NO FEAR NEW YEAR - Be Curious
Updated: Aug 3
If you’ve ever had an MRI, you know that sometimes it can feel a bit claustrophobic inside that tube. I’ve had two experiences with that–one prior to my No Fear New Year and one more recently. I think my recent contemplations on Fear brought about a helpful difference in the latter experience. I hope my brief comparison will highlight my spiritual growth and its direct impact on this particular life experience.
In the first MRI, I could hear music and the technician’s gentle encouragement through headphones. Several inventive devices were provided to keep my head still and comfortable, and I was given an “emergency ball” to squeeze if things became unbearable. Finally, it was recommended that I keep my eyes closed throughout the entire test. I had a plan to say the rosary as a means of distraction. Indeed, this plan worked well.
At the onset, realistic pictures of the mysteries of the rosary depicting aspects of Jesus’ life were clear in my mind’s eye. It was a beautiful experience….until the jarring noises of the MRI came and I instinctively opened my eyes. After that, I was in “fight or flight” mode and eventually squeezed the emergency ball.The test took longer than usual, but I got through it with the professional help of a very kind technician.
In the most current MRI, things were vastly different. The nature of my illness prevented the use of headphones or inventive devices. I was completely on my own. Surprisingly I had no plan, other than to really keep my eyes closed this time! I share my journal entry, which chronicles the experience:
I coached myself calmly. It wasn’t easy but this time I was grounded and God was my ground. I have been exploring this ground all month in prayer, and God was most certainly there. When the loud noises began, with no music in my ears, I was seriously tempted to open my eyes. Instead, I thought about my eyelids and sensed the tiniest kiss on each one. I chose to believe they were angels. I don’t think much about angels, but I did then. I was better able to keep my eyes closed. I then turned my attention to the sound. I explored where it was and what sensations it created in my body, curious about the image it was creating on the technician’s screen. I found that staying in the moment (where I was and why) was far more helpful than trying to distract myself like the last time.
The phrase that rings in my ear this month is Be Curious. I found this was a natural progression from Judge Not. Each time I was able to let go of judgment, a freeing space within me was created. I’m not sure why I thought about my eyelids when tempted to open them during the MRI, but it seems to me that such a thought replaced a possible judgment about my safety and the squeezing of an emergency ball. Avoiding such anxiety, even for a split second, opened me to curiosity.
This curiosity has been with me all month. It is a new feeling, but one I intend to keep alive in me. To date, I haven’t noticed my curious explorations taking up too much time. As a matter of fact, when I replace judgment with curiosity I waste far less time worrying. Dare I say, I have time on my hands as a result.
Curiosity leads to creativity and creativity is who God is. I’m aware of the tried and true adage that God is Love. My statement does not negate this and perhaps explains it further: creation happens when the Love that is God wells up to overflowing.
I’m a big fan of this newfound desire to Be Curious. Spiritual Direction, however, has taught me to always invite God into these expeditions. Sometimes it is a conscious choice on my part, and sometimes it is a habit, one that has been well formed in this beautiful ministry.
In the above example, I was focused on the task at hand and wasn’t thinking much about God at the moment. I was left, however, with such a feeling of relief that I was drawn to journal about it, and then I reflected on the difference between the two experiences. In that comparison I saw the long thread of God’s work in me and my personal growth because of it.
LOOKING BACK TO GATHER GRACE
This nine month journey into Fear, at Jesus’ invitation, has borne fruit I couldn't imagine or describe well, until this month. I say, with gladness, that I have been transformed from tightly wound (more than I realized) to expanded and free all because of one experience in prayer when Jesus graciously stood beside me and looked at a painful moment in my life. His reaction, far different from my own, inspired this path of No Fear.
I’m guessing the journey is not over and perhaps may never end, but spiritual direction teaches me that it’s good to stand and look back for a minute. We call this "gathering the graces.” In this case, I challenged myself to look at my experience with No Fear New Year and ask myself what has changed in me and what I will take away from this contemplation. I realized four things:
My work has been concrete, yet not painful on this journey.
Kicking fear to the curb required bravery, yet felt easy.
Seeing myself through this new lens was simultaneously educational and affirming.
My No Fear New Year has changed my image of myself AND my image of God (more on this another time).
In creating this list, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and awe at the way God works in my life. I confess that, most of the time, it feels as if nothing is happening between God and me. I hear beautiful stories of how God works in the lives of others and am uplifted to the point of praising God! But it’s also nice to notice a more intimate connection just between my creator and me.
I am reminded of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, whose two main characters Tevye and Godle sing Do you Love Me? They have been married for 25 years and Tevye asks his wife, “Do you love me?” This was apparently not a question Golde had ever heard before and she accuses him of having indigestion and being a fool. But after some persistence they both said they loved each other and then this:
It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know
If I never took the time to pray or share my experiences with my spiritual director and you, my trusted readers, what kind of spiritual person would I be? My glance back reminds me of our responsibility in our relationship with God. We have to search for God in our everyday lives: in the exceptional and the ordinary, in the successes and the failures, and in the highs and the lows.
This ministry has provided me with life-altering joy. Grateful is an insufficient description of my feelings for the gifts of spiritual direction, but it is all I have at the moment.
As I complete each blog article, I wonder to myself, “is this the last thing I’ll have to share?” “It must end sometime, right?” Yes, but not today, not today.