Monday, August 4, 2008

Stilling Stormy Waters

For the last couple of days, I’ve been living with fear. As usual, I’m frightened about something that is beyond my control, and the answer is prayer. I’m not the kind of person who just naturally turns to prayer, you know? I’m the kind of person who knows exactly what the right thing to do is in any given situation, and I’ll tell you about that, or yell at you about it, and get bossy and manipulative about making sure you do what I know is right, and resentful if you don’t. Sometimes, that’s how I can TELL I’m frightened – I get all controlling and I scream at people. I want to DO something, and it’s hard for me to remember that praying IS doing something. The only thing.

I’ve spent a lot of time returning to the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …” And breathing. One of the teachers in my life says ANYTHING I try to do consciously is fighting, and what I need to do is just, once an hour or so, when I remember, pay attention to my breath. Not DO anything about it – just pay attention to it. It does make tension drain out through my feet somewhere.

Another one of my teachers says to me (I need to hear it often): “I wish you could see this as part of the natural order of life, and not as stressful and catastrophic.” When I first started hearing it, I just wanted to shout, “You’re not LIVING with this!!! It is F***ing stressful and catastrophic!” But he DOES know. And he’s right. When I notice myself and say, “This is as stressful and catastrophic as you allow it to be,” the stressful and catastrophic drains away too.

I do an ocean meditation. I’m on the ocean. Sometimes in a bathing suit, sometimes not. Floating on my back. A starfish float, I think little kids call it, except that’s face-down and I’m face-up. On top of the ocean. If you’re going to float like that, you have to relax everything – once your body gets tense, things start sinking. So the meditation involves staying relaxed so I float on top of the ocean.

And the ocean varies. Sometimes it’s calm and blue and flat, like the Caribbean. Sometimes, it’s grey and there’s big swells taking me up and down. Sometimes, I’m aware of the things that live in the ocean. “That great Leviathan,that you made for the sport of it.” I know they’re down there below me; I know some of them are carnivorous; and the only thing to do is keep floating, and trust. Sometimes, my ocean is the North Atlantic in full storm, and it sucks me down underneath it. Even that’s okay. Sometimes, I need that.

Last week, on Wednesday, Ellie posted on silence at Meditation Matters. I’ve gone back and read it several times this weekend. I have a friend who was an English major: loves poetry and writes it, and loves Rumi the best. Ellie’s post includes this: The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote, "Only let the moving waters calm down, and the sun and moon will be reflected on the surface of your being."

That’s a great line for someone who meditates and craves oceans.

I was thinking about it tonight, a little while ago, when I read it again. I thought, “I just need to remember to still the waters.” And then I remembered – that’s not MY job. There’s someone else who stills waters. There’s someone else who leads me beside still waters.

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, 23and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. 24They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’ – Luke 18:22-25, NRSV

So, it’s MY job to let go of all this, pray, and let God handle it. To pray, to be calm and still like the waters, inside, and to be loving to others as I go through the night and the day.

Thanks, Ellie.


Jan said...

So sorry, Kate. You're doing good things. All I can think of offering is this:

When I used to have panic attacks and was depressed, my therapist told me to ask myself these questions:
1. Am I safe right now?
2. Who is in charge?

That would help for a little while, when I realized I wasn't the one in charge!!

FranIAm said...

Oh Kate, you have a lot going on, yet you write about your fear in such a courageous way.

I like what your teachers have to say... and yes, when I am in a state I do try to stop and breath and just be with it.

Hard to do, isn't it?

Each moment however presents itself a new.

Oystercard said...

Thanks Kate - your writing helps me to know that I don't have to "cope with" my fears - when I act through faith *I* don't need to do anything else:)


Doorman-Priest said...

I really felt for you when I was reading your post, but you actually come over as a strong survivor.

pj said...

Kate, you sound a lot like me. When my mother got ill last week, my initial reaction was to get angry at her! I see now that it was my frustration at not being able to control things.

Thank you for this wonderful post. I'm going to try and take the advice of all your teachers, too.


grace said...

You're so honest! Lots of admiration for you...

Kate Morningstar said...

Jan, those are good questions. Rule Number One for life is "God's in charge."

Fran -- REMEMBERING to stop and breathe is really hard to do. And believing it will help if I do it is sometimes hard too.

Derek -- after Monday, or whenever it was, I'm especially glad you said that. Thank you.

Thanks, D-P. I'm doing better than surviving these days, and a lot of it has to do with not having to be strong, but giving up to the one who is. Someone blogged this week about the meaning of the words we usually translate as "The Comforter" about Jesus, and said they'd be better translated as "the Strengthener". When I remember who, I'll give credit.

It's ridiculous, PJ, but, I think the anger makes me feel like I'm not powerless and I can control something ...

And Grace, thank you. I'd visited Jesus Wept a few times a couple of months ago, and then missed you for a bit -- but now I'm stopping in again. I visited St. Pixel's. If anyone else wants to know, you can find Grace at

I'm going to post some more about fear in the next couple of days -- it's SO present in me, all the time. I don't like giving it the controls and letting it drive my life.

grace said...

Thanks for the plug... yes, I was a bit sporadic posting, what with getting married etc. Thinking of you...