Sunsets here in New Mexico are impossible to get used to. They appear and re-appear day after day announcing the time-out into which evening welcomes us. Monks have a tradition of “recollection” in which they lay on their bed before compline and ask “what went well, what did not go well, and what might be done differently tomorrow?”
I have kept the tradition from my monastery years but rather than asking the three questions of myself and of God in a church or chapel, I am asking in a field of alfalfa with Kai sniffing for sticks and St. John (pronounced “sinjin”) whinnying nearby. And these sunsets are the soundtrack – the music of my recollection – the strings of purples, the woodwinds of yellows, the percussion of blues.
These three little questions, like Byron Katie’s four questions of anxious thoughts and our attention to our three inner children -these sets of mindfulness activities simply draw us down to this real moment. Other religious traditions call this “mindfulness.”
What would our towns, cities, churches, governments, Presidents, Bishops and dioceses be like if we all kept a Rule of Life which inclined us each sunset, to think, alone, about our human life. And not our whole life…no…just our one little day of life. What went well? What did not go so well? What might be done differently?
Recently the plumbing stopped up and sewage backed up into the shower floor. It was unpleasant. But it reminded me of how important flow is. Block a pipe or a river and there will be a mess. “Flow” is my secret name for God. I have renamed God because the name humans chose is rather arbitrary and is based on Deus which is based on Zeus which is not a compelling reason to call it God. So, I have chosen “Flow.”
What I notice about evening strolls in the alfalfa field with Kai and St. John is that the sunset welcomes my three questions with an elegant quietude which unblocks stoppages and creates flow. It is almost as if Flow has dimmed the lights in order to honor the dignity and the vulnerability of the three questions. One can imagine Flow shushing the angels and the cherubim.
Daily recollection as the sun sets is the hard work of the spiritual life and there is the added plus that absolutely anyone can do it any time. It is an equal-opportunity spiritual life practice.
The colors of sunset reflect the wide spectrum of the colors in my answers to the three questions of recollection. Some light pinks and baby-blues, some silvers, some charcoals and some dark purples and midnight blues. Not, perhaps, liturgical colors, but defiantly God’s. Or Flow’s.
Of course, the fun thing about calling God “Flow” is that it rhymes with the character on the 1970’s-1980’s TV show “Alice” who reminds me of God. A lot. Or God reminds me of Flo. One day I am going to make a pilgrimage to Mel’s Dinner in Phoenix. True, its not a registered pilgrimage site in ecclesial circles, but I bet they have really good chili. I love Chili. And I love Flow (& Flo) and God. And I love myself enough to try to ask, daily, my three questions so that I cause just a little less harm each day to the people around me.