Unpredictable: The Invitation to Come Home
My summer had surprising experiences with several unpredictable happenings. My body was telling me in no uncertain terms to pay attention to my aging process. More than one round of issues with blood pressure and wellness told me that I needed to let go of a few events I was so looking forward to. I said yes to my disappointment and my need to shift focus.
Instead of time on the North Shore and helping with a directed retreat for others, I cleared two weeks on my calendar. Eventually, I came to see this time as a gift. My whole being, body, mind and spirit shifted, welcoming the new open space. I found myself drawn into solitude and silence. The days were beautiful, and I kept wondering out to the lovely screened porch on the third floor. Unexpectedly, the porch became my place of quiet.
Dislocation as Pilgrims
Gazing out into the swaying green trees and grass, I found that the singing birds and brilliant sun were all I really needed. I picked up Spiritual Pilgrimage by John Welsh, and soaked up Teresa of Avila’s wisdom on the spiritual life, in conversation with Carl Jung’s insight into the psychological life. I journeyed through the rooms of Teresa’s castle as a pilgrim, a place where the human and divine meet. I began listening to and envisioning my life in even deeper ways. This note became especially meaningful to me: “Pilgrimage, because a pilgrim leaves her normal world and enters another realm--a dislocation.”
I did feel I was in a place of “dislocation,” and it was freeing to have some language for what I was feeling. Similarly, Isaiah 42:16 offered me language and direction: “I will lead the blind on their journey by paths unknown, I will guide them.” Together, these notes were increasing my hope and trust as I entered this new space of being. Deep in my heart, all along, I knew God was present and guiding me.
The Rule of St. Benedict encourages us to, “Keep death daily before our eyes.’’ I needed to surrender over to God, to experience these small deaths to self. Only then could God give me the healing I needed, spiritually, physically, and psychologically. As K. Chesterton says, “The purpose of journeys is to come home; each image shares the center and each image slowly reveals the center to us as we find ourselves becoming centered.” I re-discovered my center as I sat on the porch listening and pondering in the stillness of nature for those two weeks. In a way, the porch became my hermitage. I was able to sit and allow God’s creation to hold me. The birds became a heavenly choir, along with the wind-song, and no words were needed. I took in the green all around, the grass, trees waving and swaying, the blue sky with moving white clouds playing above. God was there in it all, healing and guiding.
Find a Quiet Place
None of us has far to go to find a hermitage, a sacred space. Have you ever wandered a path, sat beneath cedars and pines, experienced the beautiful song of wind in branches? Have you ever really listened to trees and birds and even the grass? It’s always around us, a gift to behold. All we need is contemplative awareness.
At some point you, too, may be invited into the unpredictable. When it comes, I would love to invite you to go out into creation, find your sacred place. Choose a cathedral in the woods, a walk in the park, a place to gaze out a window. Make your own inner hermitage wherever you are. In anything that surprises you, God will be there to welcome you.
Learn more about S. Virginia Matter OSB and upcoming retreats and workshops with her.