“There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it’s enough.” — Richard Rohr
After I left my ten-plus year post in urban education, I spent a year cleaning people’s houses. I got paid to tidy, scour, tend to the dust and grime that we all accumulate in our living spaces. For twenty four hours a week, I would scrub, sweep, polish a family’s home or single person’s pad, making my way through bathrooms, kitchens, dens, bedrooms, laundry rooms, office spaces, attics, basements. It was privileged work in many ways - as I was privy to the interiors of others’ “sanctuaries” – so to speak. I came to think of this period in literal and figurative ways; I was cleaning out not only the inside of other humans’ homes, but tending to my own interior spaces: of heart, spirit, mind. It was sacred work on many levels.
During this time, I listened to a lot of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, on CD. I’d go into these sacred spaces, broom and bucket in hand, and — (if it wasn’t a Bob Marley kind of morning, or Neil Diamond flashback afternoon that I was having) — I’d pop in a recording of the Franciscan priest from New Mexico. Viola! I was on retreat while at work. Every action of soap and sponge and elbow-pushing-arm, became a contemplative, active prayer of sorts. I was, in the words of Fr. Rohr’s, putting to use the most operative word in his organization’s title, being a person of contemplation AND action. What I encountered in my heart and mind whilst listening to “Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening” or “The Great Chain of Being: Simplifying our Lives” conference or “True Self/False Self“ made its way literally through my interior life and into exterior action.
I’d go into these sacred spaces, broom and bucket in hand, and I’d pop in a recording of the Franciscan priest from New Mexico. Viola! I was on retreat while at work. Every action of soap and sponge and elbow-pushing-arm, became a contemplative, active prayer of sorts. – Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde
During this year of prayer and manual physical labor, I made significant changes in my life. I worked to simplify or downsize in all respects of property and ego; I let go of everything I thought I knew for certain; I felt freer and more happy than I had ever been – as I cleaned and contemplated and wrote blogs as prayerful prose for the public. It was a revolutionary year of my life.
I’ve recently become re-acquainted with Fr. Rohr, as a friend hooked me up with his daily meditations sent via email from the Center for Action and Contemplation. It’s exhilarating to re-discover this spiritual teacher/wise counselor and touchstone. As a prolific writer and speaker, Fr. Rohr has many books and CD’s published to inspire our lives; he’s not unlike the Visitation’s co-founder, St. Francis de Sales, or the many holy people who inspire our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies.
In the days, weeks, months to come, I will be re-posting some of Fr. Richard Rohr’s words as they so move me; I will be working to apply them, through a Salesian lens, to my own life. I invite you to join me!
Peace to all this day.