Children, Chaos, and Contemplation

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef

There is never a dull moment at our house. My wife and I have four children—amid the flurry of homework assignments, birthday parties, sibling spats, and dinnertime squabbles—there’s a lot of constant noise and movement.

One of the delightful things about having young children is their unbridled enthusiasm and overwhelming energy. They are fully present, without a sense that there is anything else to be. They are fully in the moment. This is a gift of being a child, not being weighed down by thoughts of the future, or by a sense of responsibility, or worry. They are right here, right now.

The downside is that everything is so important, and when something doesn’t go their way, right now, it’s reason for complaining, crying, sometimes even—panic. Spilling milk really is something to cry over. A favorite toy breaking feels like the apocalypse. Even as I write this there is fighting in the sandbox. (Don’t worry – we have plenty of moments of calm and laughter as well in our household!)

I long as a parent to be able to maintain an inner calm amid all this outer chaos and confusion. I find that I very seldom am able to cultivate that on the spot. It is something I need to consciously develop in other moments, so that when the chaos comes, I have a reserve of calm from which to draw. It might be a daily time of prayer and silence, a quiet walk outside, Scripture reading, or some other practice.

In the Garden

Lately my thoughts have turned to letting go and being afraid, the prompts for two spiritual journey writing groups. I struggle with these, not because I haven’t been afraid or haven’t let go but because each time I think of possible topics—traveling to Guinea to start a refuge school, starting my own business, taking my weavings to galleries, traveling abroad alone, being pregnant—there no energy rises around the fear I once had. When I consider our children going to college or my release of things I once loved like West African drumming or my professional work, I feel nothing. I can’t go there now. They just don’t resonate with me today. Or yesterday. Or the day before.

Just a Minute

During a turbulent period, my regular practice of spending time in silence fell apart. I turned to a local meditation teacher, seeking guidance to re-establish my practice. His advice blew me away.

Joy Unspeakable

It is with joy that I muse about what it means to be contemplative and African American. I’ve been thinking, praying, and studying this seeming contradiction for some time—only to conclude that there is no contradiction. For people of color, the contemplative is embedded in our DNA.

Draining the Pond

I was delighted to see I had a view of the pond. Through brightly colored leaves, I caught a glimpse of water shimmering below. Ah, the pond! Still water, reflecting clouds and sun, holding leaves aloft – oranges and yellows, sky blue, greyish white and dark green.

Pause, Wash, Rinse and Drain

Today’s post is by Christine Berghoef. Growing up in an old farm house with limited kitchen upgrades, I used to question my mom and dad’s sanity in their choice to not install a dishwasher. Between my parents, me, and my three growing brothers who seemed to put down several meals between meals throughout any given […]

Running Water Is a Holy Thing

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef.

As everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever. ~Herman Melville

Drip, drip drip… Drip, drip, drip…

Getting water is something many of us don’t normally think about. It’s something many of us take for granted. We turn on the tap, and there it is. For a lot of us, this water has been treated already and is drinkable. Perhaps we’ll run it through a Brita pitcher or some other filter, but we don’t have to wait long, or at all, to get a tall, cool glass of refreshing water.

Our recent move from Washington, DC to a rural setting in Michigan has led to a number of changes, including how we get our water.

Instead of municipal city water coming out of the tap ready to go, with its treatment of chlorine and fluoride, we depend on well water. Well water can notoriously come with the lovely scent of rotten eggs, due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide and other minerals. To counteract this, our home has a water softener in the basement. A water softener replaces some of the hard minerals through a cycling process involving sodium ions. After this the water has a higher sodium content and a “silky” feel which isn’t bad, but it’s not that great for drinking.

So our water goes through a second process: an under the counter filtration system that runs the water through several filters and comes out through a special drinking tap.

Contemplative Living and Fallow Time

By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page. “The time […]

Waves in a sea of being

Guest blog by Mark Nepo, excerpted from The Magic of Peace in The Endless Practice, a new book in progress. Mark is a poet, philosopher, and a New York Times bestselling author whose many books have been translated into more than twenty languages. He is also a member of Shalem’s 40th Anniversary Honorary Council for […]

Ordinary and Spiritual Awareness

By Cynthia Bourgeault. One of Shalem’s Honorary Council members for the 40-hour Contemplative Prayer Vigil, Cynthia Bourgeault is a modern day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader, who divides her time between solitude at her Maine hermitage and traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom path. […]