Detachment and Declutter: a spiritual journey

Detachment and Declutter 

Many spiritual journeys require gathering of materials in preparation for the long trek. The westward exodus from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Basin required setting in provisions of cooking supplies, staples, tools, teams of animals, wagons, handcarts, etc with the knowledge that in there would be no resupply along the way.  

Other spiritual journeys though require as much preparation but with the goal to lighten the load as the best option for success. Of late I have known that the latter is required of me.  

Declutter and downsize are popular topics theses days. Goodness, so many books and online gurus on how to toss and organize your belongings with the goal of a quasi zen space where everything has its place.  

Years ago, I helped a family pack their home to move away. It was a large family yet absolutely nothing had been tossed out in preparation for packing. Therefore, it could not all fit into one moving van. Growing up with an upwardly mobile family with five children, we moved 9 different times and became rather proud of our ability to pack and unpack quickly. A move 2 days prior to Christmas, with Christmas threatened to be cancelled if the kitchen were not unpacked, motivated 5 teenagers like nothing else. Plates were Frisbees: bam, bam, bam onto shelves and under cabinets. There was even time to hunt for a Christmas tree.

 So, the idea of packing and moving is not unfamiliar. However, in the last 20 years of marriage and staying in ONE place (never ever had this experience), well stuff accumulated. Don’t know how. When we moved in it was empty and echoed and we joked how we could never ‘fill’ our three bedroom, 4 story condo (with attic and basement). Famous last words. My goodness. I must confess, reader, that we do not have large rooms but still things accumulated.  

I am largely to blame with the adoption of hobbies: knitting, handspinning, fleece preparation, lace making and sewing. The title for such a person is “Fiber Artist”. And well, artists need supplies, you know, to create. And indeed I did enjoy and needed to develop my creative side– long suppressed by the rigors of academic pursuits. However, with the decline in my health, I am finding it harder to DO these wonderful creative activities. A kind of grief has overcome me as more and more activities that brought true temporal happiness are being stripped away. It is as though God really did want me to become an LDS monk and detach myself my ‘things’. I keep getting the impression that indeed a journey is implied and that I must get rid of most of my things.  

 Recently read a popular decluttering book by a Japanese author who emphasizes to only keep those things that bring JOY. And to think of donating all those ho-hum items to another who may find joy in them. Case in point. I purchased a quilt kit from a famous online quilt along company. I thought how beautiful it would be and a great keepsake for my husband. However, I realized that I simply do not have the energy to start yet alone finish it. So, I listed it on Facebook and a quilter who could not afford the full price of the kit was ecstatic to acquire this quilt she had been admiring. It felt good to ‘share the joy’. More of that is occurring as I am stripping cupboards, cabinets, bookcases, grain storage, just everything to simplify my life. With less ‘stuff’ I can more fully follow God because I am not tripping over, having to dust and maintain, feel visually dissatisfied. Something tells me to prepare for an eternal journey.  

 So, my spiritual journey is making me keep only those things that bring me true joy. Distribute items that give joy, food, warmth to others; thereby freeing my time, energy and space to focus on the ultimate source of joy—God.

Mormon and Catholic : a friendship

Mormon and Catholic: a friendship 

For nearly ten years my Catholic friend, Carol, and I have grown closer as I made retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Though not geographically close, she became my mentor into the world of the Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani, a laiety group to follow Cicstercian charism and spirituality while living in the world.

 

Becoming a Lay Cistercian does not require conversion to Catholicism but does require to abide by the core of Benedictine/ Cistercian daily practices: prayer, work, study, silence, hospitality, contemplation, and church worship. Nothing in this is beyond expectations of a faithful Latter-day Saint. Particularly poignant was how this devout spiritual life seemed tailor made for me: a childless LDS married woman, with a husband who is also the only LDS member in his family. A small and distant extended family. No personal academic career prospects due to disability, and no close friends in local LDS wards. So, basically, not busy with family, few commonalities with local ward women, unemployed and bedridden. I do love the Book of Mormon and my temple blessings; however, I struggle to discover my purpose and meaning in a family-centric church. Also with a strong desire for a quiet, prayerful life (contemplative) in a very action –oriented church.  

 

Little did I guess that Carol and her husband did not have children either and as a result she experienced similar loneliness in the Catholic Church. We could empathize with the trial of childlessness amidst family-friendly church cultures. Many of my days are spent in bed due to incessant widespread pain and fatigue that allow few avenues for normal daily activities. Again, Carol experienced similar health issues earlier in her life and could empathize. I wished to devote much of my day to God through prayer, study and reflection, as did she. Along the way, we would compare each other’s practices and tenets. Our shared primary goal is to live eternally with our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

 

 

We regularly read and discuss a variety of faith books related to monasticism, contemplative laity, and literature for biweekly phone discussions. We came to realize that though our churches were very different in some aspects, many core ideas had a familiar ring. Jesus Christ, emblematic in the (Eucharist/sacrament) is the center of our religious services. Family is very important. Our deceased need to be remembered and honored. Prayer, scripture study, fasting, blessings on the sick, baptism as a required ordinance, compassion for the sick and poor, and the afterlife as a real place are but a few topics we could discuss. The more we shared, the more we could respect and appreciate. That led to interfaith visits to tour the new Indianapolis LDS Temple, and an upcoming excursion to visit a special year of mercy door at a cathedral. Our friendship includes regular prayer and fasting for each other within our particular faith rituals.

 

What Carol and I enjoy as laity mirrored the friendship and discussion in the 2015 book Catholic and Mormon: a theological conversation by Stephen Webb and Alonzo Gaskill., representing the Catholic and LDS perspectives respectively. We had just started to read for a book discussion in early March. The book is a dialog on various topics to compare and contrast respective theologies. In many ways the tone of discussion reflected a genuine friendship and mutual respect without compromising rigorous academic standards.  

 

Stephen H. Webb as a scholar was remarkable in the world of comparative religion, in that he was fair and respectful of Mormonism. In kind, Alonzo Gaskill could give due to contributions of Catholicism. A full book review would be too disjoined in this personal discussion. I will say more in another post.  

 

Tragically, the world lost Stephen H. Webb on March 5, 2016. A scholar, a father, a friend to an LDS co-author and the Latter-Day Saint Community in general. I would like to imagine him view Carol and I with a huge smile reflective of his enthusiasm for Catholic and Mormon dialog. The fruit is Carol and I: two simple women who have grown through interfaith friendship.