In less than 24 hours I’ll be back in Virginia. Yay!!!
And in one short week I will attempt to visit all my friends, my sister and her family, maybe catch blooming dogwood trees, hike Shenandoah, and soak in as much of the beauty of the greening Virginia countryside shot through with the colors of spring as possible.
Oh, yes, and Davis will be there, too.
It seems improbable – all that I have planned. And I’ve not even finished packing yet!
As I flit from one preparation to the next, I can’t help but consider the contrast of all this juiced activity from the Southwest Sangha silent retreat weekend I just completed at a Franciscan retreat center — a beautiful connection for me. Two days of relearning the art of slow, focused movement. Of sitting, walking, and eating in meditative silence. As our Dharma teacher, Michael, reminded us from the first moments of our arrival, we have no place to go and nothing to do.
Then, from that place of being as still and silent as possible, I jumped right into a flurry of activity, beginning Sunday afternoon, as I repacked and headed to El Paso to meet friends and walk over the border for margaritas and a bite to eat. I planned to spend the night in El Paso since I was scheduled to be at Casa del Refugiado early Monday morning, which meant Monday was a full and tiring day at the center.
Now here I am, in between unpacking and repacking, getting some writing in, and making sure the bathrooms are clean before I head out tomorrow.
Although it may all sound frenzied and stressful, that’s not what I’m feeling.
On the contrary.
Despite the to-do list and the fullness of the three days following the retreat, I am feeling rather pensive and content. I’m remembering the significance of the sacred art of pausing during my day. The gift of being able to be quiet and still enough to recall who I am underneath all the inner chatter.
An interesting question Michael posed this weekend was, how much time do you spend in silence each day? Many of us were committed to two 20- or 30-minute sits a day. Michael sits for 6 hours each day! Of course, he lives at a lay monastery where he has devoted his life to this practice. Still, he recommended we work towards it.
But, kidding aside, his suggestion made me reflect on just how much of a priority is my spiritual practice? How often do I simply pause and allow myself “to be” in sacred space?
In reality, it is all sacred space. The key is, am I still enough to pay attention? How receptive am I to God’s ever-present “murmurings” throughout my day? To being still long enough to recognize that I – my little ego – am not the one who is in control?
I’ve been reflecting on this even more so since I’ll be returning to Virginia tomorrow. A place I love. A place I left precisely because I listened within the silence. And what I discerned in that receptive silence were “the murmurings of God” calling me to the desert.
To trust enough to surrender to what I couldn’t understand.
Coming across these words by Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche who died two weeks ago, reminded me about this sacred inner space. And how it can inspire someone to make drastic life changes – as it did for Vanier.
Many of us are not aware of the sacred space within us,
the place where we can reflect and contemplate,
the space from which wonderment can flow
as we look at the mountains, the sky,
the flowers, the fruits and all that is beautiful in our universe,
the space where we can contemplate works of art.
This place, which is the deepest in us all,
is the place of our very personhood,
the place where we receive the light of life and the murmurings
of the Spirit of God.
It is the place in which we make life choices
and from which flows our love for others.
Of course, it takes practice, to allow myself to trust this place of “nowhere to go and nothing to do.” It is, after all, countercultural.
But I have come to recognize that the God of my longing is right here, in the wonder of this contemplative moment. Being faithful to the inner stillness is what makes the difference as to whether I will catch the “wonderment” of God’s presence, or push on, grasping the reins tighter.
Like Michael did on this retreat, my Pathwork teachers, Living School teachers, every spiritual teacher I’ve ever had, recommends fidelity and surrender to the stillness in order to deepen our union with God. They call us to move beyond our culture’s preferences, to surrender to something not of our own making.
That’s what Jean Vanier did. And how powerful, how amazing the result! Truly he taught us how the “wonderment” of love can flow through us.
Whether it’s the Christ path, the Buddhist path, or some other spiritual path, when we are still and aware, we cannot but be moved by the presence of this infinite love, calling us to wonderment.
So, I will remember, as I prepare for yet another vacation in which I have more to do before leaving than I have time to accomplish, that what’s left to “accomplish” at the end of the day is not important. But how I pay attention to the wonderment of the God of love that wants to flow through me – well, that is essential.