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Manic Monday: Returning to ‘normal’ life

Our Christmas tree came down last night, along with the rest of the decorations. The magi hardly had time to settle down in front of the creche when I shipped them off to the basement. Such is the end of the season, at least around here. By this time of year, I’m ready to return to ordinary time and Ordinary Time.

So here’s what’s on tap on this Manic Monday…

The above YouTube clip is a follow-up to last week’s ‘Twinkle’ post. Someone captured the kids playing at Mary Jane’s funeral. (Thanks, Pam, for sending that to me.) When the clip is rolling, Olivia happens to be visible on and off over on the left in the cream-colored top.

Bookshelf: I’m reading about a dozen different books all at once as research for the two books I’m writing, but there’s one that stands out right now, a recommendation from a Facebook friend. It’s called Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire. Loving it so far. Here’s one piece that resonated with me because I have experienced it so powerfully myself:

“Over the years I had prepared meals in quiet rooms, in accidental silence, as I would later come to call it, but I was discovering that intentional silence brought a focus to everything. Ordinary acts — measuring oats and water, chopping walnuts, scooping out a handful of raisins, stirring oatmeal — were transformed into meditations simply by the attention stillness brought to the tasks. Later, scrubbing out the gummy saucepan, I found unexpected pleasure in this simple job. I was experiencing what Buddhists have always taught: Silence, along with the attention it fosters, is our anchor to the present, to the here and now.”

Perfect. Today when I make my silent oatmeal, as I do each weekday, I will do so with those words ringing (silently, of course) in my head, reminding me that this practice of still, slow eating truly does allow me to bring a depth and calmness to my day that is absent when I skip this favorite ritual. My meditative breakfast has become, without question, one of my best prayer moments of any day.

Soundtrack: Dreamland by Madeleine Peyroux, something Dennis discovered on The Coffee House on Sirius. A bunch of it’s in French. Very cool. Check it out.

Viewfinder: Below is a shot of my Christmas gifts, or most of them, collected on the dining room table. Makes you wonder if perhaps I’m planning to open a monastery or a retreat center. We’ve got prayer flags up front; the official Abbey Psalter from the Abbey of the Genesee; Yoga Prayer DVD by Father Thomas Ryan, CSP; Landscapes of Prayer: Finding God in Your World and Your Life by Margaret Silf; a cross candle holder; a Himalayan singing bowl; incense, lots of it; a tea set with Zen tea. I did get some other goodies that had nothing to do with prayer or spirituality, like the Midnight in Paris DVD and a flameless candle, although that last one borders on spiritual, too, doesn’t it?

My Christmas bounty.
The lovely Abbey Psalter.
Visiting my grandmother, who turned 99 on New Year’s Day.
Birthday boy.
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Michele B #

    Thank you Mary for welcoming us into your heart and life.

    January 9, 2012
  2. Jason K #


    What are your thoughts on prayer flags? Do you think they have a place in Catholicism?

    I have always found Buddhist prayer flags among the most beautiful sights in the world. They are at once exotic and comforting, simple in construction and bold in declaration.

    As an American I fully believe in appropriating the best of other cultures, it is part of what makes the US such a wonderful cultural oleo. But as a Catholic, am not sure if I could make and display prayer flags.

    What is your opinion?

    January 9, 2012
  3. Jason – I hear you on this one. I have always like prayer flags, but never bought any. These particular flags came with the Himalayan singing bowl I got for Christmas. I have them hanging in my office downstairs.

    I’m sure many people would not like the idea of a Catholic hanging prayer flags, or having a singing bowl, or practicing yoga. I tend to like to take things from other traditions and co-opt them (in a good way) without taking away my own faith practices (I hope)– a la Thomas Merton, another thing that would annoy some Catholics. 🙂

    I guess I like what I like and as long as I don’t think it’s compromising my beliefs I’m okay with it. If you could see my sacred space, you’d see that I’ve got everything from I Ching coins and an Egyptian scarab to relics and icons.

    I’m an odd bird, really. For me the pull of Eastern traditions has been there for two decades. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that this is something that actually improves my prayer life. For whatever reason, I feel at home with certain things outside our tradition, and yet I am an incredibly traditional Catholic.

    Perhaps I’ll address all of this in another post at some point.

    Thanks for getting me thinking.

    January 9, 2012

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