When I was about seven I discovered I liked to polish things. I’d rub my doll’s face until all the smudges were wiped away and her pink cheeks were a bit dented, but shining. My mother, seeing this zeal – encouraged the polishing, and I became the guardian of the bathroom fixtures. All I needed was a sponge, a pail of water, and Ajax. The sink, tub, faucets gleamed … and I liked the time by myself.
A Reflective Place
Henri Nouwen said, “A reflective place is a place of safety where the spirit of love is whole, visible, and palpable.” I believe that bathroom was my first reflective place. I had privacy and time to let my thoughts meander.
Years later when my friend’s wife said of him, “He has a rich interior life,” I was curious. He is usually calm, has a very corny sense of humor, and has that skill of listening with his ears, eyes, and whole body. I quizzed him about this interior life thing. He told me he read something positive every day, prayed, …and then he’d sit and wait to see what bubbled up.
Now I had found great comfort in spiritual reading, but often dashed off without waiting for the bubbles. I began to look for and use reflective places. Libraries, labyrinths, empty beaches, climbing or sitting under a tree, my yoga mat, Zoom rooms, meditation groups, once or twice on the checkout line at Safeway. Mostly I sit, breathe, read, by myself, with my “self,” and see what opens up.
There is an open space of privacy in a reflective place. I realize not everything I think, feel, or experience is for public consumption. Some of it is for my own delicious privacy. Kind of a stop, look, and listen. Sometimes the bubbling up allows time to struggle with something, and then I can let it start to fade away. My shoulders release their grasping up toward my ears, my chest opens, my breath slows down.
My current reflective place is an oversized chair in our living room. I can slouch down, put my feet up on the foot stool, pull a green throw over my legs and be. It’s easier to slide into being if I listen to music, write, or listen to a meditation. Or read.
A Shared Reflective Place
In the morning this is a shared reflective place with my husband. When the morning sunlight brightens the whole living room and the breakfast table is cleared, one of us will ask, “Shall we read?” I move to the oversized chair by the window. Hank sits opposite with his coffee. I read aloud.
Reflective Place Readings
Over the years we’ve read spirituality books, Buddhist, 12 Step, mindfulness. Pema Chödrön, Jack Kornfield, Don Miguel Ruiz, Sharon Salzberg, Thich Nhát Hanh, Piero Ferrucci, and now Edward Viljoen have become trusted book friends.
Now it’s a Habit
A common denominator in each of these books seems to be the habit that builds from the regularity of whatever practice is done. I call it my spiritual flossing. Every day. This habit of morning reading makes it easier to read when we’re tempted to say, “Everything’s cool, let’s skip it, or I whine, “I’ve got too much to do.” We read. Then we wait. One of us starts sharing. Was there resistance to the words? Was it a reminder? Did it inspire?
When I take time to physically look around, and look inside, a feeling of incredible well-being grows, sometimes bursts on me. I have to let go with a huge exhale. I’m grateful for this habit of using reflective places to read, breathe, … and see what bubbles up.
I’m always looking for new RPs. What’s yours?
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.