Monday, January 23, 2012

Seeking Balance

A Sufi tries to keep harmony in his surroundings,
the harmony which demands many sacrifices.
Harmony is that which makes beauty. The natural
tendency of every soul is towards harmony.

– Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Art of Being and Becoming

Let me preface this post by saying that I'll be taking a hiatus from blogging for the next month or so.

Part of the reason for this is straight forward enough: I have quite a number of work-related commitments to both CPCSM and Catholics for Marriage Equality MN that require my time and energy. In addition, I'll shortly be relocating to South Minneapolis after living for the past eight years across the river in St. Paul. As I'm sure many of my readers can attest, 'moving house' is never a simple undertaking.

I recently realized that since starting this blog in May 2006, the longest I've gone without posting is three days! Generally I post something every day and so it's going to feel very strange to not be devoting a good part of my time and energy on researching and writing. But I'm feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the above mentioned tasks and responsibilities, and so feel the need to take a break.

Also, as my good friend Joan recently reminded me, even though I've been working part-time since last June as a coordinator with a local meals-on-wheels program, I really haven't scaled back in other areas of my life – including my writing for this blog – so as to accommodate this particular change. This too is contributing, I believe, to my feeling overwhelmed. Hence the need to step back, take time out, and seek to create some balance, some harmony, in my life.

Now, as many of my readers would know, I often employ the image of a dancer as a metaphor for the spiritual life, or rather, my spiritual life. I have, after all, the "
soul of a dancer"!

Yet currently, every area of my life seems to be out-of-balance. For example, I lack discipline in working-out; I can't seem to find the time to meditate and pray; I haven't been eating healthily; and, as I mentioned above, I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the challenges of working to defeat the "marriage amendment" and by the prospect of my impending move. In short, if I was an actual dancer, I'd be an undisciplined and lousy one.

I actually began realizing the need for some time-out when, earlier this month, I made the conscious decision to attend a spiritual retreat hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. As most of you know, I'm a consociate member of this particular Catholic order.

This retreat was entitled "Stirring the Fire: A Midwinter Day of Reflection on Change," and it definitely served to begin getting this "soul dancer" back into shape!

For a start, the day's focus on change definitely challenged me. I have, after all, experienced a lot of changes this past year – including the aforementioned new part-time job, an
intensifying of focus and activity with my work with CPCSM, and the sudden death of a dear friend and colleague. In light of these and a number of other changes, I found the retreat's activities and prayers very helpful and affirming. They stretched me, strengthened me, and invigorated me.

For instance, one activity invited participants to reflect upon the changes in their lives and to discern a pattern. Here's how I responded to this invitation:

Hopefully, the ways in which I have chosen to respond to the recent and upcoming changes in my life contribute to an ever-expanding life of intentionality, meaning and service; of surrender and transformation. It's a life by which I continually seek to become an ever-truer embodiment of the sacred in the world; a "better person," in other words, by which I mean a more compassionate, less fearful pilgrim; a more trusting and loving dervish; a more flexible and graceful "soul dancer."

We were also asked to identify the daily and momentous "yeses" that challenge and inspire us. Mine are as follows:

"Yes" to being open to new opportunities and experiences that invite movement beyond the safe and comfortable and into the journey of transformation.

"Yes" to the paradigm shift that I believe God, at this time in humanity's journey, is calling us to communally and individually embody. It's a shift from greed to justice, from apathy to love, from war to peace, from mindless consumption to sustainability, from fear that keeps us imprisoned to trust that inspires us to action.

"Yes" to being very intentional in setting aside time and space to be in God's presence in a very conscious way.

"Yes" to remaining loving and hopeful in the midst of the many challenges and uncertainties of life, including others' opposition to change and transformation, to our evolution as people and as church.

Feeling as overwhelmed and out-of-balance as I currently do, it's difficult to respond to these challenges with the resounding "yes" that I feel I'm called to do. The remedy to this situation definitely seems to involve taking time out.

One last thought: As I embark on my hiatus from blogging so as to focus on specific tasks at hand and to seek balance in my life, I know I can't achieve anything of lasting value on my own. I'm going to need the support of family and friends – support I'm already receiving and for which I'm incredibly thankful. I also know that in seeking the balance I long for I must make time to feel and respond to the loving and guiding presence of God, my soul-dancing partner. I long to feel myself held, guided and lifted by his touch. This seems particularly important to me – essential, in fact – if I am to do all that I feel called to do. And that includes, at some future time, resuming this blog.

Heart of my heart, I call to You;
You hear my cry and support me.
Should You remain silent in me,
I walk as in a desert waste.
You heed the voice of my humble request
when I call your Holy name,
when I lift my hands,
O Holy One,
to acknowledge the power of Your love.

. . . Blessed are You, Heart of my heart!
for You heed the cry of my spirit.
You are my strength and my protection;
into your hands I commend my soul.

– An excerpt from Psalm 28
From Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness
by Nan C. Merrill

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Soul of a Dancer
"More Lovely Than the Dawn": God as Divine Lover
Something We Dare Call Hope
Clarity, Hope and Courage
One Thousand!

Opening image and images 3-5: From Men in Motion: The Art and Passion of the Male Dancer by François Rousseau.
Image 2: Tom Long in
The Book of Revelation.


Mareczku said...

God bless you, Michael. I feel overwhelmed and out of balance too. Keep me in your prayers.


Michael J. Bayly said...

I sure will, Mark!



William D. Lindsey said...

Michael, your spoken/written voice will be sorely missed.

But the voice of your spirit will be loud and clear in the Christian community, even while you're not blogging. Thanks for all you have done and continue to do to make that voice sound so strongly.

And best wishes for your sabbatical and rebalancing time.

colkoch said...

I too know where you are coming from Michael. Your post really resonated with me because I have been completely off kilter for over five months.

I think part of this is change is definitely in the air, but not quite yet. Watching and waiting are not my strong suit.

Thanks for all your work and I will look forward to your return. In the meantime let your Spirit dance.

Pat said...


I just read your most recent blog post and want to wish you all the very best in the next few weeks for recovery of your energies and balance. I have been reading The Wild Reed for some time now and really do appreciate it very much. It has been so helpful and inspiring.

We have much in common - grew up on a farm in Australia, studied here in the US, came back here to work, came out and enjoying life very much.

I have also admired your work on behalf of marriage equality very much.

Best wishes and I look forward to reading your blog again.


Marty said...


Blessings on this transition time. I hope the new year/new home energy brings you a new start for all those healthy habits you want to re-new.

Blue Eyed Ennis said...

Blessings and grace to you Michael.
May you find the spaciousness Of God in your break and come back renewed and full of energy.

Joan said...

I am glad that you are taking this time, my dear. I know it will be a challenge!

Rob said...

You are a gift to us all, Michael. Thanks for your beautiful blog. Pax.

Mick said...

The immortal question: To blog or not to blog.

AB said...

We will miss your blog Michael. For so many people your blog is a constant source of inspiration and contemplation. Hope your time off enriches your life and brings it back to balance.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog! Yesterday, I emailed our pastor about the negative and oppositional tone of his homilies. Writing the letter was tiring. I referenced Rohr, and anyone else who presents God's love as unconditional and always present. He replied by citing the Catechism's statements on sin and the need for repentance. I've been hearing about the horrible things the Bishops are saying about birth control, etc. ...Is this my Church? And then found your blog! It is a relief to know that there are still Catholics out there who can see the overall goal of love and inclusion, rather than rules and exclusion. Thank you.