On being a busy person

Audrey sent along this reflection on her experience of our Lenten Listening retreat:

Calling myself a busy person would be an understatement. Between school, work, and other obligations, I often find myself pressed for time to eat, never mind an extended amount of time for something like a retreat. With Lent approaching though, I wanted to have an opportunity to increase my prayer life beyond it usual harried state, so, I signed up for the Lenten Listening Retreat being hosted by Faith Connections, Regis College, and the Toronto Area Vocation Directors Association.

At the beginning of the retreat I was in my usual busy state. Rushing to get to Regis College on time for the opening Ash Wednesday Mass and dinner left me breathless, a sensation I feel more commonly than I’d like. My mind was flushed with the usual constant worries: schoolwork, teaching, chores, did I lock the house, will my manuscript get accepted, what will I do after I finish my degree… the usual. A temporary sense of calm set in thanks to the Mass, reducing the frequency of the buzz.

The opening event for the retreat continued with dinner, and introduction to the purpose of the retreat, and then meeting our spiritual companions. I didn’t meet my spiritual companion, Beverly, until later due to scheduling conflicts. The event wrapped up, and I continued on my harried way.

I was still rushed on my way to meet Beverly for the first time, this time from getting locked out of my house on my way after work. I still felt anxious as I walked into her office; we introduced ourselves, but then I was surprised as she handed me a box of crayons. Crayons? Beverly explained that as a spiritual director she often worked with children, who have more difficulty explaining their feelings. Drawing, and prayer through color, is an active form of expression that can be easier than talking. We doodled, and while coloring I slowly felt myself opening up. We chatted, and talked about other forms of active prayer, methods that seemed like easier ways to quiet my busy mind than the usual meditative, quiet prayer.

Over the next couple of weeks, instead of being annoyed at myself for not setting aside enough time for quiet prayer, I slowly tried to incorporate active prayer into my life. I contemplated creation while washing the dishes. I quieted my mind through knitting. I read Gospel passages, and scribbled afterwards. I discovered that for me, a better way to reach the mind space necessary for prayer was through activity. Instead of fighting my busy-ness, I needed to work with it. I continued meeting with Beverly, and reflecting about the new prayer techniques she helped me learn. It felt like a release.

Now in the Easter Season, I am still busy as ever, but feel less overwhelmed. I pray as I go, in the time and space that I am in. Perhaps my busy life is a gift, a gift that I will continue to explore.

by Audrey Reid