Our bodies have much to tell us if we would only figure out how to listen. In fact, often times God speaks to us through our bodies. Most times, my body is the first to know if we are overcommitted, stressed, uneasy or joyful, and when we need to attend to something that is causing us pain or disease.
Paying attention to what we are experiencing in our body can open up windows of insight that might not otherwise be opened...A flow of energy into us, or its draining away from us, can be felt in our body if we are in touch with it. Remember God's assurances that the ability to choose life and follow God was not to be found in some faraway place. 'No, the word [of God] is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe' (Deuteronomy 30:14)...
I have learned to pay attention to my energy levels in response to different activities. If I experience a particular activity as being inordinately draining, I begin to consider very carefully how much of myself God wants me to give to that. On the other hand, if I feel particularly energized by a certain person or activity, I can pay attention to how God may be leading me to incorporate more of that into my life. Paying attention to what gives our body and our spirit a sense of life or drains life from us can help us stay connected with God's guiding presence.
When I first read those words by Ruth Haley Barton in her book, Sacred Rhythms, I felt a deep resonance, as I try to sort through the over-arching plans for next spring's gardening endeavors. Like the body, the soil of the garden can be drained, and the fruit of the crop you grow will tell you when that soil needs a rest. My little plot seems to be telling me it is in need of a rest. At the same time, the drop-in center for homeless teens where I volunteer has expressed an interest in my beginning a small garden on their property this year. Is it time to 'go public' with this hobby in a larger way than just a public blog chronicle and an occasional gift of canned pickle relish to a neighbor?
For now, I still run shivering out the back door to throw a bucket of ash, a bowl of used coffee grounds, a carton of crushed egg shells across the bare soil. For now, I look at my gardening catalogs and consider my crop rotation plans. But I also stand alongside my kitty in the late dawn on a Sunday morning gazing at the spitting snow, and I wonder things. I wonder things like: do I just let it produce volunteer crops this summer? Do I only grow in containers as I force the soil to rest? Do I put my gardening attention fully to the work at the mission and grow nothing here at home, or do I intentionally grow those things that are "good" for the soil and avoid the crops that are classified as heavy feeders, uprooting them if they come up volunteer?
I think about these things, and--don't laugh--but it feels to me as if the answer, symbolically speaking, is larger than just my own little life and its gardening ventures. At the same time, it feels like I am on the brink of living--and therefore learning--something important about myself in the decision I make and the lesson I take from what this next season gives me. Like my kitty I look across the landscape of my backyard, but I also see that reflection in the glass. I know that I must first see myself super-imposed on the landscape that spreads before me. I must pay attention to my own energy toward what I see sprawling there. It reminds me, even as does Ms. Barton, to look just as deeply within as I do without.