Monday, September 13, 2010

They shall not enter into my rest, II

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:2
Thursday evening I celebrated the end of an exhausting week (in which I learned that keeping up with five courses that utilize three dead languages, one of which I haven’t learned yet, might have been a bit ambitious for my first semester) by having a dear friend over for dinner. Toward the end of her visit we found ourselves in a conversation about contemplative prayer, a spiritual discipline my soul has been quite slow to learn.

Ever since I was first introduced to the Divine Office, I have become increasingly aware both of the value of contemplative prayer and of my great deficiency in it. Prayer was always something I did, whether that was journaling (by far the most natural form for me) or talking casually on the way to class or venting in a fit of angst or fasting from food or sleep or any other bodily need I could think of (asceticism was also quite natural for me). I have never learned prayer that was not an intellectual exercise or a willful discipline, prayer that was found outside myself rather than inside, prayer that involved uniting myself to something and someone else rather than exploring my own mind.

But that night in a strange intersection of my academic weariness (I had turned in two papers and took a Latin quiz that day) and my soul’s deficiency in finding communion with her maker, I realized something as if it were a novel concept:

I was tired.

I was always tired. I had lived on sleep deprivation since I discovered books as a young girl, and exhaustion became a matter of principle by college. Dualism, the heresy that separates spiritual matters from physical matter as if they are distinguishable, had been so pervasive in my thinking that rest still feels overly indulgent. But if dualism really is a heresy after all, then it may be that a neglect of my body is not only damaging to my body; it may be damaging to my soul.

At any rate, on a sudden impulse soon after my friend left, I went to bed hours before it was absolutely necessary, and I let myself sleep an hour past my alarm.

When I awoke my soul was refreshed, as if it had just spent eight hours communing with God. I began to wonder if my tired body was connected to my restless soul. I began to wonder what it would be like to wake from eight hours of sleep more often.
...for he gives to his beloved sleep.

No comments: