Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Discipline of Stability

My Meditation Garden
-in dawn's early light-

As I quietly sat in my garden in the early light of dawn, I reflected on something I read yesterday that has captured my undivided attention.

The road of life is one thing after another. Humans seem perpetually to be hauling property from here to there. There is a great movement of people across the continents of the earth - people who have been forced by war or by famine or by an empty purse, but also by curiosity. People steal over borders and wade through rivers and hide in bushes to show up at dawn on the streets of new cities, as if they have been there all along  (Richard Rodriguez).

I think perhaps that I was so taken by these words because they so aptly describe so much of the direction of my own life over the past many years. I have been always on the move, always hauling property from one place to another.

For one reason or another I have never really remained in any one place for very long. I moved from place to place to the many schools I attended. I was ordained, we got married and had a family, and we moved from place to place, usually up the career path (to what would probably be considered bigger and better things).  Over the years, I have been "hauling property from here to there, hiding in bushes on the streets of new cities and showing up at dawn as though I had been there all along." 

But now I have moved out to the desert, and now for me there is no longer another place to haul my property - no more plans for bigger and better positions on the career ladder, no more aspirations (or desires) for future cities and bigger projects. We live here, and we plan to stay here, now, in this place,  in the desert. And it all feels incredibly liberating to me.

Every morning when I awake, I look out into the desert in which I live and I am reminded of my spiritual ancestors, those ancient 4th century monastics- the Desert Mothers and Fathers. They moved away from the demands of church and society and migrated out to the fringes of the culture in order to live a life of community with each other in accordance with the simple teachings of Jesus.  

These Desert Mothers and Fathers were not people on the move - no planning for the next step in life, no agenda for upward mobility, no strategizing for upcoming projects.  After all, the desert is hardly a place conducive to moving from place to place. There are no roads, it's all too big and awesome to be hauling property from place to place. 

And so those ancient desert monastics lived a life of "stability." They practiced a "discipline of stability."  They moved to the desert in order to stay in the desert- to stay with one another, living a simple life of prayer, work, and everyday compassion. 

Their desire to "stay," not only applied to the physical place in which they planted themselves, but also served as an underlying guide for their spiritual path. Practicing stability kept them focused, mindful, in the present moment. After all, "Holy Encounter" only happens in the present.  

In one of the wisdom sayings of the Desert monastics, a younger brother who is anxious, troubled and confused seeks advice from an older mentor, who advises:

Go sit patiently in your cell and your cell will teach you everything

I am learning so many lessons in the desert. I have come here to "stay." The desert is teaching me to practice the "discipline of stability."

I am staying "here," and "here" is teaching me everything.

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