Monday, April 7, 2014

Lenten Promise of Letting Go

 Mary Paige "MP" Bausch currently serves in San Francisco, CA as religion teacher to the sophomore class.

Have you seen the Disney movie, Frozen? It’s a delightfully friendly film about love and shaping oneself through the internal and external forces that challenge. As with many Disney films, this one has a lot of music. One song in particular speaks to me right now. The title, “Let It Go,” has recently become a personal mantra that I’m trying to incorporate in my life, especially during this Lenten Season.

The plane is delayed— let it go because the flight team is doing all they can do to work on the situation. My friend isn’t calling me back— let it go because they’ll get to it when they can. A student isn’t paying attention in my class— let it go because I’ve done all I can to help the student, she needs to take some ownership. Let it go! Let go of my expectations for others— I cannot control their reactions or responses. Let go of the things I take personally— I am the only person that has the power to control how I feel and react to any situation, experience, or obstacle. Let it go.

Recently, I’ve had some experiences that have developed the idea of letting it go—in my community and in my classroom.

In my community, the sisters pray the Divine Office from Dominican Praise every morning and evening. A few weeks ago, I was asked to plan and lead an evening prayer. In an effort to do something different, I decided to facilitate a centering prayer with the sisters and volunteers.

What is centering prayer?
Using the guidelines from Thomas Keating, he writes that centering prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of earlier times in an updated form. It is at the same time a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.

How do you do it?
Sit comfortably, with eyes closed. Closing our eyes is a symbol of letting go to what is going on around us and within us. Settle briefly and silently. Introduce a sacred word (we used “Love”) as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. When engaged with thoughts, images, feelings, or reflections, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. Keating reminds us that these thoughts are inevitable, integral, and a normal part of centering prayer-- try to acknowledge these thoughts and return back to the sacred word.

Anytime I’ve tried centering prayer, I become frustrated because my mind never seems to quiet or calm down. Thoughts, images, and feelings always pop up. I attempt to bring myself back using the sacred word or phrase, but I would still be frustrated. WHY can’t my mind just settle down? Going back to Keating’s words that I used in planning this prayer-- these thoughts are inevitable, integral, and a normal part of centering prayer. Inevitable. Integral. Normal. It’s how you center yourself back to the sacred word when the centering prayer happens. On the way to centering prayer is, in fact, centering prayer.

After reminding myself of this, I felt freed. I should not be frustrated because these thoughts are supposed to arise. Good thoughts or bad thoughts, they’re destined to appear in my mind and the object is to let them go and return to dwelling on the sacred word. Finally, I can let it go of the thoughts and let go of the frustration during centering prayer; the outcome has been lovely finding peace in this unique type of prayer.

The idea of letting go has also come up in my Scripture class. Last semester, my sophomores focused on the Old Testament and this semester they’re learning about the New Testament. Specifically, we’re covering Matthew right now. Here’s a question for you... What is famous about the Gospel of Matthew? Yes, you’re right! It’s the Gospel that includes the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus summarizes the New Law, a new set of instructions for Christian living.

In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about worrying— about your body, what you’ll wear, food, anxieties. He says to not worry about these things. God knows you need them. So, instead give it up to God, seek God, and with that everything will fall into place. Yet another reminder to let go.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink,) or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

As someone who worries, tends to take things very personally, and sets high expectations for myself and others, incorporating this idea of letting go has not been an easy task this Lent. I constantly find myself getting wrapped up in worry or over analyzing situations that don’t need to be over analyzed. Gently, I tell myself to let go. Most of the time, there’s nothing I can do except let it go and keep repeating that mantra.

As winter turns into spring, there might not be much desire to watch a movie called Frozen or listen to the sweet soundtrack. However, the notion of spring cleaning and letting go is ever-so prevalent right now. We all have stuff in our lives that is waiting for us to let go-- it could be something physical such as the clothes collecting dust in our closet or something like worrying about the future. Try letting go of something that’s bringing you down. You never know what joys, beauty, or freedom you’ll find in doing so. 

1 comment:

  1. MP- I found your blog post to be beautiful and concise. You touched on my two favorite kinds of prayer, contemplative prayer and praying with scripture! I agree that centering prayer, especially in the way Fr. Keating describes it, is definitely a process of "Letting Go" all of our thoughts, even (or rather especially) the ones that tell us that we are not letting go, as these thoughts are typically even noisier than the thoughts we're having initially.
    Overall I found this article very easy to relate to and am going to think about how I can Let It Go better. Thanks for sharing and God bless you!