- At the Desert Retreat House-
Over the past few weeks I had been involved in helping to plan an Easter Service which I was invited to conduct at one of our local desert churches. Yesterday when I got to the church I was filled with anticipation and excitement about all our plans for the service that were finally coming to fruition, which is why I was so disconcerted when nothing seemed to be going according to plan. The people who were supposed to participate hadn’t arrived on time, the special musicians who were supposed to play weren’t even there, and despite all my attempts to contact them I couldn’t reach them. So I began to fret, “How can you have an Easter Service without music?”
Yesterday I was sitting in a corner brooding and lamenting when I was struck by the fact that maybe I was just trying too hard. I had concocted this wonderful recipe for conjuring up “God” and somehow the ingredients in my recipe had gone missing and I feared that “God” might not show up. So, I basically decided to let go of all the fretting and see what might “bubble up.” I was freed from my anxiety and yesterday was one of the most powerful and transcendent experiences of Easter that I have ever had (by the way the musicians did finally arrive).
It seems to me that many people on many different paths of a spiritual journey often “try too hard,” concocting various recipes and formulae to make transcendence happen, to make “God” show up. We develop carefully strategized meditation techniques, say certain prayers, engage in various rituals. However, more often than not, on a spiritual journey, the harder you try and the more you look, the less you find is often the case. There is a Zen saying:
When you look for the ‘way’ you become far from it.
When you seek the ‘way’ you turn away from it all the more
I think the basic problem is that we often get the direction of a spiritual quest reversed - it isn’t so much that we are looking for God, rather “God” is looking for us. It isn’t so much that we are seeking out Wisdom, rather Wisdom is seeking us out.
I am reminded of something teacher and writer, Parker Palmer, once said about the human soul-searching endeavor:
The human soul is essentially shy – just like a wild animal.
It will flee from the crowd and seek safety in the deep underbrush.
If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do
is to go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out.
But if we walk quietly into the wilderness and sit under the base of a tree,
breathing with the earth and fading into our surroundings,
the wild creature will eventually show up.
In our search for meaning, we need not look so hard or try so hard, but rather just sit quietly and wait. The search for deeper truth and greater wisdom is like sitting quietly under a tree in the wilderness with an uncluttered mind and an open heart, available to each and every moment as our life unfolds. When we do this, “Wisdom” comes to us and what we need to do is not resist it.
In a beautiful poem/prayer, Islamic mystic, Rumi, puts it this way:
Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret
and in exchange gain the Ocean.
Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honor
and in the arms of the Sea be secure,
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean wooing a drop.
What you seek is seeking you!
Yesterday I sat in a church on an Easter morning, a tiny little drop in the ocean of Love in whom we all live and move and have our being - The Ocean was wooing a drop and I let myself be “wooed.”
I seek union with deeper Wisdom and greater Truth, but I also rest in the comfort of a deeper assurance that “God” seeks me even more.
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean is wooing a drop.