*Brian Wilcox. 'Life Moves'
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I offer this writing for guidance and encouragement. One can view the previous two offerings: "Flowers in the Field~Welcoming the world in," March 18, 2020, and "this Contentment we share~in a time of world crisis," March 29, 2020. Peace, Brian
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Rufus Matthew Jones, a Quaker, wrote in The Inner Life (1916), of the vast Expanse with which we are, with or without our acknowledgment, in innate kinship.
We touch upon the coasts of a deeper universe, not yet explored or mapped, but no less real and certain than this one in which our mortal senses are at home.
In intimacy with the Sacred, we never cease the exploration of this Mystery whereby in the discovering there appears more to see. A reason the inner journey appeals to many is one never stops discovering, so one never ceases exploring.
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This writing I pen from my third-story room in a Quaker community house in Maine. Maine is, by state mandate, in lockdown; 97 percent of Americans are in lockdown. In this room, I spend almost all my time. This has been my life for the last four weeks and may be for many more weeks, even off-and-on over many months. While here, I am traveling. How is this possible? Am I bilocating? Certainly not. Still, traveling, I am. The most important journey we take is not outside but inside us, into the heart-of-hearts, and that is the most incredible journey of all. Yes, there is a "deeper universe," and where is it? It is here, not somewhere else.
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A skeptic visited from the nearby town. He said to the Sage, in a tone condescending ...
What good are you just sitting here way back in the wood doing nothing? Your life is going nowhere. What a waste!"
"I'll tell you a story," said the Sage.
A man named Sarapion was among the best known of the early Christian monks in the desert of fourth-century Egypt. He traveled to Rome; there, he learned of a celebrated recluse. The woman lived in one small room, never going out. Skeptical of her way of life, for he was a wanderer, Sarapion visited her. He asked, “Why are you sitting here?” She answered, “I'm not sitting; I'm on a journey.”
Next, the Sage said, "See, you don't have to go anywhere to be going somewhere."
The townsperson replied, "No, I don't see! That makes no sense to me."
"Well," said the Sage, "I didn't think it would."
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To be alone by being part of the universe-fitting in completely to an environment of woods and silence and peace. Everything you do becomes a unity and a prayer. Unity within and without. Unity with all living things-without effort or contention. My silence is part of the whole world’s silence and builds the temple of God without the noise of hammers.
*A Year with Thomas Merton. Ed. Jonathan Montaldo. December 29 and January 28, 1953.
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Bishop Kallistos Ware, a Greek Orthodox, spoke of Christians being spiritual bedouins, moving about within the heart. What he says applies to anyone on a spiritual path.
"Our situation [as Christians], say the Greek [Church] Fathers, is like that of the Israelite people in the desert of Sinai: we live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are, on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey out of time into eternity."
*The Orthodox Way.
Ware alludes to a tradition, in the Hebrew Bible, of the Hebrews moving about in the Egyptian desert with the Tent of Meeting. This portable shrine was also called Tabernacle and Tent of the Congregation. The Tent was superseded by the Temple of Solomon, in Jerusalem, over four-hundred years later. The Tent is for a people on the move, the Temple as people settled in one place. Interestingly, Jesus, in the Gospel of John, is referred to as tabernacling, or tenting, among us: "And he tabernacled among us." The whole spiritual life, while we speak of the importance of stillness, is a stillness with movement, for this pilgrimage is of the heart. As we are drawn deeper into the heart-of-Light, we know less of what is happening, this while we know something is always happening.
I would say, unlike Ware, the journey is all in Eternity. Time and outward action happen within the Timeless. One of a spiritual path begins with a sense of entering Eternity and, then, moving back into time. This alteration continues until she or he lives in a sense always of being within the Eternal: being-within-Being. One settles into the Heart-of-hearts and the inner, unseen movements happening there. Christians have referred to this as union or mutual-indwelling with the Sacred. However, when one is stabilized in this sense of Unity, there remains much work and travel yet to be done. The adventure never ends, the work never ceases, even while relaxing into the subtle movements of Grace.
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This inner moving relates to interior prayer. I wrote in "Pilgrimage and Interior Prayer," 2006, the following.
Silence and Solitude is not simply a time of inactivity. Outwardly, it appears one is still, motionless. However, the pilgrimage continues in the closet of interior prayer. Possibly, the most important movement in the Christ journey is the movement within the Silence and Aloneness. While we easily see external motions, there are deep, interior movements that are as real and are even more essential to the ongoing Faith pilgrimage. The outer aspects of the pilgrimage can only rightly be lived, rejoiced in, and shared with other persons when joined with the pulsations of the Spirit that take place deep within the heart of hearts during Silence and Solitude.
My conclusion is, after following a contemplative path for nearing twenty-five years, is that the over-focus on the external life fosters relationships lived on the surface of self and life. Yet, giving space and time, and quiet, to nurture the inner life, this leads to relationships more intimate, connections that can sustain a heart-with-heart link. These relationships flow out of the Heart-of-hearts. This Heart is the Sacred. Hence, we need to live in intimacy with the Tabernacle of the Heart. This inner journey is also for the well-being of our relationship with all Nature: in-the-Heart, we are Nature, not a part of Nature or separate from Nature. Merton writes of this, "Unity with all living things-without effort or contention." With this depth within, we offer this depth in our sharing with others, and we welcome the depth provided to us. Life becomes so much more than the surface, what Jesus calls in the Gospel of John "the world." Life becomes for one living from the inner stillness, depth-with-depth, a ceaseless rite of exploration.
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
for the Uncreated
it undoes me
wider than wide
is too narrow
You know this well,
you who are also there
*Hadewijch II (1200s)
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©️ Brian Wilcox, 2020
Brian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; his book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, is available through major online booksellers, including Amazon and Books-A-Million, or via the publisher, AuthorHouse.
Poem of Hadewijch II, "All things," in Roger Housden. For Lovers of God Everywhere; from Jane Hirshfield. Trans. Women in Praise of the Sacred.