Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another Inner Room

This Ramadan--the Muslim month of fasting and reflection that corresponded to the month of September this year--I set up a prayer space in my office.

It is my shameful secret that my office is the least used room in our apartment. When we moved to an apartment with an extra room, my husband generously agreed to give it to me, to encourage my writing. (He crammed his own broken desk and bookcase into a nook next to the cat litter box.) We fixed up my office with the better desk, two bookcases, relaxing landscape painting, plush rug, and so forth. Then we looked on with approval and left the room.

That was a year and a half ago, and I would sometimes venture in, engage in a fevered bout of writing, stash the notebook in a bookcase, and skulk out. The room is very noisy in summer and very very cold in winter. We use it as a guest room--I pretend to be out of sorts when I am denied the use of my personal writing space for those few days when someone stays there.

But this Ramadan, I made my presence felt in that room, and made it a more inviting place. At first, I had to force myself to pray and meditate there, instead of in the living room. But as I cleared the brush and paved the trail, I found myself automatically going there, found that I could think more clearly there, that I felt close to God there, that it was a place of comfort.

At one point while I was sitting on the floor, just letting my mind drift, the thought came to me that this poor office that I had been avoiding was a lot like me. I sometimes lock parts of myself up because I am afraid of what I will find there, or afraid that I will find nothing there. Just as the office is affected by street noise or the weather, I, too, let certain forces in the world affect me, and as I avoid the office, I sometimes shut myself down so that I can't be hurt by these influences.

Embracing my office has given me a place to remember God. Somehow the hours I spent praying there during Ramadan carved a new notch into my mental schema of our apartment. Now, like a scent recalls an obscure memory, the office sometimes takes me back to moments of prayerfulness, without much current effort on my part.

It has also given me hope and compassion for those parts of myself that I have been ignoring. If I have the courage to do what I feel called to do in my office, then why not with my life? If I can rewire my feelings about a room, then how about rewiring positive thoughts about myself over negative ones?

I thank God for my time spent in worship this Ramadan, and for the opportunity to make friends with parts of my environment and myself that I had been avoiding for a long time.

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