'Cloudy Fall Day... Woolman Hill (2)'
Be silent. Watch how God opens the door.
Why are you lost in the thought that closes the door?
Rumi. The Forbidden Rumi. Trans. and Comment. Nevit O. Ergin and Will Johnson.
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We, a group of about ten men training for Christian ministry, gathered in the prayer room. It was around 1983. The prayer room was a building adjoined to the chapel at the Bible college. Kneeling, all began praying loudly, ardently for the Spirit to descend upon us.
The Spirit did not descend, as far as I could tell. I left feeling all that happened was a group of men making a lot of futile noise.
Later, our beloved Dr. Lee, professor of Old Testament and a rather no-nonsense, proper-acting man, notified us he had heard the raucousness. He, like us, was Baptist, the kind of Baptist that stays calm during worship. In fact, in most of our churches then, those present usually looked more like attending Jesus' funeral rather than celebrating his resurrection. Dr. Lee's face and voice showed how strongly he disliked what he had heard that night. We were reprimanded in a subtle but sure way. I felt chastened, for sure, and without Dr. Lee saying one word to accuse us.
* * *
One could say, "But were you not all being sincere?" Yes. I do not doubt our sincerity. Yet, there is pragmatism in the spiritual life. Our spiritual growth relies not only on the why but, also, the how. We do not want sincerely to block grace by acting unwisely. We need wisdom in how to engage spiritual principles, the same way we need wisdom in any endeavor.
When a little boy, going fishing with my father the first time, he began teaching me how to fish. And I learned you fish differently for different kinds of fish. The how of catching fish is essential. One can sincerely fish all day incorrectly and prevent catching a fish. So with our spiritual walk.
* * *
Now, almost four decades later, I have had plenty of years to view what happened in that prayer room and see it differently. Teaching from the late yoga master Sri Aurobindo recently brought the prayer room incident back to recall. He, in Integral Yoga, speaks of pulling.
Pulling [down the higher consciousness] comes usually from a desire to get things for oneself - in aspiration there is a self-giving for the higher consciousness to descend and take possession - the more intense the call the greater the self-giving.
Rather than a desirous, emotionally-driven pulling, Sri Aurobindo speaks of aspiration. Aspiration, as he notes, can be intense, but it is not merely emotional. Rather than trying to draw the Light to ourselves, we give ourselves to the Light. We make ourselves available to Spirit. There is surrender involved here, and surrender is not a popular idea these days. To live intimately with the Spirit, one cannot keep oneself for and to oneself.
Aspiration should be not a form of desire, but the feeling of an inner soul's need, and a quiet settled will to turn towards the Divine and seek the Divine.
Any form of trying to force or beg a reply from Grace is this pulling. And looking back, it seems we men, that night in the chapel, were doing a lot of pulling.
I have found truth in Sri Aurobindo's words a quiet settled will. Grace manifests in the patience to be still and wait in Spirit.
* * *
So, what is our role - to wait only?
we are lovers who open windows
to let the SunShine in
there is much work to be done
to prepare our heart for the Light
while we remember It appears
only as a gift
Whatever the particulars of our spiritual path, it must entail engaging a means to welcome the Light and prepare ourselves to receive what It gives. Everything given is a gift, but what will happen if we do not ready our hearts for the boon? All is of grace, including the grace to prepare for grace?
* * *
A disciple asked the Sage, "What am I to do when nothing is happening in my prayers and meditation?" Said the Sage, "You have got it wrong. Keep with your prayers, do not lag in your meditation, for something is always happening - always."
What spiritual means do you use to invite the Light to manifest and prepare yourself to receive it?
* * *
*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.