Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Finding Time For What Is Important

There are certainly times when all of us feel overwhelmed with the demands of life. Whatever demands may be part of our individual lives, most of us still find time for what we really consider important. One of the small things that is important to me is getting my day off to a good start. One of the ways I do this is by getting up early enough that I am not rushed. It is important for me to have some time to simply sit before I leave home for work each day. Normally I have about twenty minutes where I sit in my chair, have my first sip of morning coffee, and reflect on a few spiritual thoughts. Today I am beginning to re-read for the second time a book that could be read many times and you would find new insights each time. The book is called "The Inner Experience/Notes on Contemplation" by Thomas Merton. Merton is my favorite Christian writer and someone who has been a major influence on my thinking. I'm sure some of this new morning reading will find its way into my daily thoughts. Later this week I will do something else that is important to me. I will be spending a long weekend at the monastery. Each year at this time I spend a long weekend there with a group of people, many of whom are like me, at least on the spiritual level. Whatever type of person you are, it is usually a good and comforting thing to know there are others like you. It may be true that people who are different from us in temperament or life experience have much to teach us, but I think it is equally true that we are attracted to people who share many of our own thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Many years ago my mother in law, curious about my monastery visits, asked my wife what I do when I go to the monastery. The truth is that I do very little. Sometimes I sit and think. Mostly I just sit or walk. Other times I write. The monastery is in rural Kentucky and surrounded by 2000+ acres of woods, fields, and lakes. It is a beautiful place. The silence, solitude, and beauty are all attractive to me. I don't feel the need to do anything except to be still and to take it all in. Most of my life, like many of yours, is filled with noise, the demands and expectations of other people, and the challenges of urban living. If I didn't maintain some sense of inner calm and peace, much of my life would drive me crazy. If life "in the world" is like a hurricane, the monastery for me is the calm found in the "eye" of the hurricane. It is difficult to describe in words the deep peace that can be found there. One must experience it to understand it.

Here are some websites if you are curious to know more about Thomas Merton and the monastery. Also, for those who might be interested in reading some of Thomas Merton's work, the following two books are a good place to start.

Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master/The Essential Writings edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham

The Intimate Merton by Thomas Merton. This book is a collection of highlights from his complete seven volume personal journals.



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