Continuing with our Advent journey as writers, I have borrowed the A-adjectives from Father Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr–Daily Meditations for Advent, where he uses five adjectives to describe the attitude with which we want to approach Advent: awake, aware, alert, attentive, alive.
Aware: Scrabble™ or Words With Friends™ players will notice that there is only one letter difference between “awake” and “aware.” I believe that they are very related. While being awake has to do with discovering something new, e.g., “waking up to the truth,” awareness is a fruit of being awakened and, I believe, goes deeper.
Awareness is less about discovery and more about deepening, or listening in the moment. Awareness, mindfulness, being observant–these are important attitudes I want more of, both in my spiritual live and in my writing life. But I have a confession: I haven’t been doing this well for the past few months, because I’ve been living in hurry mode. I still have many commitments, but starting today I have the opportunity to manage stress and my deadlines a bit differently. These are some of the things I am starting today to live in greater awareness:
1) Take time to slow down as I begin to pray or write.
Although as a sister I pray a couple hours a day, if I don’t deliberately slow down, my prayer “races” and I tend to do all the talking and no listening. When I go to pray in the middle of the day, I am going to take ten extra minutes beforehand to take a walk or just sit quietly to let my whole body relax.
The same is true for my writing time–see #3 below.
2) Keep the drama on the page.
When I’m stressed, it’s easier to let minor annoyances grow into major disturbances. If I take twenty minutes to journal about what’s really bothering me, I can usually regain my perspective, decide what I need to do about it (if anything), and I’ve already loosened up my writing “muscles.”
3) Set aside time within my writing time for playfulness.
Juggling five or ten deadlines which I am barely meeting is deadly for my creativity. I still get that chapter written, but it is wooden rather than full of life. But, if I take ten minutes to journal or to play around with new ideas, the pay-off in my writing quality is immediate. A side benefit? I’ve also given myself a little space to breathe, which keeps me calmer and improves my outlook throughout the day!
These may be unusual Advent practices, but they all have to do with listening better, which is what Advent awareness is all about. Listening is essential to awareness: whether I’m listening to my own body or my subconscious, the subtext in a conversation, or the Lord’s invitations.
Advent and Christmas tend to be busy times for all of us, which is why it becomes even more important to snatch just a few minutes of slowing down, so that we can improve our listening and awareness.