Firmly Rooted at Midday
Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!”
– D.H. Lawrence
ext is the hour that strikes at noon. It comes in the middle of the day when we are most fully engaged in the world – in the thick of things – when we might feel the furthest from our ideals.
We may have firmly set our intentions, but then life takes unexpected turns. Complications and crises arise that test our mettle. As the demands of our workday or our life pile up, we might reach a point where we feel lost at sea. When this occurs, instead of feeling connection and motivation, we may feel alienation and despair.
The sextant – that tool of maritime navigation – comes to mind, its name coming from the sixth of a circle – the size of the arc it uses to measure the distance of the sun or moon from the horizon. In the same way the sextant helped mariners navigate their way across open waters, we can use this sixth hour as a way to navigate ourselves to shore.
Sext comes as a bell of awareness; a beacon of light through the fog, guiding us back to the shore of our being. When the Angelus bells ring out at Heiligenkreuz, the monks drop the tools of their work, and rejoin in a prayer for peace. While we may not have such an opportunity to drop our work in the world, our observance of Sext can take the form of a momentary pause or ritual to ground ourselves, to remind ourselves of our intentions, and to reaffirm our commitment. It can be an internalized pause and reflection, or it might be shared in some form with those around us, perhaps by mindfully sharing our noontime meal.
During my February stay at Heiligenkreuz, the winter wind was present, whipping through the forests and rolling hills that surround the monastery. As I walked down a path one morning, I could hear the collective voice of forest treetops pummeled by the fierce winds, letting out a frigid howl. Sitting down to rest, I heard the howl continue in the distance, but from above and behind me came the solitary cry of creaking branches – one individual tree’s voice in the howling chorus. There is great wisdom in that voice, for it represents the tree’s ability to withstand crisis; to move, to sway – even to dance – so as not to break. It is because the tree is so solidly rooted in the soil of the earth that its branches are free to bend and sway, to flow with the changing currents of the wind.
We live in times of tremendous upheaval and conflict. Institutions that have long served as beacons of peace and wisdom are being toppled and turned inside out. New fault lines are emerging that are shaking up old alliances, forming new and surprising ones in their wake. Even many spiritual communities are facing a stark reconciling of systemic flaws and inequities that have led to bitter divisions in the unlikeliest of places. Like fertile soil freshly churned up, these circumstances are uniquely rich in possibility. Whether we come bearing seeds of anger and confusion, or peace and empathy, one thing is clear: the richness of the soil will guarantee those seeds bear fruit.
So, as we pause at midday – in the wild and thick of it, in the midst of life’s chaos – may we feel our rootedness on the earth, touch the wisdom of our ideals, and share our connection to a larger human tapestry. May we remember the wisdom of the trees, grounding ourselves in the deeper soil of our being, so that our branches are free to bend and sway and to not be broken by the winds of crisis and change. The tumult of our times demands a great deal of us, but we cannot hold sway in the howling winds of change unless we first attend to firmly planting our own roots in the soil of our being.
Song of a Man Who has Come Through by D.H. Lawrence Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me! A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time. If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me! If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift! If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world. Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted; If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge Driven by invisible blows, The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides. Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul, I would be a good fountain, a good well-head, Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression. What is the knocking? What is the knocking at the door in the night? It is somebody wants to do us harm. No, no, it is the three strange angels. Admit them, admit them.
- Tree Meditation – Ground yourself by momentarily feeling your feet upon the Earth. Imagine roots from your feet, spreading out beneath you, deep into the Earth. Grounded and rooted, feel the solidity of the lower half of your body rising up, like the solid trunk of a tree. Feel the lightness of your upper body, allowing the head, shoulders, or upper body to sway gently as you feel the natural movement of the breath. Notice what is in the landscape of your thoughts and emotions at this moment, including what may be challenging. Return your attention to the sensations of the breath, and the strength and stability of your feet upon the Earth.
- At what point in your daily routine do you sometimes feel lost at sea? What thought patterns, words, actions, or body sensations act as a cue that this is happening?
- What serves as a grounding or anchoring activity or ritual that brings you back to shore?
- What is a recent change or crisis that you have weathered? In what way did you need to allow your branches to bend or sway? How did you let the wind bear you, carry you?
- Song of a Tree that has Come Through: Spend time observing a tree. Notice any visible scars or wounds in its trunk or branches. Write a short story or poem, telling the tale of what this tree has weathered, and what wisdom arose out of its wounds.
- Tree Drawings: Carefully observe and draw or photograph a tree with which you have some sort of connection. What is your connection to this tree? What wisdom does it hold for you?
If you would like, share your work with email@example.com, to be compiled on this page at a later date.
Share your own experiences, observations, or insights in the comment section below. Remember to follow these two guidelines:
- Speak from your own lived experience.
- Situate any outside references (religious, spiritual, literary, etc.) within your lived experience (i.e. what experience of your own made those ideas or words of others ring true in your life)