*Brian Wilcox. 'Soaking in the Sun'. Flickr
This picture was taken outside Friends (Quaker) Meeting in Damariscotta, Maine, where I gather with Friends for Silent Worship. We have no one way to do this, and we have no one who speaks a 'sermon' to us. We each sit quietly, all equal in the Light. I liken this tree soaking in, so , being nourished by, the Sun, to quiet and stillness in Silence, where one communes with the Light within. We can do this daily, so the subtle radiance of that Light might shine through us to touch the lives of others, inviting them to the same love, joy, and peace.
I am nothing
and the more nothing
this nothing becomes
the more at-peace this nothing is
* * *
Dainin Katagiri Roshi, late Zen teacher, began his Zen training with Daicho Roshi. One who lived with Daicho Roshi for a time said Daicho Roshi did not drink alcohol, but not for it was against the Buddhist precepts. She said, "Daicho Roshi just didn't drink alcohol." Years after having been under the guidance of Daicho Roshi, Dainin Katagiri would say of his past teacher, "He just lived."
Dosho Port, disciple of Dainin Katagiri, once asked his teacher, "How can 'I' go beyond self-consciousness?" The reply was, "When you sit, just sit, when you bow, just bow."
*Dosho Port. Keep Me in Your Heart a While.
* * *
This is in contrast to the religiousness I was raised in and that is a part of so much religion and spirituality. We humans have difficulty just doing anything. Just is not good enough for us on a spiritual path. We feel a need for some grand purpose, some cosmic injunction to hang over all we do. So, we can practice a lifetime seeking that ideal something, with it always at least just beyond our grasp.
Yet,the purest form of Grace is acting in this just. So, when you pray, pray, for example. Be totally with your praying. If resting quietly in Silence, rest quietly in Silence. If helping someone, be fully in the act of helping someone.
Many years ago, when I was vowed to a contemplative life, I was enamored with Union with God. I was taught that was the end-all of contemplative prayer. So, I pursued that as an ideal, the same way a Buddhist might chase after enlightenment, or a Hindu push toward liberation. So, I could not just be prayerful in the Silence. No, Union with God was hovering over my whole life. There was an ideal to get to outside the act of Prayer itself. I did not fathom that to be fully with this Prayer of Quiet might itself be the same as Union with God, and to pursue something outside this simplicity of Prayer might be to move away from the Union with God.
* * *
I have mentioned before of now attending Quaker worship, where we engage in Silent Worship together. Also, I presently live in a Quaker intentional community, where we have Silent Worship together for five mornings weekly. Many Quakers will speak of the act of listening for the Light being the purpose of this Silent Worship. Yet, listening, for me, introduces something other than the simple act of Pure Prayer. I cannot listen to be given a message, I can only give myself into the Silence, and from this offering inner wisdom may arise or not. ~ And, likely, many Quakers would mean this same as listening, listening not being an activity but a passive receptivity. ~ I am learning that just being in Silent Worship needs nothing added for it to be an amazing Grace. So, I enter into silence without any felt-need to receive any message or guidance. At minimum, one could say I enter as an act of Love, an offering to be in communion in and with Silence.
* * *
It is normal for us to make a hoop-la of our spirituality at first. It make take many years for us to see that being holy, or spiritual, is just living. Yet, this just living is different from the prior living. Now, we can truly just live, when before we could not. Now, Grace has simplified our life, so that it is and is becoming a beautiful act of Devotion. The very simplicity of it, we see, and others see, makes the offering of our life to Life even more beautiful. The simpler our self-offering becomes, the more lovely.
* * *
The Christian contemplative Henri Nouwen wrote of meeting the highly esteemed Thomas Merton. He had looked forward to meeting this man and monk known throughout the world as a wise and holy sage. When he visited Merton at the Kentucky monastery, which was the home of Merton, he was astounded how different was Merton from what he had anticipated prior. Nouwen said he went down to a body of water, where Merton was dressed in plain clothes and drinking beer with another man. Merton, unlike the picture of holiness in the mind of Nouwen, was an ordinary person, nothing about him to strike Nouwen as holy. Yet, this is what most attracted Nouwen to Merton, that Merton was a simple man whose being, life, and faith had been simplified over the years. In fact, the most popular work of Merton, and the one that set Merton on the path to fame, was Seven Story Mountain, and of it the later Merton said that he did not even recognize the man who wrote that book.
* * *
So, is this not a good aspiration, that our being be so simplified that the most remarkable thing about us is that we are beings with a holiness so simple that that very simplicity is what most attracts others to us? And should this not be the direction of our spiritual path, seeing spirituality is not about addition but subtraction? The sages have taught us that the Way is one of not gaining something to add to what we are, but losing that we have never been.
I pray that
just to be,
whatever ways I take in the Way,
will be enough for me.
After all, moment-to-moment dying to all
I have been thought to be,
when this body dies,
who will I be?
Only what I am now,
for what I am cannot
be gotten, be lost.
That I am not
is what I am.
This simple, I pray
to know myself to be and be seen to be,
so that all that is is
this being to be.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Sharing One Life Together'. Flickr
We speak "my" life, when there is only one life; there is no "my" life or "your" life. The same air we all breathe, the same Earth we all walk on, the same elements of body we all have, the same spirit is essentially who we are, and one Life our life together. Togetherness is our essential nature, we are selves truly one Self. We are, for we by nature lean upon each other, for without you I am not, with you I am.
(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2019