Silence or Service?

It has been about three months since I last posted on my blog. During that time, I’ve been engaging in daily prayer, yoga, and mindfulness meditation, all of which encourage me to notice, to observe, to see things as they are, without judgment. In cultivating this practice, there is an emphasis on listening — listening to the heart, the body, the ego, God, and others. I’m grateful for the growth I observe in my ability to listen. However, in my focus on “listening” (or “contemplation”), I believe I fell into my old pattern of all-or-nothing thinking and let “speaking” (or “action”) fall by the wayside.

In one of the daily blogs I follow, Father Richard Rohr, OFM writes about the need for balance between contemplation and action. Both are necessary and have their place in this hurting world. If I only consider, notice, ponder, observe and listen, I miss out on the opportunity to directly serve the needs of my neighbors (and myself). (I am reminded of the conversation going around social media regarding the fruitlessness of “thoughts and prayers” in the face of gun violence). If, on the other hand, I blindly push forward into acts of service without stopping to hear the stories of my neighbors in need, I run the risk of serving others simply to meet my own egoic need to feel good about myself.

On this Day of Service during which we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important for all of us to engage in thoughtful action or active contemplation. As I consider how that has played out for me today, I recognize that my contemplative practices this morning gave me patience when working with others and inspiration to write an article for my church newsletter. They stirred me to write this blog and will keep me further engaged as I write a letter to my 17-year-old pen-pal who lives in Liberia. I will write to her about the reason I pause to remember MLK, Jr., about the difficulty my country continues to have in terms of respecting the dignity of all humans, and about my own belief that all humans are beautiful and good at their core.

In the weeks ahead, I will consider ways in which I can be more active in my advocacy for those who struggle with eating disorders. And I will check in with myself about whether I’m spending too much time on one side or the other of the contemplation–action pendulum. May you, too, find balance between these opposites and may you use both for the greater good of this hurting world.

Peace, joy, and health,