Things are changing for me, on the inside. I’m not really sure how to put it into words. But let me try.
In other words, blogging has not been a priority since I’ve returned from the monastery. Perhaps that will change as I continue to reshape my life and outlook.
I went to the monastery last month with many decisions to make and I ended up with one very strong answer — until my compass is set on God, I cannot possibly know how to proceed.
Now, for the first time in my life, I feel as if things are fitting in place. It’s as if my angst has been eased. I go about my day knowing my stated purpose and attempting to be present to the moment, even in performing the most mundane of acts.
My feelings are best summarized by Thomas Merton:
“A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops
thinking about how to live and begins to live.”
With my spiritual compass turning toward the right direction, it’s as if everything else is starting to fit in place and assigned its proper priority, time and personal value.
Dreaming of tomorrow grows less and less appealing. The materialistic urges I once harbored: to go shopping, to get more stuff, to have a better….anything, etc, is fading. I again see how important it is that I attend to my spirit, heart and inner peace, so that I can eventually reemerge in this world as a solid being.
My spiritual journey at the monastery
I didn’t realize until my third day on the retreat that I had allowed myself to become spiritually numb and had allowed the busy pace of my Washington, DC, life to squeeze God out.
I did not get on my knees to pray until my last day at Mepkin Abbey. But once I did, I found myself returning again and a again to the tiny chapel in the back of the church to plead my case before God for myself, the Abbey and those I love, and to give thanks and read the bible and pray about what I’d read.
Because for days I did not feel I could pray with a deep seeded sincerity, it took me until Wednesday to address God directly, although I wrote in my journal, participated in the religious services and read from the bible during my free time.
Yet from the evening of the first day at Mepkin Abbey I found myself crying several times a day.
It was the oddest sort of crying.
Sometimes tears would appear on my cheeks out of an immense feeling of gratitude to be in such a wonderful spiritual place. Other times it was out of sorrow that I had taken so long to awaken. Sometimes my tears were for the joy I felt being spiritually alive when chanting the Psalms with the monks. Prior to going to the monastery, I feared my musical spiritual life had ceased with the close of the Master Chorale of Washington.
On occasion I cried because I felt indefinably overwhelmed, humbled and the need to purge all the negative things that I’d allowed to be penned in my mind.
Since returning from the monastery, I’ve determined in my heart to continue on the spiritual path I started. But change is slow.
Here’s what’s different now as a result of my time at Mepkin Abbey and my spiritual revival.
To maintain some interior solitude and peace, I’ve slowly added to the time that I spend in silence at home, at the church nearby my office and throughout the day.
And when I go for a walk at my lunch break, or go to the nearby church to pray and meditate, I allow myself to be alone in true solitude among the masses. Accomplished once, interior solitude is nearly as easy as walking with a purpose.
With my eyes at a fixed point on the ground ahead of me, I observe everything around me, but without hearing or assigning value or judgment on what is there. When I do this, I pay attention to the feeling of my clothing against me in the wind, of the ground shaking underneath me as a truck drives by, the squeak and bell of a door opening from a restaurant, etc., the feeling of my foot hitting the ground, the smell of the city and heat of the sun on my skin, it’s as if my sensor knob is turned up.
Also, I no longer listen to the radio in the morning but instead go about preparing myself for the day in silence or by singing a happy song, often of praise. At home in the mornings, my silence is occasionally broken by my bird squawking for attention or for a fresh handful of birdseed, or by my dog whining to go for a walk.
If I go to church, it is to pray or meditate and be nearly anonymous as I try to listen for the voice of God. I grew up with church attendance meaning the unsaid barometer of one’s spirituality. But now I’m not so sure that’s what I need to aid my walk.
I celebrate in the belief that I’ve finally figured out the spiritual formula that has been missing from my life. It is a joy that fills every cell.
My relationship with God works best when it is intimate, private and personal setting, preferably in nature.
Instead of craving the company of churchgoers, I find myself longing to read the bible and religious literature, primarily those of Esther de Waal and Thomas Merton.
I’ve decided to read the bible from start to finish and I’m slowly making my way through the first books.
Each day on the 20 minutes metro ride in to work, I pray, read some of the chapter of the Bible that I’ve reached. I then flip over to the Psalms, and in my head chant one or two of the chapters. Usually I pray again and then turn to whatever other spiritual book I have brought along.
There is one other big decision I’ve made in my life.
I’m no longer sure that my calling in life includes marriage.
Moreover, I have decided that I cannot possibly enter into a relationship with a man, or even consider one, until I have myself figured out, until my spiritual walk is on a surer path and my soul is adequately tended to.
You cannot imagine how freeing this is for me. I’ve been boy crazy since I hit puberty at 12 and it’s caused me heartache after heartache because I’ve never been grounded in myself or God.
It is my full belief that if God intends for me to date or marry, then it will be clear when and if the time comes. Until then, until I can meet a man and have a friendship with him without having other questions in my mind, I must be careful not to fall back into old patterns and allow myself to ignore the present by dreaming about what may be.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now.