Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday in Advent

As we begin the season of Advent, I have decided to read again, Merton's Palace of Nowhere by James Finley. Merton was Finley's spiritual director at Our Lady of Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky the five or so years he was there. I read this book on a retreat many years ago.

I began this morning and was pleased to find the following quote, which speaks to my own personal spiritual journey in a lot of ways.

Any serious daily practice of interior prayer will give some taste of the following experience: You sit in prayer. On the surface there is nothing. Yet, as the noise of your next thought falls away, as you allow the silence to deepen around and within you, you discover that you are on the trackless waters on which Jesus bid Peter to walk in order to be united with him. To use the imagery of Saint John of the Cross, there is a path to walk with "no light except the one that burns in your heart." You set out to find him who calls you out of nothingness to union with himself. You set out knowing that you must find God, yet the first step leaves you lost. An inner wisdom tells you that "to reach him whom you do not know you must go by a way you do not know."

In all my "exploring", as one poet has put it, I have come to believe that the experience of this mystery we call "God" in the Christian tradition,  is the experience of intimacy. I have also come to believe that this same "God experience" is no different from what seems to be suggested in the Soto Zen tradition as waking up to the reality that we are one, not two, pointing, it seems to me, to this experience of intimacy.

There are those close to me who wonder if I believe in "God" because I practice zazen. The answer is yes. But the answer is also that my understanding of this mystery is simply different than their understanding.

So somewhere in my journey I had to make the decision  "to reach him whom you do not know you must go by a way you do not know."

My zazen has been that "way you do not know" and has allowed me to make an attempt to strip away a lot of conditioning about who "God" is , looking for the purest experience, the most naked experience of this "one, not two".

Advent is about anticipation. I am always excited about anticipation. So I will let "it", "him", "her" be what it will be and wait, taking the next breath, and waiting again.


1 comment:

Kate said...

Finley's book has been on my Merton shelf for 21 years, unread. Thank you for the little push to begin reading it as an Advent daily practice. And thanks for the teachings I find speaking to me in each of your posts!