The healing magic of pause
An American traveler planned a long safari to Africa. He was a compulsive man, loaded down with maps, timetables, and agendas. Coolies had been engaged from a local tribe to carry the cumbersome load of supplies, luggage and “essential stuff.”
On the first morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far. On the second morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far. On the third morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far. And the American seemed pleased. On the fourth morning, the jungle tribesmen refused to move. They simply sat by a tree. The American became incensed. “This is a waste of valuable time. Can someone tell me what is going on here?”
The translator answered, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”
I always love telling and re-telling this story. Mostly for my own benefit.
Just this week, I was asked, “What specifically can we do to keep sane in a world that sometimes feels upside down?”
Here’s my answer. “Let’s give ourselves the permission to let our soul catch up.”
And I’m smiling (because I don’t easily practice what I preach), knowing that this has never been easy for me.
When the daughter of artist Howard Ikemoto turned seven years old, she asked her father, “What do you do at work?”
Ikemoto told her, “I work at a college, where my job is to teach people how to draw.”
She stared back at her father, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”
Yes indeed, we do forget.
Pascal’s reminder, “By means of a diversion, we can avoid our own company 24 hours a day.”
However… What’s at stake here (with this sacred necessity of stillness) is not another “to do” list. This isn’t a contest or a beauty pageant. It is an invitation to stop, to savor the pleasure of slowness, moments of stillness, even silence, letting them work their healing magic.
In her book Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrich talks about the concept that space can heal. That space—created by silence—represents sanity. Mercy, what a gift. Silence can be a fullness, rather than a void. It can allow the mind to run through its paces without any need for justification. It can let us recover—grab hold of—those parts of our self which have been so scattered, so disparate, throughout the week. To sit still is a spiritual endeavor.
To sit still is to practice Sabbath–meaning literally, to quit.
To stop. To savor uncluttered time. To be gentle with yourself. And yes, to waste time with God. The bottom line? I’m no longer chasing what I assume will fill empty spaces, in order to make me something I am not. Replenishment begins here, “I am enough.”
I’ve started writing this on a plane to Paris, France, where I’ll meet my friends Rev. Bill McNabb and Rev. Dick Wing for our vacation wine trip. It’s something we’ve done for years (paused during Covid). And both are retired clergy, which means many of our conversations are about navigating life when the goalposts have changed, although the measurements for meaning (success or accomplishment) seem unchanged. “Retired, eh? Okay, so, what do you do?”
Letting our souls catch up with our bodies—the gift of enough—is not easy in a world when we equate significance with usefulness or “achievement” or arrival.
I am so grateful to have traveled many wine regions, and am blessed to have tasted beverages that I could never afford, but offer a glimpse of heaven.
And yes, I’m biased. But then wine is not a beverage here; it is an experience. Your choice is to savor and take delight.
Today, a drive through Burgundy on our way to the northern Rhone. And this week we will visit Rhone Valley wineries harvesting grapes from vines over 100 years old. These are businesses passed down through the generations, grandfather to father to son (and now thankfully, often to daughter). A world where terroir is king, the personality of the soil. Meaning that this wine is born of a place, a very specific place. And I’m honored to be in the company of crafts people. Like being with a great gardener. The men and women I have met coddle their vines—they call them trees—lovingly.
Unlike Peter Mayle, I don’t have “A Year in Provence.” I only have a few days. But that’ll do…
Tonight, I finish writing this Sabbath Moment in the village of La Motte-de-Galaure. After a lovely meal with our vacation rental hosts. And I am glad to be here. There is an air of familiarity with new friends, and comfort in their ritual. I am grateful for reminders and invitations to live well into a place. Not just a physical space, but a tonic and sanctuary to the spirit. The invitation is a permission to settle down. (In the words of Jesus, “to come away and rest awhile.”) A sanctuary is a place that restores us, replenishes us, nourishes us. In this renewal, we are reminded, once again, of what really is important.
For this week in Sabbath Moment, we’ll be talking about places where we allow our souls to catch up with our bodies, and will ask one another the question, “What holds you?” In other words… “What sustains you, and carries you gently through your days?”
Of course, sometime stillness comes in ways we didn’t anticipate, like our friends are learning in Big Bear, California. Where snow levels have trapped and stranded so many, where they could be stuck for another week. You are in our hearts and minds. Please be safe.
Quote for your week:
Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen — that stillness can become a radiance. Morgan Freeman
Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, Last night’s display of the Northern Lights in Alaska. Images are unique and unusual. The images where seen in various locations around the state. I didn’t know which one to send you as they are so awesome and heavenly.” Anna Haylock… Thank you Anna… (Note: the photos are from this past week.) Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Hi Terry! Have a wonderful day! This reminds me of you because you make my world wonderful every day I get your email! La Ina
–I’m sure you inspired and entertained new and old friends! Sadly, health kept me away this year. Hopefully that changes next year… Always be gentle with yourself. Your words and your presence make a difference to many. You remind us that we may not be perfect, but we can be perfectly exactly who we are supposed to be in this very moment. Julie
–Terry, Your posts this week remind me of the story of Kafka and the little girl who lost her doll. Hope you are having a good weekend at the conference as your light shines, and that the snow is not an issue. My best to you, Marian
–Hi Terry, I was thrilled to read about your moment with the San Gabriel mountains. I, too, was blessed by the beauty of the snow covered wonder. I was leaving my friend’s Arcadia, CA home Saturday night at midnight after a party. When it was time to go home, I walked out to my car and looked up to see the mountain range covered with snow. I stood there taking in the wonder. The snow was so dense that it shone through to me in the dark. I love that I see what some people miss. I, too, said “thank you”. Be well. Vivianna
–All I can say is “Wow!” If you never write another Sabbath Moment, this one says it all to me. Very beautiful. Very powerful. Thank you and God bless you. Ginger
POEMS AND PRAYERS
God speaks in the silence of the heart. — Mother Teresa
Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.
Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.
Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk.
Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed.
And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”
Beloved Presence on my path of life,
thank you for the footprints left on my heart:
the soft and gentle ones that brought comfort,
the deep and lasting ones of enduring friendship,
the lightly passing ones conveying kindness,
the heavy ones causing necessary change,
and the impressionable footprints swept away by time.
Even though lost, forgotten, or not recognized,
these visitors have led me to live more fully
the innate goodness residing deep within me.
How grateful I am.