From time to time, my mind wanders from where I am now into the past of where I have been... There are particularly poignant moments of remembrance that transport me more completely than others… ones that feel immersive in sight, sound, and emotional response. I had one of those this morning as I was driving and listening to a song on a rainy, gloomy spring day - my mind suddenly entered the field next to my parent’s house (as it was 20 plus years ago before someone developed it).
I wandered across the expanse of overgrown land toward the slightest sound of trickling water and my heart lightened with a sense of excitement - the kind of excitement that makes you feel like laughing and weeping all at once. There is something about water - it soothes the most uneasy soul… cures it (temporarily) of its painful limitations. Water is vast, expansive and unrestrained… so beyond our own insignificance that it touches the eternal in a way that we all, on some level, long to.
Getting closer to the sound, I came to a hidden drop in the field, which went down to a stretch - not more than a foot or so wide - with a small amount of water running over rocks, down the hill, and into the greater Poestenkill below.
Joy! Sheer joy at this discovery of a babbling brook in the middle of this old and forgotten field. In my mind, I peered down and across the brook, seeing the cool water and then the bushy outcropping of long grass on the other side that the water had long since tamed back. From there, I looked up, seeing a smattering of small trees further along in the field and then up further into a summer-blue sky with specks of cloud dotted about. The rush of joy moved through my present-day body and I was free for a moment of my present-day troubles. In that field, whether in those moments decades ago, or revisiting in my mind’s eye, I was small in a beautiful way. There was something transcendent in that I was able to feel something greater than myself and feel myself as a part of it at the same time.
In our last article, we explored our difficulty with getting caught up in the busyness and stress of life, and losing touch with meaning, purpose, and spiritual depth. It’s easy to tune out and get lost in distractions and then miss the really important messages. Social media, binge-watching television shows, and our constant obsession with devices disconnect us from within. While staying disconnected helps numb the pain and anxiety of solitude and of knowing our own mortality, it also numbs our connection to each other and to something greater.
While I cherish my memory of that beautiful day and all that it elicits, I also know the reality of balancing never-ending lists, and the demands of work, family, and life. These demands can make it difficult to find my way back to that peaceful summer field where I could feel so alone and yet completely connected… and I think this tension is true for most of us. We long for those moments of transcendence, but too often the mundaneness and busyness of life make it difficult to get there.
We can find our way back into these places of peace if we can sit still for long enough to allow them to bubble up from below the clutter. For me, it was the solitude of a long drive, the meditative presence of the rain, and the melancholic song playing in the background that allowed me to drift inward… or maybe allowed my inward to drift outward.
Take a moment now to look away from the screen and think about a time in your life when you encountered a moment or a place that put you in touch with deep peace. Or, think about a time when you encountered the recognition that you were part of something bigger than you - a time when you felt God, by what ever name you give it. Get in touch with that still space so that you can connect more deeply with you, your closest relationships, and the greater truth of life.