The Rhythm of Contemplation and Action
What did I do when I was jokingly told I had been signed up for a dance class?
Well, the first thing I did was say “I have two left feet, I don’t follow, and I need to lead.” If I had to guess, this really wasn’t the expected answer. Actually, fear was the first thing that flashed through me. Why the fear? Why the anxiety? Why the excuses?
As I pondered these questions I began to think about the “dance” of my own life and the need for “rhythm.” Without “rhythm” movement can be chaotic, less intentional, and confusing. The world around us is full of “rhythm.” This also led me to think about the “contemplation” that is necessary for meaningful “action.”
As I turn the page to a new chapter, a new year, what did I do in 2018 that I don’t want to repeat in 2019? Did I not have a healthy “rhythm” for myself or a healthy “give” and “take” with those around me? What is the essence of starting anew that I found myself challenged by this past year? As the world is sure to make another circle around the sun, what did I not give my attention to that I could better attend to the next 365 days? If I am attentive for 365 days, then why not push the limits a little further? What spark has ignited inside myself that I didn’t realize was there? What spark was felt but I didn’t embrace because of fear?
So many questions so little time! Slowing down would force me to become more contemplative than I am accustomed to. In this experience called “life,” there seems to be a “rhythm” that is always changing. It is palpable if I just “be still.” I am starting to see that finding a “rhythm” is needed to be fully alive. I cannot do this in twenty-four hours! It takes a lifetime of trying to “dance” with others without violating what each of us holds sacred to our daily lives. Or better yet, not being violent to myself by not taking time to “be still.” “Dancing” is more than just moving on your own; it also involves those you have encircled around you. Each of us has a “rhythm” that sometimes feels like a solo but in reality is an ensemble. In this lies the challenge of living a “rhythm” of “contemplation” and “action.” Without contemplation, there is little thoughtful or authentic action. As a Sister of Mercy, I am called to make space for quiet contemplation and from this contemplation will come genuine – intentional – focused action.
If life is moving too fast, only I can slow it down, pause, and step back. In the pausing to step back, one takes a stance of retreating from or retreating to something. In this retreat, we are able to take a better look at, see differently, or sit and hold what might be challenging each of us as an individual, a resident in our local community, or as a citizen of the United States.
Without challenge, human beings do not grow into a full understanding of themselves. Human behavior can tend to stagnate, like old pond water; then we start to settle for what is comfortable and our curiosity to explore the “new” stops. When I sit and hold what I feel and hear I am being called to “do” or “be” my “dancing” finds its “rhythm.” The “rhythm” becomes the “action” of my “contemplation,” from my “being still.”
As a new year begins filled with many different “rhythms” life will continue to call me to feel not only my pulse but also the pulse of others. There will be a “rhythm” that I will “dance” to. It is time to take the challenge head-on and lean into the day, dust off the cobwebs, put on my dancing shoes, and well, DANCE! My wish for each of us in 2019 is that we find our own “rhythm” that allows each of us to enter into a “dance” that is healthy and life-giving. So, let’s listen to the music together, find the rhythm, and dance!
Sister Patti Baca, RSM