Traveling in the Fog

Today’s post is by Leah Rampy.

The fog rolls in softly, creeping over the hills and creating new folds of landscape as colors fade to black and white. No longer able to see clearly the road ahead, I slow my car. Sounds now muffled, I relish the shifting configuration of clouds, the new shapes of once familiar objects, and the quiet solitude of my journey. The fog intensifies and I slow again.

A term from a once-used drivers’ manual comes to mind: overdriving your headlights. Overdriving your headlights occurs when you go so fast that your stopping distance is further than the illumination of your headlights. This, the manuals tell us, is dangerous as you may crash into an object ahead. Indeed! And I note with chagrin that this is a good description of how I act all too often!

When I am blessed with a sliver of discernment and I can see just the next step I’m invited to take, I often have a moment of gratitude. Then curiosity – or could it be a need for control? – takes over; I want to know more. Where is my final destination? I could get “there” so much better/faster/more efficiently if I knew where “there” was! Indulging my thinking mind, I hypothesize the outcome: ah, that must be what God has in mind for me! Then, confident of my knowledge, I leap into action, running pell-mell ahead of the illumination of the Spirit. And I go astray – or I crash.

What is it in me that resists the fog of life? Can I not slow my speed, enjoy the shifting shapes present in the now, rest in the softness and quiet of the moment, and trust that the path ahead will be illuminated in its time? I seem to have a tendency to make transitions more difficult than they need to be.

Roaming the internet while reflecting on this topic, I came across a blog on PsychCentral that seemed beautifully serendipitous. Maud Purcell, LCSW, wrote, “Our complex thought processes help us to survive challenging circumstances. Yet these very same processes preclude us from thriving during times of change.” We over analyze and over worry. Take one day at a time, the author encourages. Take care of yourself, allow your emotions, accept the situation, and give yourself time.   In other words, don’t overdrive your headlights!

The blog ends with an admonition to have faith. Have faith! The promise is there in the manual. “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (The Message, 1 Corinthians 13:12)

Today I’m driving slowly in the fog, appreciating the journey though soft, shifting shapes, calm in the assurance that the Holy One who set me on this road will reveal what I need to see as I need to see it. How is your journey through the fog? I’d love to hear from you.

LRampyLeah Rampy, Shalem’s Executive Director, has a background in corporate management and leadership consulting as well as a deep passion for contemplative living and care of the Earth. She has a PhD in Curriculum from Indiana University and is a graduate of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening; and Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats Programs.

Reference: Maud M. Purcell, LCSW, CEAP. “Don’t Think. Thrive Your Way through Transition.”

Photo by Christy Berghoef

Practicing Contemplation on the Road

Today’s post is by Leah Rampy

Changing LanesMy hands are locked on the steering wheel as I sit in the mass of vehicles inching down I-395 during morning rush hour.  I look straight ahead, my eyes locked on the truck just ahead of me.  I carefully avoid eye contact with the driver of the car to my right.  I pretend not to see her blinker, not even to be aware that she’s there trying to move her car in front of mine.  Drat!  My peripheral vision is too good; I can see her now beside me, just as I saw her pull out a dozen cars back into the diminishing right hand lane, moving up to the front of the line, trying to bypass all the rest of us who are waiting “patiently” to make our way to work.  I am indignant that she does not follow the rules.

There’s something about righteous indignation that feels so good, so superior— at least for a minute.  And then it all comes crashing down.  What am I doing?!? I started with a spacious morning, I set my intention to bless those along the way, I really want to be gracious to others I meet, and I’m on my way to Shalem for heaven’s sake!  Yet here I am again, hijacked by my amygdala, under the control of my ego, or maybe just caught up in an old habit.  How distressing!

I suppose in some ways it’s a blip on the radar.  And yet I feel sad.  Why is it so difficult for me to live consistently from the spiritual heart?  In this moment, I feel that others have figured out the key.  They pray enough; they hold silence longer, they don’t fail so often in their intent.

And then I smile.  In the course of two minutes, I’ve fallen fully into dualistic thinking.  The other driver is wrong; I’m right.  No, she’s fine; I’m the one who’s not good enough.  My thinking mind is a judgment machine!  It leaves no situation unlabeled!  I open to the possibility of simply being with what is, as it is, in this moment.  I breathe.

Such a small and yet such a frequent occurrence in my life.  I think it’s time for the words of Richard Rohr to be taped to my visor: “Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection, as we think. Divine perfection is, in fact, the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection! —just as God does with all of us. Only in this way can we find the beautiful and hidden wholeness of God underneath the passing human show.  It is the gift of non-dual thinking and seeing, which itself is a gift of love, suffering, and grace. In fact, this is the radical grace that grounds all holy seeing and doing.”

What shows up for you as you as you open to living contemplatively?

Leah Rampy, Shalem’s Executive Director, has a background in corporate management and leadership consulting as well as a deep passion for contemplative living and care of the Earth. She has a PhD in Curriculum from Indiana University and has participated in Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening as well as Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats: Transforming Community.

Shalem’s intention is to open space for you to deepen your own contemplative practice and awareness. We offer online courses, one-day retreats, and extended in-person programs. This fall, Leah Rampy will be leading an online Contemplative Leadership workshop. Read more here.