In our fast-paced, breakneck, go-go-go society, I think it’s easy to forget the importance of rhythms in life. When going through my second divorce, I remember seeing people madly in love and thinking: “Bah! That sucks!” The thing was, my love tanks were empty. Then, after being refilled by both examining and rebuilding myself in solitude, and receiving the kindness and encouragement of those near me, I vividly recall thinking: “Wow! I feel like I have a lot to give people now, and those love birds are awesome!” On this topic, it seems to me Jesus gives us the ultimate example of practicing loving-kindness, which entails dancing between the “city” and the “desert”.
By the “city” not only do I mean people and community, I mean being busy and doing a lot. On the flip side, in saying “desert” I’m not just referring to being alone, I’m also getting at slowing down to rest and recharge (which often includes others). In my mind, life is a lesson in learning to love more fully and truly, which means we’ll inevitably make mistakes and invariably be hurt. Love is always a risk, so, the question is: How do we do it healthily and sustainably? By dancing between the city and the dessert.
Since this seems where Jesus began, lets start the dance in the dessert. Before the Christ began three years of teaching, healing, and inspiring people (which angered some powerful types), he went into the desert for 40 days where he was tempted by, and overcame, the lure of power, prestige, and provision. As it applies to us, I’d name this facing our demons. It’s VITAL for us to slowdown and spend time alone (and probably also with a therapist) to get to thoroughly know the light and dark that’s in each of us, so we can work through and transform our faults, hurts, and so on into positives. I spent many a walk, long run, and therapy session pondering, exploring, and changing how I’d done my second wife, family, friends, and even myself wrong. This part of the desert isn’t fun, but it is necessary for loving fully and freely.
When I’d previously been in the city, i.e. my second marriage, I’d grown codependent. I put too much of my value and self-worth into my wife, and her views, words, and actions toward me (or lack thereof). Coming from a place of partial emptiness, I needed Carla to fill my love tanks. My neediness meant I wasn’t loving as truly as I could, as there was too much of a self-serving element to my actions.
In his humanness, we see in the Gospels when Jesus’ tanks began to empty, he retreated to be alone for an hour, an evening, or whatever was required for him to reconnect and re-center. Likewise, when I take time to be alone and plug in to the Source of Light and Love (Who I call God), my tanks get filled up and I’m reminded I’m loved immensely and am incredibly valuable just as I am, NO DOING REQUIRED. Ironically, I think the desert is necessary to fill our love tanks, but it doesn’t stop there. The desert also pushes us back into the city.
When we purposefully slow our busy lives down enough to connect our hearts to God, Love, Source, the Higher Power, or whatever word you prefer for the Mystery behind life and reality, we get filled, and in our joy can’t help but join people to share and spread the Love we’ve been filled with. The dance between desert and city is ongoing and never-ending. In relationships we pour ourselves into others for their benefit, we empty our tanks, we inevitably get hurt, and we share joys and sorrows. I think the trick is to build rhythms into our lives wherein, before we find ourselves burnt out, or practically undone by not pausing enough to do our inner work and personal transformation (like I was in my second divorce), we also mindfully take time to reconnect, recharge, and remember ourselves.
Since culturally we’re biased toward going, doing, and giving (i.e. the “city”), I’m interested to hear what your “deserts” are? What are the little, median, and big ways you find helpful to both reconnect/recharge and do your inner work? While I’m no “expert” at this, here are some of the rhythms I’m finding helpful.
I start pretty much every morning slow. I typically hit snooze twice to cuddle with my wife, softly welcome the day, and breathe a mantra to center my day on (“be kind” and “be present” are two of my favorites). I then spend an hour or so enjoying coffee and breakfast, while reading some scripture, meditations, and blogs that fill my soul and challenge me to grow kinder and more courageous (note, I also read sports and comics).
On my walks to and from yoga studios (I’m a yoga teacher), as well as when I run, I listen to podcasts and books that do the same, while also doing quite a bit of getting to know myself and how I can grow in loving-kindness. I also have a personal yoga practice everyday, which is the most glorious of deserts, especially in savasana. It is just my body, my thoughts, and me, which gives space for both lots of transformation and an abundance of connecting to God.
I also do the best I can to practice the Sabbath on Sundays, wherein my wife and I (with my daughter in the morning) do no work (or as little as possible), and take time to restfully enjoy each other, family, friends, and God; reinvigorating day of the most glorious sort. On a bigger scale, a few times a year we get away on a short or long vacation. What is more, I also do my best to at least take a weekend, and ideally more, to go to a yoga teacher training, which includes A LOT of personal growth and transformation.
Life is love, and love is a dance best done slowly as we gracefully whirl, twirl, and give our energies for the benefits of others in the “city”, while also regularly taking time to connect and fill our souls in the “desert”. I think the key is to balance our lives and build rhythms, which keep us centered and filled as much as possible. What do you think?
Grace and peace,