living itself into action, then we discover within ourselves the mysterious plenitude to live into action what our ordinary hearts and minds could not possibly sustain.
In plumbing deeply the hidden rootedness of the whole, where all things are held together in the Mercy, we are released from the grip of personal fear and set free to minister with skillful means and true compassion to a world desperately in need of reconnection.
Hope is not imaginary or illusory. It is that sonar by which the body of Christ holds together and finds its way. If we, as living members of the body of Christ, can surrender our hearts, and listen for that sonar with all we are worth, it will again guide us, both individually and corporately, to the future for which we are intended. And the body of Christ will live, and thrive, and hold us tenderly in belonging."
... not unlike Christopher Robin. Perhaps there's a reason his name begins with Christ...