Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumn Is Here!

It is now officially my favorite time of year. I love autumn and the cool weather that accompanies it. As the leaves change colors, the air cools, the days shorten, and the morning sunrises achieve a whole new level of beauty, I am energized and filled with new enthusiasm for life. This personal rebirth seems ironic when all around me nature will soon appear to be dying. We live in a world where little seems certain. Life is filled with changes we don't always see coming. As a backdrop the seasons change as they have been doing repeatedly my entire life. If you are not living in the moment and practicing mindfulness, you may not notice. I know that nature is now preparing itself for a long rest and a period of dormancy. After the bleakness and occasional beauty of winter, nature will awaken one more time in the spring and life will reappear in shades of green. The rainbow colors of flowers and blossoming tress and bushes will add to the beauty. For now though, I will lose myself in the beauty of autumn. For the next few weeks I will enjoy the cool mornings and warm days. In approximately six weeks I will be making my annual autumn trek to the mountains. In my mind I am already there.

Sometimes these daily thoughts come easily to me and I can go on and on. Other days nothing that seems worth writing about comes to mind and I wonder what I will share. Such emptiness can make us feel dull and uninspired. The irony of the spiritual life, however, is that emptiness and fullness can both be good. When we are full, we have much to give and, perhaps, much to say. When we are empty, we have great capacity to be filled. It is when we are empty that God can do his best work. On a spiritual level, when I think I am full, I am often empty and when I think I am empty, I am often full. The spiritual life is full of paradox. I like the confidence that feeling full gives me but it is when I am empty that the Spirit has room to work. By letting go of my emptiness, I, hopefully, end up with something worth saying and my words will have value for someone.

In the Christian tradition there is a "desert" spirituality that goes back to the 2nd and 3rd century. In those days men and women left the cities and headed to the desert to find God in the barren wastelands. In our modern lives this desert spirituality can manifest itself as dryness and an absence of spiritual consolation or joy. In the 14th century a famous spiritual masterpiece was written entitled "The Cloud of Unknowing". It speaks about the experience of knowing God by unknowing. In other words, it is in the unknowing, the darkness, the dryness, and the void that seems empty of God's presence, that we might be most likely to experience the true reality of God. We tend to think that all experiences of God are warm and fuzzy and peaceful. They can be but if that was the only time we experienced God, we would be limiting God to only a portion of our lives. My life is sometimes warm and fuzzy and peaceful but it is also occasionally stressful, demanding, busy, empty feeling, and unclear in it's direction and meaning. God is in it all. Don't be afraid of the desert or the void. God is closer than you think and everything has a purpose. Never judge the experience of God by how it feels.

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