Turning off everything except your mind

 

Tonight, the rains returned to Portland. That dark winter gloom fell on cue just after 5 p.m., and I took to the streets of Portland’s so-called Alphabet District to experience this dense neighborhood.

St. Mary's Cathedral Photograph

St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

It is easy to feel isolation and gloom in this weather. People in Portland tend to avert their gaze like urban dwellers in many cities and walk purposefully.

I stumbled on one of the prettiest religious building complexes in the city, St. Mary’s Cathedral. As I noted on my photo blog, the cathedral sits in a five-block area that also includes Temple Beth Israel and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. I like this part of town a lot.

I stepped inside as the 5:30 p.m. mass was beginning. It felt warm and cozy. I decided tonight was not the night to sit, but I thought about the need to do that more frequently.

I am not a religious person, but I like that houses of worship are one of the last remaining places in our country where people intentionally turn off their cell phones, disconnect from the media and the material world, and perhaps connect with something beyond themselves. That is what I like about them. I am not a fan of charismatic churches that are full-on multimedia spectacles that turn on media to prevent contemplative thought.

When I was a kid, I was forced to sit in church nearly every Sunday for years, until I was 18. I initially I could not stand it because I did not and do not adhere to the tenets of any organized religion. But as the years came and went, I realized I had learned a great deal sitting in the wooden church pew, gazing at beautiful stained glass windows at Bethel Lutheran Church in University City, Mo. Sitting for a forced period of time stilled my mind and my generally active body.

Bethel Lutheran Church Photograph

The place where I spent many an hour contemplating things in a quiet, peaceful place–Bethel Lutheran Church.

To this day, nothing else will quiet my mind like a church pew. Though churches are not my house of worship, they still remain my quiet place. I think all of us could benefit from turning it all off for at least an hour regularly and contemplating things bigger and more important than our small, insignificant selves. For me the place is a church pew. What is it for you? If you have not gone to that place for while, maybe you should pay it a visit.

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