Ok mama…here’s your five minute warning. Your kids are about to wake up, and when they do, all things good and holy will fly out the window and be replaced with havoc and naked babies and Cheerios; so for now, rest easy and finish up that latte.
I wish my iPhone gave me five-minute warnings like that. It would save me hours of frustration and confusion. After all, I give my children five minute warnings all the time (which mostly help), so why should I be expected to take each transition in stride just because my temporal lobe is more developed?! Transitions are hard people! (throws fist in the air)
Right now, my transition is Summer Break, and it’s all just so everything I have to write it out or die.
You see, I had visions of Summer Break when it was 20 below zero and I struggled to get my kids out the door on time without yelling or forgetting to put on essentials, like underwear. Summer Break is like that high school friend you think of so fondly: she’s perfect and charming and laughs at all of your jokes…only when you finally get together after 20 years you realize you have nothing in common.
This was me on my first day of Summer Break with all three kids at home.
Tears and arguments and naked children running in the street all happened before 10am. I was feeling all the feels — all morning — but just kept telling myself, Make it to naptime Jonna. Make it to naptime. Only when that glorious hour finally rolled around my two greatest nappers decided NOT to nap, leaving me frazzled and deflated…so I paced; yet at every corner I turned, there was my 6-year old — a person who for nine previous months had been blissfully non-existent during this time…and now she was everywhere! How was I going to survive another three months of this!
Thankfully I eventually got over my mini Summer Break-down by asking God for wisdom (should’ve done that after the naked episode), and that’s when he reminded me of the sage wisdom of Macrina Wiederkehr. She will help us all people. I promise.
Macrina Wiederkehr wrote a book called Seven Sacred Pauses that is so life changing it may just save us all from ourselves (and our children). The book’s basic premise is that our bodies naturally require rejuvenation (or “five-minute warnings”) based on the vibrancy of the sun (re: the hours of the day). “Historically people have rested at the noon hour when it’s too hot to work, and have laid their heads to sleep right at sundown. They didn’t have clocks to tell them when to wake or sleep; they needed the sun and moon to be their guide.” We are no different. Just because our iPhones remind us to eat, sleep, and check Facebook, doesn’t mean our bodies don’t still want to follow the rhythm of God’s light naturally.
Macrina’s cultural and spiritual traditions are steeped in the monastic faith, but what I love about her book is that it’s non-denominational. She provides a way for everyone to find peace by pausing. She does this by explaining that we are all interconnected, even those whose cultures and beliefs seem completely different from our own. And yet, the sun and moon need each other, right? Their figurative and literal gravitational pull is therefore a metaphor extending to us all: we all need each other, even those we disagree with (like our children!!!!!). BUT we might struggle to believe and act on this truth if our symbiosis is overshadowed by our hectic, busy, and frustrated lives.
So how, pray tell you, do you implement these glorious pauses of rejuvenation?
Macrina suggests that we pause seven times a day and reflect on specific themes for that hour:
- DAWN : to give praise
- MID-MORNING : to bless our work
- MID-DAY : to seek peace and restore passion
- MID-AFTERNOON : to forgive and be forgiven
- EVENING : to be grateful
- NIGHT : to honor completion and seek protection
- MIDNIGHT-DAWN : to be vigilant
In her book, she accompanies each hour and theme with scripture verses, quotes, poems, and prayers (shown below) that can help guide you through your “pausing practice”. Sometimes I use verses but mostly I just pray. Often I find that by reflecting on the theme of the hour I can get back on track quickly.
So I challenge you to do the same! Analyze your life:
- When are you the most stressed out?
- What times of day leave you uninspired?
- Who and what are your triggers?
- Do you struggle with transitions? If so, which ones?
Take time to ponder these questions so you can pinpoint where and when to take your “five-minute warnings”. These pauses will allow you to take a more proactive stance on your transitions by becoming more mindful, peaceful, and grateful. (And personally, my children will all thank me one day when they learn that my “pausing” saved them from being shipped overseas.). #kiddingnotkidding
So without further ado, here are the Seven Sacred Pauses. Read through each of the hours below and see which ones resonate the most. Then focus on those hours for the next two weeks. (I suggest choosing two hours to start with.) Put reminders in that trusty iPhone of yours so you’ll remember to pause at those hours and/or print off the pictures below and tape them somewhere in your house to reinforce your practice. I promise these “five-minute warnings” will be just what you need to survive your daily transitions … and give Summer Break another shot at being awesome.
SEVEN SACRED PAUSES
(1) DAWN : to give praise
Macrina says that before your feet hit the floor, we are to give thanks and praise for our lives. “I arise at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” (Kahlil Gibran)
(2) MID-MORNING : to bless our work
At this point in the day, we are to pay homage to the “work of our hands”. We are to realize that “work is love made visible” (Gibran), regardless of the kind of work we are doing. Often at this hour, all I do is say, “Bless the work of my hands,” over and over and over again until wiping Cheerios off the floor doesn’t annoy me anymore!
(3) MID-DAY : to receive passion and truth
This is when the sun is the hottest and when there are few shadows. Macrina says it is a symbolic time of day for when we are to recommit our lives to our passions (and to God) and turn our attention toward being the peace and LIGHT of the world – “the change we wish to see.” (Ghandi)
(4) MID-AFTERNOON : to forgive and be forgiven
As the day comes to a close we are to turn our attention toward our hearts: is there anyone we have hurt? Have we been hurt and are harboring anger? “We want to close our days as we began, with the chalice of our lives raised high…We will never have the completeness we long for when we reach the hour of the Great Silence if our hearts are crowded with leftover anger or grudges. For this reason we begin early with our plans for the great surrender of forgiveness.” (Macrina Wiederkehr)
(5) EVENING : to be grateful
In the evening hour, we are to pause in gratitude. “We have the power to transform fretful hearts into grateful ones,” Macrina says, even if our days have been exhausting, stressful, or terrible; we can still pause and give thanks.
“There have been evenings when the light has turned everything silver, and like you I have stopped at a corner and suddenly staggered with the grace of it all. (William Stafford)
(6) NIGHT : to honor completion and seek protection
At this hour, it is time to slow down our bodies and prepare for “the Great Silence”. For many people, this is a hard thing to do because our culture teaches us to constantly be on the move. But that’s exactly why we need to pause and surrender our bodies to the stillness it deserves. Additionally, this hour is reserved for addressing our fears. For some, stillness awakens the darkness. Macrina therefore urges us all to surround ourselves in protection and surrender those fears to God.
“Stillness is what creates Love. Movement is what creates Life. To be still, yet still moving, that is everything.” (Do Hyun Choe)
(7) MIDNIGHT-DAWN : to be vigilant
This hour is for you parents with wee babes who still awake in the middle of the night. This hour is also for those who suffer from insomnia. Instead of feeling frustrated or annoyed at this hour, Macrina suggests that we “hold the space” for those who are lost and hurting. She says that she will often rise in the middle of the night when there has been a global disaster, just so she can pray for the people hurting, dying, or abandoned. She encourages us to do the same.
Congratulations! You made it to the end of this post. A noble task, I might add. I will now tell you why I chose that flower picture at the top — it’s of my sad peonies this summer. They shriveled up and burned to a crisp even before they bloomed! Let’s not be like that. Let’s not let our fears (or Summer Break!) get the best of us. We’re better than that! God’s got us and that’s what counts. Now go off and be the best parent, spouse, friend, or co-worker you can be today (and don’t forget to pause while doing it :)).