The Truth About Stability
In Christine Paintner’s book, The Artist’s Rule, she talks about stability as a spiritual discipline. This does not mean the same thing as having it all together, or pretending I do. It’s more the opposite. Stability would be NOT running away from the fact that I don’t have it all together, but instead acknowledging it and seeking help. Stability as a spiritual discipline looks like staying present to the circumstances even when they are difficult. Stability looks like not dwelling on the past or obsessing over the future, but gratefully acknowledging the present.
That kind of stability- the staying present- is one of the reasons I wrote a Book of Hours. It is why I love praying the hours. It is a way to anchor myself in the now, not because the past and future are not important, but because the now is oh so easy to pass quickly by in pursuit of the eternal “more” that never is quite “enough.”
The pursuit of the eternal “more” is why the early Christian mystics used the term “acedia.”* It’s basically a word for that restlessness that comes as a result of that pursuit, because the reaching never satisfies. Always there’s just a little bit more in the way of true happiness. Just one more small piece of emptiness to fill. It’s when I start to live only for the highlights of life instead of embracing all of it, including the mundane, as holy and beautiful.
(There is a danger of equating “acedia” with a mental health state. Mental health is far more complex than a mere word could summarize. That would be a hazardous and false assumption. “Acedia” has more to do with a state of spirit; not a state of mind. It can certainly affect, but it is not a cause of illness.)
Stability is important to me, not because it makes me look good, but because it presents a wholeness of hope I want to embody. Practicing remaining present has helped me avoid this listlessness of heart because I am reminded that each moment is important. Each moment is golden because it contains every precious life being lived on this earth. Each moment is a gift. That makes it worthy of celebration, or at least observance.
The first few days of this month I will still be on a visit with family. This makes the staying put a lot easier for a short while, and I think it is helping me center on what is truly important to me. I am grateful for this gift of time and rest. Stability for me will be not allowing guilt for the current ease of my life. Stability is accepting help with my kids, laundry, food preparation, activities because I need the help. Stability is working together for a harmonious environment as we navigate the challenges of adjusting routines, and as we make space for each others’ differences, whether in lifestyle or opinion. Stability is enjoying the time we have and not prematurely grieving over the parting and having to drive the long way back. Stability is a posture of gratitude, and I hope to cultivate that in my life this month.
How do you define stability? What would it look like for you to cultivate a posture of gratitude? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
Peace be with you.
*There are variations on the spelling, but if you want to Google it, this one will do.
Read the rest of the #31Days of Stability series here.