by Eilín Teeling, AMMM Ireland 07.05.2022
My colleague was very clear when she said she could not pray or practise meditation or contemplation. She was not sure about mindfulness either. Sit still under a tree for twenty minutes, with no obvious task? No, this was not for her.
I needed some volunteers for my research dissertation, as part of a M.A. in Applied Spirituality. Many have forgotten or rejected the habits of prayer and traditional worship and become lost in a society focused on advertising, spending, and non-stop social media. How can we find a way to hear God’s whisper, bubbling up through our ego, busy thoughts, and self-doubts?
I wanted to explore what happened when we are quiet and still on a regular basis, in the presence of a tree, part of God’s creation, and allow our soul catch up.
My idea came from the Celtic tradition – to use all our senses, to give space to listen to our inner rhythm, and pause the outer busyness of life.
My colleague agreed to my proposal, to just sit under a tree in her garden for twenty minutes per week, without distraction, or paying too much attention to her thoughts. Here is a short version of what happened over six weeks, last Spring.
Week 1: This is a stupid idea, sitting here when I have a hundred things to do, such a waste of time. I just hope my family don’t see me sitting here, doing nothing. Why did I agree to this?
Were those leaf buds there before?
Week 2: it’s ridiculous, I’m working from home now. I could be finishing my work emails, and I have so many phone calls to make.
Look, those leaf buds are almost open now.
Those leaf buds were busy too while I was busy, just being leaf buds.
Week 3: I put my chair up to the tree trunk, it feels safe and secure here. I noticed a crooked branch on the tree today. It didn‘t worry about being perfect, it kept growing anyway. Maybe I worry too much about being perfect.
Week 4: I’m so glad to be sitting here today at my tree, feeling connected to it.
I need this rest from work. I’m worried about my son. I think he’s struggling at the moment.
I think I see blossoms forming.
Isn’t that amazing? The tree just keeps growing and blossoming without any fuss.
Who am I being busy for – me or others? When can I just be me?
Week 5: this is so calming and peaceful.
Wait, I feel so sad, like there’s a blob of grief coming up from inside. Why? I’ll just breathe and feel safe under my tree. My son and I had a good chat and he told me what was happening to him at school. Maybe I feel sad about that. Sigh.
Week 6: I’ll just breathe in and out, listen to the birdsong, feel the gentle breeze on my face, smell the fresh air, see the blossoms and leaves.
Not many thoughts today, just calm. Maybe this is what is meant by prayer and meditation. I feel closer to God and creation today and I feel a sense of love, just sitting here.
What a good idea!