By Melinda Athey
There was a time when I was young that I was very ill. I was confined to my bed unable to do anything for several weeks. Time passed slowly. My nights were feverish and fitful. The days creeped along as I noticed that I could watch the sunlight silently move across my bed. It moved ever so slightly, yet steadily on, in its golden light. I was too ill to do anything but notice this light movement with my gazing eyes.
Have you ever simply gazed, watching for hours as a patch of sunlight slowly shifts and crawls along?
This was the beginning of my journey towards becoming a Spiritual Director. This noticing was my first step on the journey, as I paid attention to something that I had never noticed before. This is my first recollection of an experience of contemplation. I really had nothing I could do as I was too ill to read or do much of anything. I couldn’t concentrate enough to watch a show or listen to anything. But I could notice with my slow gaze this sunlight as it moved ever so slightly across my covers and the wall of my room.
Franciscan friar Richard Rohr says that gazing has nothing to do with “extraordinary moments” dependent on certain external circumstances, but has everything to do with one’s inner posture towards all of life. I had no judgment as I watched the sunlight move. I simply noticed. This experience as a child, these moments of gazing were a gift that enabled me to patiently notice, what was actually happening, what was going on here.
Spiritual direction is a lot like this moment. It’s patiently attuning to what is. It’s noticing simultaneously what is going on with me (I was very ill confined to my bed) and what was going on around me. There was not much happening as I recovered. It was very quiet and I noticed the sunlight creeping across my covers.
As we begin this new year what are you noticing? What catches your attention? Right where you are, as you’re reading this, in this moment, what do you notice? What is going on here?