An Active Mind

March 25, 2015

I’ve started writing a number of blog entries recently, but haven’t completed any of them. For example, on Tuesday I thought about writing something

St. Patrick (from Wikipedia)

St. Patrick (from Wikipedia)

on St. Patrick (March 17). In Boston, St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal. Parades and routes are planned, local restaurants and bars serve green beer, and just about everyone in the city is considered to be honorary Irish. Today celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is more about Irish culture and heritage than about a religious holiday. As noted in an article in the Huffington Post by Christine Dalton, Timothy Meager of Catholic University explains that St.

Patrick’s Day celebrations began in the 18th century in American cities with large Irish immigrant populations. “It becomes a way to honor the staint but also to confirm ethnic identity and to create bonds of solidarity. What gets lost in all of the partying and celebration is the fact that St. Patrick was oppressed by the Irish. Like so many people of his time, there are different theories about St. Patrick. But most believe his first trip to Ireland was as a captive of Irish pirates where he was subsequently enslaved and mistreated for six years. What I find most interesting is how he was eventually led back, through a spiritual calling, to serve among those who were his oppressors. As I considered writing about St. Patrick, I happened to think that reaching out to your oppressor was pretty powerful stuff and something that could make for an interesting reflection.

But then I found myself thinking about Wilson. I started to reflect and write about how he is handling the New England winter which has been relentless. Cabin fever, separation anxiety, and raising the roof with Maggie would probably make for an interesting read for anyone who read my Advent post about my trip home with Wilson.

Before considering either of the previous blog posts, I started writing about St. Maximilian (martyr, 295; March 11) who was beheaded in North Africa under the authority of a Roman proconsul for refusing to be conscripted into the Roman army. The life and times of a martyr … particularly one who refused to fight for the army … often provide for good spiritual reflection.

St. Joseph, by Guido Reni

St. Joseph, by Guido Reni

Then I considered writing about St. Joseph (March 19) as the “J” so many of you know from my name … as in Ted J Gaiser … stands for Joseph. I find Joseph interesting as he’s ultimately a silent biblical character with quite a story. He’s a poor laborer, stands behind his young wife who mysteriously became pregnant, his wife gives birth in a stable, and to protect his family he leads them into Egypt. Then after all of that adventure, upon their return to Nazareth Joseph pretty much disappears from the story. Again, there seems to be the makings of some interesting reflections in Joseph’s story.

By now you’re probably seeing a theme. No I don’t have ADD, though I’d probably be hard pressed to prove it given the first paragraphs of this post. What I have noticed, however, is that I’ve not been sleeping well lately. I’ve been waking up at odd hours, having difficulty falling asleep at night, and sometimes finding it difficult to focus. I jump from one thing to another during the day, and when I wake after a restless night, I always have something on my mind. Again, no I don’t have ADD, nor do I believe I’m developing late on-set ADD. I also don’t believe I have any kind of serious emotional, mental, or psychological issue. What I do think is happening, though, is what I refer to as not being able to quiet my mind.

When I was in graduate school, particularly when I was studying for my doctoral qualifying exams, I had issues with an overactive mind. I would be buried in books all hours of the day, and would still be thinking through the fine details of theories, methodologies, and research studies as I was heading to bed. Often, it was hard to quiet my mind. One trick I learned was to watch reruns for 30 to 60 minutes before bed. That would usually be distracting enough to quiet my mind so I could fall asleep.

Another tool I use is prayer. One of the benefits of spiritual discipline is having a specific tool to help quiet my mind. I find that during times when my mind is racing with so many different things, sitting quietly in prayer, asking for guidance and help in quieting all that’s swirling around in my head, can bring me some mental rest and help me focus … if only for a short while.

I remember a conversation with Bp. Shaw one time during which he shared that someone once asked him how he found time in his busy schedule to pray, to which he responded, “How can I not?” He was right. It’s when our minds are spinning and when we’re at our busiest that, counterintuitively, we need prayer and quiet time more than ever.

I have a lot going on right now, and Holy Week is just around the bend (there’s a reason why many clerics take holiday the week after Easter). So I’m sure if I thought about it for a few minutes I could probably come up with a list of possibilities for why my mind is so restless. And I suppose, in a strange sort of way, I should be honored to have a restless mind as it may be reflective of a healthy and active mind. Seriously, though, the reality is that there isn’t any particular issue that is haunting me, no issue stressing me out, or anything in particular that I’m worried about. I’m not overworked, preparation for worship is typically quite enjoyable, and I’ve had some good times recently with local friends and visitors. I guess it’s just one of those times in life when there’s a lot going on and I seem to be holding everything in my head. So for now, I guess it’s back to prayer.

2 Responses to “An Active Mind”

  1. Dianne Smith Says:

    Perhaps it’s simply “cellular memory” for a devoted Christian priest? Love and quiet to you, dear Ted!


  2. Marilyn Miller Says:

    Hi Ted, I do so relate to the spinning mind, wakeful nights, not enough conclusions!  But I heartily agree that prayer the best place to go, though I likely don’t stay there long enough.  Regardless, I know He loves me and trusts me more than I trust myself and He’s always there!  How comforting is that!  Blessings through this season ahead with ever so many reflections for us to consider!  Marilyn


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