Twelve years it’s been since I’ve faithfully attended Sunday School.
Sacrament? Check. Relief Society? Check check. But that forty-five minutes in between – I just can’t quite face it. I don’t object to the lesson manuals (generally speaking). And I hear we have a dynamic teacher these days. It’s the sitting. For three hours.
Luckily, LDS buildings are rife with pianos. And so I steal away to practice – hymns mostly. These days I have an official excuse: I am the Relief Society pianist. I practice in the Relief Society room for the presidency, teachers, and other women who can’t quite manage the second hour. And each week people approach me with gratitude for the background music as they talk and prepare – as if my restlessness is counterfeiting as a service.
I just emerged from a seven-hour professional development – nothing like being lectured at for seven hours to give you immediate empathy for middle school students. I’m exhausted, agitated. I cursed myself for forgetting my knitting – something to calm my darting mind.
My a-religious husband has noted that he views “learning to sit still and observe ceremony” as a potential positive advantage of having our children attend church. He, of course, learned this trait as a child in a starched shirt, sitting through endless dinner parties hosted by Viennese psychoanalysts. Sitting still is different from reverence, clearly. Sitting still is also different from being still. I felt anything but still this afternoon, as I sat politely, watching the clock tick tock tick. And when I think back to dark moments when anxiety has caused physical “stillness,” the phrase “Be still and know that I am God” has surfaced as a mantra.
I hear a Buddhist service is also three hours – of meditation. Practice at stillness and being still. Without the latter, is the former really a virtue? Must the physical and spiritual both be at rest to follow the commandment to “be still?”