Where I ‘Sit, Pray and Sing’
by Sister Lorraine d’Entremont, Nova Scotia
When I wake up in the morning, I am already in my favourite ‘contemplation’ space in the house: my bedroom. From the tall window, topped by a sheer, cream valance, I can see the surrounding landscape through the slats of the plum color mini blind by just sitting up and leaning slightly forward in my bed.
On some days, I see only fog, but on a good summer day, I see vibrant green shrubbery and trees, a narrow, paved coastal community road, the cemetery across the road, and a few scattered homes. I see several small islands just off the rugged coastline, and in the same view plane, a space where the eye can move out to the open Atlantic Ocean and to the horizon where sea and sky meet.
Our environment is equally remarkable for what one does not hear often, such as mechanical or traffic noise, as it is for what one does hear. Through an open window I can hear the sounds of the ocean, ranging from a soft swish to a raging roar, and an occasional motor boat. Accompanying this is a variety of bird song, and at times, squabbling between the gulls and crows over their perceived territory. Inside the house, I hear the familiar sounds of others about their morning routines.
I feel privileged and grateful to be in this environment any time, but particularly so in a time of pandemic. There is much open space for walking without needing to be concerned about social distancing. I feel calmed and balanced by the rhythm of the ocean, advancing, ebbing and retreating in recurrent cycles. Simultaneously, the ocean beckons to a far off horizon, beyond my known boundaries and limits. I reflect that farther than I can see, those waters are touching the shores and people of another continent, which is also in the throes of pandemic, and pray for their well being. In a nutshell, the ocean speaks of inner balance and expanded horizons, both needed for health generally, but especially in crisis times.
The poet/contemplative Nanao Sakaki, a 20th century Japanese man, captures well the distance our spirits can travel from the grounding of our home place. The poem begins:
‘Within a circle of one meter
You sit, pray and sing.
Within a shelter ten meters large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.’
It continues on, progressively widening the horizons of vision,
through circles of meters, kilometers, and thousands of kilometers,
to light years and billions of light years, and concludes:
‘Within a circle one billion light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.
Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing
You sit, pray and sing.’ *
I would paraphrase ‘sit, pray and sing’ into be still, contemplate, and celebrate – both the present
dwelling and terrain we call home, and the places and spaces that draw us in our larger home
of earth and universe.
*From Earth Prayers: Eds. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, Harper Collins e-books, April 2011. 378-379