Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Taking Solace

"Coolness in the Heat"
- triple digit desert days -

We have arrived at the season where the daily temperatures soar up into the triple digits out here in the desert, making it virtually impossible to do much if any hiking on the wilderness trails. In these hot desert days I find myself gravitating to a nearby town park – a truly wonderful “green space” in the midst of the dry desert wilderness, lots of shade trees, an small artificial pond and a rather elaborate waterfall.  When the weather gets unbearable I love to sit under the shade trees in that park and bask in the sights and sounds of the cool, refreshing water flowing over the rocks.

Last Sunday, the Christian church celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, recalling the time after Jesus' death and resurrection when his frightened disciples gathered together wondering what to do now that Jesus was gone away. As those disciples “gathered together” the Holy Spirit emerged in their midst and they realized that the abiding Spirit of the living God would always be “intimately” with them even in the worst of times when life seemed most confusing.

Yesterday as the temperature reached 110 degrees, I went to the park and sat in front of that stream flowing in the wilderness, recalling the words of an ancient Pentecost hymn.  It refers to God as a “Holy Comforter” who is:

Cool Refreshment in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe.

I really love this image of “God” as a comforting presence - solace and refreshment in the midst of the heat and chaos of the everyday world.

Many non-religious people claim that religion or a spiritual path is little more than an “escape route” out of the reality of everyday living. While I also believe that a spiritual path “can” push followers to “bury their heads in the sand” while ignoring the sometime harsh realities of life, I also believe that a spiritual path can be a means of finding solace and refreshment (not escape) while living in the middle of the heat and turmoil of life.

In the Buddhist tradition there are three “solaces” which followers are urged so seek along the spiritual path. In fact, at the ordination ceremony for Buddhist monks, a newly-professed monk proclaims his or her willingness to embrace these solaces as they announce:

I take solace in the Buddha
I take solace in the teachings (the Dharma)
I take solace in my community of fellow monks (the Sangha)

It seems to me that there is a universality to these “solaces” that can be applied to most any religious or spiritual path, able to be embraced by anyone on the road to enlightenment and deeper wisdom.

We can all take solace in the Abiding Energy of Love, a Holy Unifying Presence in a world that seems so frenzied and torn apart.  We can also take solace in the teachings about compassion  and kindness inherent in all our many traditions and we can take solace in other sorts of “teachings” by seeking out uplifting music, inspired art and poetry that lift us up out of the gutter into which so much of life today seems to have fallen. And yes, indeed, we can take solace in our fellow pilgrims who walk along with us on the journey as we cheer each other on and carry one another’s burdens on the way.

It’s supposed to be another scorcher out here today. I definitely plan on another trip to the waterfall in the local park. I certainly can’t make the heat go away but I can find “coolness in the heat and solace in the midst of woe.”

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