Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rocks as Prayers

I’ve shared before about child-raising as a spiritual practice. It’s a tricky thing because it includes tasks that conflict for me with contemplative practices. But it’s also an incredible opportunity because one of the goals of spiritual practice is to cultivate awareness during tasks—to do tasks in the moment.

One of my tasks is to keep Elea awake during certain several-hour stretches of the day to help her sleep at night. We’ve recently discovered a lake within walking distance from our house with a two-mile path around it and a number of walkways that extend over the water. Every day this past week I’ve taken Elea there in her stroller. Unfortunately, the stroller and the breeze off the water help put her to sleep so I have to keep taking her out of her seat and bouncing her. This constant “trying” interferes with practicing presence and awareness. I even hurt my back doing it.

I discovered something today—after Christine told me I need to be more creative about keeping Elea awake. I found a spot where there’s about a twelve-foot slope from the path down to the edge of the lake. I parked the stroller at the top, went down, and sat close to the water with Elea. We were next to a red canoe that was banked upside-down on the shore. I showed Elea some rocks and then tossed them in, and she watched them make a splash. As long as I hold her attention, she stays awake.

“Each rock will be a prayer,” I told her. “Jesus, bless Mommy who is sick in bed.” Amen. Splash. “Jesus, bless ____.” Amen. Splash. When we finished our list, we keep praying but without words.

Amen. Splash. . . . Amen. Splash. . . . Amen. Splash. . . .
--Paul Corrigan


Susan Price said...

I well recall those challenging days of child-rearing, Paul, and the escalating frustration that I felt about the short periods of time available for the spiritual practice I longed for.

Someone encouraged me to choose short scripture passages, or well-written spiritually oriented books which could nourish me in those short periods. I wish someone had given me Brother Lawrence back in those days!

Sarah loaned me one of her new books called, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work" By Kathleen Norris which explores practicing contemplative spiritual practice in the midst of the dailiness of life. I wish I had had that one, too.

Nevertheless, I believe you are on the right track--as long as you're pitching the rocks in the right direction. :D

Sarah said...

Paul, I love your rock-prayers. I recently returned from a silent centering prayer retreat, so I can well understand the roaring unfolding of life with its wrinkles and distractions in the midst of a sincere desire to be contemplative. One of the things the Spirit has whispered to me in this return has been to make those wrinkles and distractions my prayers, returning to the Center in the midst of life and all it entails. And this is exactly what you've done. Blessings in being present to rock prayers.

living stones said...

You got my attention with the title and the practice. I'm with Christine--be creative. I'm with you--to do tasks in the moment. And may the Lord help Elea sleep well at night, Amen!

living stones said...

Paul, this is very insightful. It's a good "spiritual practice." I am glad to be part of a community "practicing" this kind of awareness. Thank you for sharing and for investing in this kind of spirituality--

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