Here is an article from this issue.
Contemplative & Wild
by Kathy Kotas
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
– Mary Oliver
2016 is six days old as I sit here writing this article. I was reminded that it was January 6 by my Google calendar. It’s not as much fun to start a new year on a Google calendar as it was when I would purchase a handsome desk calendar with a ribbon marker. But regardless of a calendar’s physical properties, it always fills quickly with appointments, meetings, and hopefully, a vacation or two. But I don’t think anyone ever makes a calendar entr
y that sums up what one is planning to do with their remaining wild and precious life.
The poet Mary Oliver’s question seems too important to even formulate a New Year’s resolution in response. That life is precious, we would all agree. That belief is reflected in the very posture and reverence we assume when holding a newborn or as we approach the bedside of a dying loved one.
But wild? Can a contemplative lead a wild life? At first glance, the definitions of wild don’t seem to support it. But after scanning many of the synonyms offered for that word, I am attracted to three: free, undomesticated, and natural.
Freedom is what we’ve been told by Fr. Thomas can be one of the fruits of our Centering Prayer practice. Over time, we become freer from the pull of those energy centers of power and control; safety and security; affection and esteem. Each time we sit in our chair and consent to God’s presence and action, we become more and more free. That freedom is needed to become undomesticated, or free from our cultural conditioning.
Fr. Thomas has said that we can’t escape our culture, nor should we make that our aim, because there are many wonderful aspects to a peoples’ culture. But our growing awareness through our contemplative practice is key in helping us to see more clearly where the world tries to manipulate, or in essence, domesticate and tame us. Our culture assumes we will buy into (literally) more and more consumerism. News and social media’s reason for being is to influence us as they present their perception of reality. We are offered iconic hero figures to emulate (and follow on their Twitter feeds) in the form of athletes and celebrities.
Politics has become a toxic vortex that wants to draw us into fear and even hatred. Since none of this leads to domestic tranquility, I would like to suggest becoming counter cultural as we become more aware of another reality – the Ultimate Reality. So just like creatures in the woods – be alert and watchful and do not allow the world to deprive you of courage, ardor and zest for living the real life. Finally, to be wild is to be natural or in/of/around nature. Our natural world is God’s first creation made for our enjoyment and well-being. Go take a walk, look at the trees, and plant a flower or a tomato plant. Studies show that just being outdoors reduces blood pressure, relieves depression and anxiety, and just makes us happier people. And we don’t have to buy anything or post it on Facebook! Wishing you a wonderful and wild 2016!