We settled ourselves at the picnic table. Weather permitting, spiritual direction sessions at the Geranium Farm can be held out under the dogwood tree.
We began to review the events of the past few weeks -- work, the headlines, the house, the kids, his mom. The vacation: a cross country car trip with a teenager.
"How about your prayer time in the mornings?" I asked. My directee looked stricken. We both laughed.
"Absolutely out the window."
Well, yeah. You don't have your special place and your prayer book is in your suitcase. Across the entire state of Ohio, your young companion is playing some hip-hop so deafening that you can hear it clearly even though he's wearing his headphones, as you asked him to: YOGOBITAMYNOCHWHOHODOHYOYOYOYOBUTAMYNOCHWHO.
It is incomprehensible, not that you're particularly eager to know what they're really saying.
A different bed every night, a different dinner time. Different everything. People around all the time, people from whom it's not always easy to get away and be by yourself for half an hour ( "Is something wrong? Are you all right, honey? Do you want to lie down? Can I get you something? Frank, get her a glass of water and an aspirin.") Spiritual disciplines that have served you well at home all year crumble on the road unless you give some thought in advance to how you're going to manage them, and decide upon a wide range of tolerance for local variation.
If, in the end, consistent prayer was too much to ask of your travelling soul, and your routine shattered while you were on vacation -- be at peace. You're home now. You're back in the routine from which you needed a vacation, in the place where you have learned to pray in the way you pray. Every spiritual practice you had before you left is still here waiting for you, and they will feel fresh and lovely and welcoming from the moment you pick up your prayer book or unroll your yoga mat, light your candle, put on your chant record. Hello. We're glad you're back. Come and sit and let's begin.
And, if the world you left behind did not include this little island of private time, this kind of small spiritual practice to sweeten your day, this is a lovely time to begin. We're ready for a fresh start after a vacation, ready to approach the workaday world with new vision. On vacation we think of new things, and of new ways to do old things. When I get back, we think, I'm going to do this, and this, and I'm going to do that a different way. We are refreshed, and part of that refreshment just might be a little energy behind carving out a place and a time just for yourself and God. It need be nothing fancy, and it should be something small if you're just beginning. A psalm, maybe -- one a day. A bit of reading from a devotional book you like. A few words of thanks for the new day, and a request for the presence of God in it. Just ask God to give you the gift of regular prayer he wants you to have, and then wait for the gift without worry. God will allow your heart to lead you to it.
And welcome home