At a Centering Prayer retreat some people lamented their full schedules and calendars. Then someone mentioned they had heard a talk by Taoist Master Ni Hua Ching. After his talk in Santa Barbara on acupuncture and Chinese herbs, there was a brief question and answer period. Someone asked, “What is some general spiritual advice you can give us Americans?” Master Ching took a long pause… Then he said two words: “Do less.”
Master Ching’s statement reflects the spiritual poverty of the West. Most of us are running all the time. Most households have two wage earners; there are kids to tend to, and relentless technology. Of course, it’s possible to maintain presence and composure in the midst of multitudinous activity. But this is the graduate course in practicing the presence of God.
I’ve spent a lot of time in stillness and silence because that’s what is lacking. Thomas Beckett may have expressed the essential ingredient missing from anxious and acquisitive Western culture: “nowhere to go, nothing to do.” We long for this freedom—freedom of a child at play (Mark 9:36-37).
When I’m in balance I’ve found my personal center of gravity. Each person has a balance between introversion and extroversion, between reading and reflecting and getting things done, which is right for them. My time at work and my time giggling, running, and playing with my six year old when I get home balance each other. My feverish morning push through the inbox and my twenty minutes of centering prayer before lunch balance each other.
When my center of gravity is off, even just five minutes of deep breathing and presence of mind can bring me back to the center.
The popular Nike ad epitomizes the West’s imbalance: “Just do it.” Nike Corporation, you’re only woking one angle! You can’t smell the flowers on a galloping horse. What about “just be it?”