The “Sacred No”

One of the gifts of walking the Camino de Santiago, is the way it shaped and changed the pace of our lives during the 5 weeks of walking. Our long list of “to does” that we had before our walk, just disappeared largely. We established a very simple, basic rhythm to our life that repeated each day. We found that the pace of our life was “slowed down enough that we could catch up with ourselves and get our bearings” (Thomas Merton). We could just lean gently into the simplicity and rhythm of the walk. It was life giving and “restful” in a strange sense.

It seems we live in a culture, today, that encourages us to keep going until we are completely depleted. When someone asks us, how we are doing, we reply about how “busy we are”. Like is a badge of courage we wear. We don’t live in a culture that encourages us to take time to go away, to be apart, to rest.

“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.”

This quote by Thomas Merton was made about some of the people involved in peace activism. He thought their frenzy of activism neutralized their work for peace. It destroyed their inner capacity for peace. So, even the good they were trying to do was being thwarted because they were “destroying the inner root of wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

“Being constantly busy, damages our bodies and our spirits and our need for renewal. We seem to perpetuate this myth in our culture that we should always be available, that we should always be working. That our work is our identity. Therefore we can’t ever step back.” Christine Valters Paintner

The Camino taught me the value of being able to “get off the merry-go-round”, that blur of the life’s to-do’s that so readily overwhelm me. I came out of the Camino with a new perspective, I really appreciated the “inner peace” that came from just being not doing.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a similar life changing effect on me when so many of our normal activities came to a grinding halt. Now as we are coming out of the pandemic and our “normal” life activities are ramping up, I am seeing once again the “lesson of the pandemic” to slow me down. I truly see the value again of rest and time away from the “violence” of busyness.

I used for the title of this blog, “The Sacred No”. The reason I did was to remind myself that I am going to fall right back into my old patterns of a packed full calendar of activities and “to do’s”, if I don’t have the courage to stand up and say, “no” occasionally. I have to get over “my fear of missing out” (FOMO – it is a real social anxiety out there today!) and use the “Sacred No”. In a sense, when we consciously make the choice to slow down by saying no to some of the activities, we are giving ourselves a “small sabbath”. A time to step back and rest into the present. I can speak from my experience, this has brought me more peace and well being in my life than I could ever have imagined!

My hope is that you are also able to find your “Sacred No” so you can find the time to slow down and catch up with yourself.



Photograph of the Month

Slow Down, Take Stock

This image was taken during a jeep ride in Colorado to Imogene Pass (13,114 ft). The quotes from Peter Maurin and Pope Francis seemed to fit perfectly with the image.