Friday, April 30, 2010
The "doldrums" is a nautical term describing the calm winds near the equator. Also, called the "equatorial calms," the doldrums affect the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
Even though we're far north of the equator, I've experienced this phenomenon while sailing in Long Island Sound on a hot summer day when there is no wind. It's no fun to be in the doldrums. The heat and lack of wind can be stifling.
There are doldrums in our spiritual lives as well. These are times of stagnation and even listlessness, where we don't seem to be moving in any direction. The monks had a name for the spiritual doldrums. They named this time of stagnation "acedia," a word meaning "inability to care."
When the desert fathers and mothers struggled with acedia, they were told to go back to their cells and wait it out. This advice is still valid. When we're in the spiritual doldrums, our tendency is to try to will or work ourselves out of it. We mistakenly believe that if we "just do something" we can overcome acedia.
Being patient and confident enough to ride out the doldrums and wait for them to end is counter-intuitive. However, those who are able to be calm in the doldrums can emerge from them stronger and more grounded in their spiritual lives.