*Brian Wilcox. 'Compassion - Kuan Yin'
This writing speaks of cultivating so the seeds of Grace emerge into the fruit of Spirit. When I refer to working gracefully, this aligns with the teaching of effortless-effort, which I write of at times. What we mean is working naturally, based on the natural laws of Life. There is work to be done to grow spiritually, yet how we do that work is to be in accord with Life, all-natural, so all-spiritual. This is important to see in reading the following. Also, the role of patience is important, for spiritual growth is not only about what we can do to grow, it is also about waiting, admitting what we cannot do. Like in gardening, in spiritual gardening, waiting is as important as doing.
The Sage was aware some of his followers were lax in their efforts to grow spiritually. They behaved as though divine grace meant they did not have to work for the fruits of the Way. So, he told this story.
A woman dreamed she walked into a shop. To her surprise, Jesus was behind the counter. She asked, "What do you sell here, Jesus?" He said, "I don't sale anything here." "You give it away?" she asked. "Yes." "What do you give?" "Everything a heart most deeply desires," said Jesus. Daring to trust what he had spoken, the woman replied, "Wonderful! I'd like love, joy, and peace." Jesus said, "I think you've got it wrong. We don't give away the fruits here, only the seeds."
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I was sitting in 1995 in a group where I was later vowed to live a contemplative life. The group leader instructed us in an activity to receive a mantra - what we called a prayer word - for our meditation practice, Centering Prayer. We were to be silent and envision a scene in the Christian Bible. Jesus is walking along. John the Baptist, who had baptized him, instructs two of his disciples that they can follow Jesus. They begin. Jesus turns to them. "What are you seeking?" he asks.
We were to see Jesus turning to us, looking at us, and asking us the question. We were to wait to hear what would come forth from deep within us. I closed eyes, envisioned the scene, and saw Jesus asking me, "What are you seeking?" Soon what emerged was the word "peace." This was my mantra for many years. Sometimes in silence, still, I quietly repeat it.
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In the Christian Scripture, peace is a fruit of Spirit or spirit. This "spirit" refers to the Holy Spirit or our own deepest self, or both. I see it as both, for in the heart the Divine and we are one-in-union. Likewise, "spirit" means "breath, wind." This denotes the subtle nature of spirit. Spirit is totally present, but we cannot see it; we cannot say "It is here" or "It is there." Sometimes, I refer to the spirit-of-Things, taken from Taoism. This, like the Tao (the Way), is ever-present, yet we cannot place it anywhere or at any time. Yet, we can see its effects, its fruit. This is like not being able to see happiness, yet we can see the look of happiness on a face. That look is the fruit of happiness.
Hence, to receive the word peace, this meant there was a yearning within me for peace. Now 25 years later, I better see the significance of the arising of that word. I can see how the contemplative path has been a path of and toward peace. I say toward, for the fruit of Life has like to layers of manifestation. Peace, like love and joy, like patience and kindness, like all qualities graceful, deepens over time. These qualities deepen as we become more intimate with the Beloved - see, the Beloved is the completion of all the qualities. Possibly, there is no end to this growth in Grace and so the manifestation of Grace.
I also see something else, and of great import, I could not 25 years ago. This is summed up in words of the late philosopher Dallas Williard, "The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it's who you become." He observed that is what we take with us after death of the body. That day, hearing the word peace, the calling was to become, not only enjoy or have, peace. The heart longed for peace, for it knew the peace it longed for. This for the heart is in the image of God, who is Peace. So, paradoxically, that we essentially are, that we are called to become. Yet, the calling is not from outside us, but from within us. The call to peace was not a divine mandate imposed on me, it was the natural voice of the heart-within-me.
* * *
I was raised on a farm. I never recall eating from store foods we could grow. To this day, I refuse to eat canned vegetables. We ground corn into grits. We raised some of our meat. Once, we grew cane and made syrup but usually got that from an uncle. My mother canned and pickled. We worked hard to do all this, there was work to do 7 days weekly, 365 days of the year. We had two huge freezers full of food we had planted, cultivated, and harvested. Just planting seeds was not enough; the vegetables needed cultivating, even as the cattle and swine needed food and water.
We speak of spiritual growth, an organic image. We do this, for the spiritual way is like farming or gardening. There is work to do. If we nurture the grace-seed, the natural Way is for the seed to manifest in accord with its innate nature. So, we need to cultivate the inner qualities of grace. If we cultivate the seed of patience, we will manifest patience. Thankfully, we are aided by grace, but we work gracefully.
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A close friend, a member of the contemplative community, informed me of a friend of his who had left a religion to join another one. He said the young man made the change for, to him, his religion was lax in regard to spiritual growth. He wanted to be part of a way that had high expectations of him spiritually. I can relate with this. When a pastor, I sensed most parishioners were little interested in spiritual growth. They wanted the benefits of the Way, such as going to heaven after death. Some were interested in helping persons in the community. Faith appeared to be part of their life. This while any spiritual path is to be integrated into the whole of life; indeed, spirituality is the whole of life. Spirituality is not a segment or an appendage. All life orients around spirit, this is the way of the Way.
* * *
The Way is step-by-step. And the joy is that in walking the Way, we do not just cultivate the inner Garden, we enjoy the fruit. We celebrate as the fruit deepens through our growing closer and closer to the heart, to Life.
To draw closer to the Beloved is the essence of cultivation. To take upon ourselves the likeness of Love, this is the essence of fruition. The lover, the Beloved, and the fruit are of a single nature, even as a child, the fruit of the womb, bears the likeness to the mother and father.
Ⓒ Brian Wilcox, 2020