Friday, October 03, 2008

Spirituality And Balance

I read a thought in Thomas Merton's, "The Inner Experience" that went like this. The "inner work" of the Spirit cannot be done if you are pre-occupied with the "outer work" of the Self. The thought is actually traditional mystical theology. I understand the meaning of the thought but I believe it needs some clarification. The life of the spirit cannot be separated from our daily lives. Certainly we can be so pre-occupied with the demands of our lives to the point that we neglect our inner life. However, in reality, there is no separation. We have one life and when we live it in a balanced way, there is a unity of Spirit and Self. Spirituality is the way we allow the Spirit to act in our reality. If you break the word down you have Spirit-into-reality.....Spirituality. I think some of us who grew up in the Catholic tradition with "Saints" struggle with this. When I was a child saints were often portrayed as exceptional men or women who didn't seem to do much except kneel in a room, stare at a holy image, and wait for God to give them some type of mystical experience. They did not seem to be real people with real lives and almost none of them were lay people and definitely not married people with children and secular jobs. I don't recall any of them having a four year old granddaughter named Chloe. They seemed to have nothing else to do but try to be holy. I know in reality this was not true. They were real men and women with real struggles and for most holiness did not come easily. It's really all about balance. We need to do those things that life demands of us but we also need to stop and pause everyday for moments of reflection and simple contemplation. Contemplation is a big word that is often misunderstood. It is not complicated. Contemplation is found in moments of repose where we stop what we are doing, enter into the silence of our lives, be still, and allow ourselves to experience the wonder and awe of life. It can be in church, while taking a quiet walk in your neighborhood, or playing with your granddaughter. Being open to such moments in the busyness of our lives can give us the balance that will unify our inner selves with the activity of our daily lives.

This is what it means to seek God perfectly: to withdraw from illusion and pleasure, from worldly anxieties and desires, from the works that God does not want, from a glory that is only human display; to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of his will; to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God. And then to wait in peace and emptiness and oblivion of all things.
-Thomas Merton in "New Seeds of Contemplation"

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