Personally, I believe that my soul is a stick-in-the-mud, a wallflower that never ventures afield. Still, awakening seems to me to be an astonishing acrobatic feat. One moment I’m rocketing over the face of the moon, accepting an Academy Award from Sophia Loren, or slaying dragons in the fields of Middle Earth, and the next moment I find myself at home in western Massachusetts, sandwiched between my wife and the wall on a dark December morning. Or, conversely, I’ll be enjoying eight hours of dreamless oblivion, only to awaken to the hunger cries of the baby or the sound of a plow rumbling down the street, warning me it’s time to pull on my long johns, grab a cup of coffee, and scoot outside to shovel the walk. Whatever the sequence, waking up is a dramatic voyage from one world to another; it is truly a second birth. Lately, I’ve been puzzling over why we find this birth so difficult. The best advice I’ve gotten yet on how to wake up comes from a pair of gerbils that live in our basement. Gerbils, it seems, know how to bridge the gap between sleep and wakefulness. Their method is simplicity itself: they meditate before they move; they scrutinize before they scamper. This, I believe, is what human beings need to do as well. We need to come into our estate slowly each morning. We need to twitch our whiskers, poke our head out of our nest, pad around a little, and gradually grow reacquainted with ourselves and the world. We can wake up physically yet remain spiritually asleep. To awake in body and soul, to steer a course through the day’s reefs and shoals, we need the time to remember who we are, where we are, and what we seek. We need, in short, a chance for orientation…..Philip Zaleski
Watching an old Trappist drink tea-
There is no drinker.
That shallow cup was emptied
Nothing to hold on to now
but the rough hand-thrown mug
cradled precariously as prayer
between the crumbling clay of his palms,
the vessel that begins empty and ends empty
no matter how fast or slow he sips.
sweetness when it happens
is just the vow he’s steeped in,
his parting lips kissed
by the passing steam
of whatever life pours out,
the fragile handle he knows
we have on things
as chipped and cracked
as it ever was.
when we find a birds nest in an unexpected nook, oh how sacred and sublime….isn’t this like finding a little piece of ourselves we left behind and rediscovered unexpectedly?….the human heart knows the perfect, happy, life doesn’t exist, but it knows about allowing life to unfold, about the art of listening…..
As we work with our attention in our practice, it often seems as though we are excavating a mountain with a spoon. But we gradually sense that we are encountering something deeper. The prayer word flows directly into an ocean depth of awareness, deeper than the reach of the senses. Saint Hesychios says of watchful awareness: ‘Its branches reach to the seas and to deep abysses of contemplation, its shoots the rivers of the beauteous and divine mysteries.’ When we plumb the depths of our practice we are embraced by a Living Presence that has known us from all eternity…….Martin Laird