Saturday, December 28, 2013

Intimate and Infinite

-a reflecting pool in a desert canyon"

I had often heard that a desert is a very "spiritual" place  - a place for soul-searching, for meeting God.
I had often thought that a desert was particularly "spiritual" because it was so big and quiet. You could go into a desert, be alone, and find God in the stillness.

Now that I have moved out into the desert and have lived here for a while, I have indeed discovered it to be a very "spiritual"place, but not because I can be quiet and alone here looking for "God." My life in the desert has taught me that the spiritual life isn't so much about searching for God. The spiritual journey is really all about allowing "God" to find me. 

The desert is a place of complementary contrasts. It is a "Yin-Yang" sort of place.

The desert is a place of wildly uncontrollable nothingness - barren, vast, rocky emptiness, and at the same time it is a place of tender intimacy - flowers bloom in the most barren terrain, springs of water bubble up from sandy soil, hummingbirds and morning doves inhabit the land.  

The desert is a place that mercilessly bakes me in the triple digit summer noonday sun and chills me to the bone in the cold winter nights. I watch the rising or the setting of the sun, in awe of its majesty over the towering mountains, and at the same time I am comforted by the tender beauty of it all.  Desert nights are frighteningly dark and yet so illumined by cosmic starlight that it takes my breath away.

Every day I sit in my meditation garden or walk along the wilderness trails and I experience a total sense of absence along with an abiding sense of Presence, both at the same time - uncontrolled, wild vastness and tender intimate connection. 

And this is precisely why the desert is such a spiritual place.

Saint Augustine once said that the experience of "God" is

beyond my utmost heights and more intimate to me than my inmost depths

This is precisely how I  experience "God" in the desert. "God" - not a person out there or up there, someone to meet up with in a time of quiet meditation or while saying my prayers. "God" - an ever-abiding holy Presence, so infinite, so far beyond my ideas, thoughts or words as to appear absent and beyond me, and yet at the same time "God" -  an ever-abiding Presence more intimate to me than I am to myself. 

Many people today talk about being on a spiritual journey, looking for God, seeking transcendence. The desert teaches me that whether or not you seek out God or believe in God or don't believe in God,  God still abides, because "God" is that force, that energy at the heart of everything that "is." If you exist, "God" exists with you and in you - vastly beyond human thinking and at the same time more intimate to us than our inmost thoughts. 

The desert has taught  me that spiritual journey is not a quest for something that is absent but an acceptance of that which is already present.  On my spiritual journey, I allow this ever-abiding Presence to emerge into awareness. The spiritual journey is all about allowing "God" to find me.

I very much identify with the way the author and poet Christian Wiman, describes his spiritual journey:

What I crave - and what I have known, in fugitive instants- 
is mystery that utterly obliterates reality by utterly inhabiting it,
some ultimate insight that is still sight.

So I sit quietly in my meditation garden. I gaze out at the vastly infinite and totally intimate desert glowing in the light of the rising sun. I am awake to it all - mindful, alert, in the moment. I am in awe at the mighty Presence, even fearful of the wild mystery of it all, and at the same time I am embraced by tenderness and warmed by intimacy. 

I am allowing "God" to find me.

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