Today’s post is by Bill Stone.
This past summer I began an exciting new chapter in my life. I became a father, and over the last few months, there has been a steep learning curve, as I perfect my diaper changing technique and begin to notice the difference between the “I’m hungry” cry and the “I’m tired” shriek. It has been an amazing experience, and each day brings new challenges and joys.
One of the most regular challenges I face is time management. The schedule I have in mind for the day is often not the same as my son’s, and after several failed attempts, I’ve given up trying to reason or negotiate a compromise with him. This has brought a new rhythm to our family home, and has also invited my wife and me to think more about what is most essential in our daily routine.
This back to basics approach has been more refreshing than I thought it might have been. At first, I was really stressed out about not having time to work, cook dinner, help with the baby, and keep up with our ever-growing list of odd jobs and chores. Free time became a luxury to be spent solely on naps, and my usual prayer practices and daily readings were set aside and added to that list of jobs.
Around this time, however, I attended a seminar for work on “listening skills.” We spent the entire morning focusing on how to be a good listener. One speaker led an introduction to breath prayer and talked about the importance of being fully present to the people to whom we are listening. His talk and these exercises were a much-needed reminder that every moment invites us to notice the presence of God within us, and alongside us.
Thomas Keating says that God’s presence is a gift, closer to us than breathing, than thinking, and even closer than consciousness itself. You don’t need a silent church pew or a remote holy isle to access it. God’s presence, love and grace, are already there waiting to greet you wherever you are. Pausing to notice your breath can be a great tool to remember this–you always have your breath with you.
Being intentional about pausing throughout the day to focus on my breathing, and its gentle in and out rhythm, has helped me to embrace the chaos of fatherhood and approach it from a different direction–engaging the people I’m with and the things I’m doing, instead of worrying about the things that could or should have been done. A wise man once said, “So do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Bill Stone is an Associate Minister for Youth, working for the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, where he lives with his wife, son and west highland terrier. He is also a graduate of Shalem’s YALLI program, and assists with both this program and Shalem pilgrimages. Photo by Christine Berghoef.