My sweetie and I went to Florida this past week to see family, and I viewed it as an opportunity for retirement, in the Quaker sense of the word:
Friends have known since our beginning that times of retirement from outward activity nourish the soul and allow us to sink deeper into an awareness of God's work in our lives.I was glad to be away from the day-to-day responsibilities that have been weighing on me back home, but spiritual retirement to me is more than that.
--Friends Center of Ohio Yearly Meeting
Times of retirement are the times when we pull back from the chatter and busyness of our outward lives, enter that amazing sanctuary, and allow our inner wisdom, the Inward Teacher, to rise up in us... We have to pause, let the static quiet, so that we can hear.
--Pat McBee's article on Quaker disciplines
It involves intentionally reflecting on the condition of my soul and my heart.
Where in my life is the sense of the Presence strong or abundant? Where in my life is the Spirit lacking and what can I do to give more attention the Spirit in those places? What brings me joy; what diminishes it? Where do I feel I am being faithful to what I've been given, and where do I feel I could be more faithful?
It's this last question that has worked on me while I've been away.
A while ago, maybe two or even three years now, I was encouraged by a few Friends to write more extensively about Quaker identity, what it is, how it's shaped, how it's sustained. I've had a number of false starts, but the sense of feeling "required" to pull something together, something more substantial than individual blogposts, has been consistent and compelling.
I've taken some time--on the plane ride home, during the layover, before turning out my light and pulling the covers over my head (in my own bed!)--to look at what I can do to hold myself more accountable to this writing project.
Two months ago I began work with a writing coach who specializes in spiritual and faith-based writing. While this has been an important step in a much larger process, my recent time of retirement illuminated for me that it is not enough. I have a few other "next steps" to do:
1. Discipline myself to avoid looking at email until the afternoons, so I can focus on blog writing, blog reading, and the more intensive writing for me to do on Quaker identity.
2. Write daily, even if a writing session is only one hour or less. I'm hoping this will be like priming the pump, so that I get in a groove and won't have to "start cold" every time I feel ready to write a segment.
3. Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it. Just like I continue to go to meeting for worship even when I don't feel like it, I push myself to go anyway, so I don't fall into acedia: not caring that I don't care.
Retirement can certainly provide refreshment at the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. And in my case, it has provided protected time and an interior personal space for me to be shown the Way forward, and to be given understanding as to what has been in the way of being faithful.