March came in like a monkey. Not a lion, although it was very windy, rainy, and stormy in the night. Not like a lamb, although there are brighter and calmer days in the forecast. No, for me it was a monkey. My brain lit up at about 2:00am on the first day of March. I got up for a few minutes and laid back down. My brain did not settle back down at all.
My ‘monkey brain’ tends to be rather loud and unruly and cannot settle on one thing or another. My thoughts were swinging wildly around the many things that had come up in the past few days. There are car troubles and whether we need to replace one or more of them; that tree has all kinds of questions and issues involved: payments, financing, budget, mileage There are political matters as I see several folks dear to me who seem to be leaning heavily in a contrary direction; it makes me wonder how to address such topics of importance. There is still a pandemic going on; vaccinations are happening, but when are we going to get to a point where it is much safer to think about being together in enclosed spaces safely? There’s always hiking in there somewhere; several days of good weather ahead are calling to me already. I was reviewing the hike I had had this day when I got to see a large owl in the woods. And you know—more of this and that and some of the other and a heaping dose of what ifs. No one direction for very long before the tail grabbed on to some stray vine of thought that swung me quickly towards some other tree.
After about an hour of trying to calm things down by paying attention to my breath, and focusing on single words, and praying for numerous folks, I finally gave it up and said that the day was starting early—way early!
I elected not to start the coffee pot at that hour. It was not that I had any need to get caffeinated or any more alert. Besides it was already preset to go off at 4:50am and I thought that would be soon enough for java. I had a cup of cold water with me already. It would suffice.
I went into the den and began reading Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep. What better book for just such an occasion? Here I was, the one who was awake and watching. Here I was also in some sense working, as I know that this is just the kind of book that will make its way into a sermon or study or writing of my own. Here on this stormy night the silence was broken mostly by the sound of heavy rain falling outside. God’s perfect sense of timing in force yet again.
So my monkey brain was calmed somewhat by her words. Reading her stories and her perspectives was like having another voice in my head—one that was focused and polished more than mine. Her thoughts were fluid and flowing forth from the prayer at Compline that had been such a blessing to her. The sense of connectedness to the liturgy and the prayers and the people was assuring. The way that this single prayer could be appropriate to so many was evident. Her words were comforting.
She herself had been through all kinds of events and experiences that called forth the need for comfort. She was not working out of her head space in this effort, but from a place of deep feeling. She knows what it is to watch and work and weep—and all of them with intensity.
Her writing about prayer is prayer itself. Reflecting on this continual conversation of the Spirit is another line in the back and forth between herself and the Almighty. Reading it is the privilege of hearing someone else who has gone through all that the prayer proper contains and has experienced all to which it pertains.
I could curse my monkey brain for having wakened me, but instead I find that I have been blessed. I have prayed a good bit before the dawn will break. I have lifted others while they themselves are lying still and sleeping. I have begun the day’s work earlier than anticipated, but also with a real sense of it being the right time.
So now after several chapters and several hours and several ‘notes to self,’ I am offering up my own words. Not as elegant, perhaps, but as a discipline for someone who has lots of thoughts going on. Maybe I’m not as clear-headed as I might have been with a few more hours of sleep, but I’m making use of the time. If my monkey is going to wake me up, then I should use that opportunity for something worthwhile, should I not?
Had my monkey not been so active I might have missed this opportunity. Had my monkey been content and settled I may not have had these thoughts or insights. But, lucky for me, I’ve got a very active monkey that tends to come out frequently. Still an hour before sunrise and I’ve done several things. Good monkey! Good monkey! This time!
But the question remains: in like a monkey, out like a … We’ll have to see.