Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: April 15, 2004

evening

All the activity around has died down. The constant movement and sound which had filled the last two days finally subsided this afternoon, with all the dead trees now gone it is likely to stay this way for a while. Eleven trees, each of them large, were removed, and yet it does not seem empty around here. Those cutting the trees were very careful, very professional, leaving sapling underneath once tall trees able to forge their own way upward. The sky is more readily seen, the stars are bright tonight, though passing clouds earlier made me think the it would be covered. For some reason tonight I took delight in my adjusting eyes, walking out and first seeing only the brightest stars, then noticing more and more dots appear. A lovely quiet evening tonight, only the rustling of my windsock is heard.

Today was a nice day. A long hike through nearby paths, only recently opened again after six months of logging in the area. Off one of these paths was what I call my meditation rock. It is a small rock formation which sits above a long valley, the wind whips through, rustling the various trees. From certain spots the lake is seen perfectly clear. A nice spot for long hours of thought and prayer, and a fine place to watch the sun rise. I haven’t been there for a while, and now I know that while much, very much, has changed along those paths, this spot remains the same, with new green grass and small flowers filling the meadow on the way.

Every where else it was a war zone. Many pines were in this area, and now they were felled. The same consideration as seen near houses is not shown in the backwoods. It will take a long time to recover from the scars. This was a needed surgery, however, so I do not feel bad.

Spiritually I feel the same as I did this morning. Sloppy, restless, wanting more, not feeling more. Thoughts of desires unreachable at the moment fill my mind, and so I wallow in a small measure of discontent. Even now it is hard to write, hard to delve into depths filled with soft sand.

There is only to start again tomorrow. I also know that what we feel is not always the reality. Spirituality happens when we are focused and when we are not, for we do not know what is being waged against us. We only see ourselves running, but cannot see the slope hardly at all. So we slow, and are discouraged, not seeing how steep the incline we walk. That could be the case now, slogging through the shallows is as much part of the journey as reaching the top or delving through the deep valleys.

I am also praying about my own status, not sure how long to remain, or if I should. This present world calls, for all the usual reasons, and I want to answer. I doubt myself tonight, wondering if I was right in ever coming, wondering if some decision in the past didn’t go right. I wonder am I wandering through the wilderness, or am I in my forty years of wandering again. I don’t know. There is no wisdom I can find, so all I can do is try to do what is right at each point. All can change in a day. It would, though, be nice to know the lines, to know what it is I am fighting for, to see what I’m standing up for.

I think this is why obvious persecution has a certain amount of appeal. We feel the fight, see the stance, and can take hold of that which binds. The regular life, that which is no less a struggle in many ways, discourages because we don’t know we are fighting. We get lazy and discouraged, when we might be superheroes in an active setting. The Sherlock Holmes effect is a particularly spiritual problem, for most people I think. That’s why also Christians seek to force the stimulation through conferences or camps, short term missions or other means.

That reminds me of a thought I had earlier today. I know a number of people who travel the world, who have traipsed upon many continents. I haven’t as much, and while I enjoy traveling, I don’t have the same yearning for it. Maybe because I am learning different kinds of awareness. There is a kind which insists on stimulation, on change, on vast sweeping input in order to spark awareness. Then there is the other kind, the kind that sees without going, finding endless fascination in a single blade of grass, taking in the little nuances of everything around, understanding that even if I were to never move from this spot there would be a lifetime of study in what I see.

With the latter, the former still exists, for in seeing the intricate everywhere, travel to anywhere becomes a delight. When one needs the extra stimulation, then like a ruined palate, the subtleties are lost.

So too is the Spiritual life. Which is why the greats said all one needs to find God is found in one’s cell. A person must learn how to find God in the present, in the single room, or else God will never be really found anywhere.

Maybe this is why I struggle with Church. They want to impose schedules and programs, always asking me to spend money for another book, or camp, or seminar. I just want the simplicity, learning together in a bare room even. I want to see the intricacy of the Spirit in all things, to notice the nuances, as I notice the striations on a single blade of grass blowing in a light Spring breeze, or the way periwinkle flowers emerge from the leaves wrapped around a trunk, or how cedar bark feels and smells after a long rain, or any of the other aspects which are within the view of my balcony.

That is what I seek, only it takes time. Takes time to learn these, and it takes a long time to learn how to learn. This is why, I suppose, I remain in this room, with certain tasks keeping me busy, for the real task of delving deeply into what it means to be filled with the Spirit. It is training, and a kind of training which loses much with overstimulation, and requires nothing but quiet and solitude. God is found in this room, and when I find him here, I will find the essence of what it means to be a Christian anywhere.

Even if it takes a lifetime.

morning

A cool breeze blows, rustling branches, jingling distant wind chimes, filling the soul with ease. Jays chatter, in different voices, some even visit for a bit of breakfast. The balcony feels open, a change I think I appreciate. Trees still surround, just not as close. The sun has moved north faster than I expected, now quite in view of my present chair, though not yet, as it has not come above the hills.

I suspect today will be another busy day, another day in which the surrounding yards will be filled with those cleaning and fixing. Not quite as noisy as yesterday, to be sure. In fact a van comes up the driveway right now, even at this early hour.

So, again I will divert my attention away from my usual tasks, feeling now the weight of too long diversion.

This is, I’m well aware, also likely the source of my growing discontent. There is only grace for me if and when I am focused on writing, on other similar tasks. It has been a week since I could pour myself into that, and I feel my mind slipping away, my soul following, asking questions of my present status, wishing for more. Only when I focus, only when I do that which I know I am called to do am I filled with peace and rest.

It is right and good to take a break, to enjoy company of others, to celebrate holidays. Now, though, I feel like sloughing off all that constrains and distracts, and am eager to just sit in quiet again.

There is only grace in doing that which God has called one to do. We have learned to fight these feelings, though, explaining them away by our own weakness or needs, not trusting that God is whispering. When his whispers do not delight, or make sense, we ignore them, and can live entire lives wallowing in a vague discontent, always seeking, never finding, because we aren’t willing to go where God is leading.

That is part of why I am here. For some reason I knew a fair number of people, friends, who are five or more years older than I. One of whom has found some measure of calling, others who I see as stuck in a way. I saw them, and while they have a measure of real success, there is that gnawing which I do not want to feel anymore. That is why I’m willing to stop, to force my way through those feelings, spending focused months or years so that when I am ten years older I also will be ten years spiritually older.

Too many people yearn for Christ and yet never grasp a hold, always approaching never finding. I want to move past this point in my own life, and drop the ‘church should be…, but isn’t because…, and I should just do…’ comments. I will never find peace in church if I don’t find peace inside, with Christ, learning to know and understand my part in all of this.

So, this morning, I feel the yearning to focus again, to shake off the frustrations and move forward. If I stop now, divert my eyes to immediate satisfaction, I will never embrace that which is higher. It is a choice. Well, I’m not sure it is, God’s hand has held me in many ways, the choice is my attitude more than my opportunities.

Today, though, my day will not give much time for this focus. So, I pray that it is another kind of day, one which brings peace and joy, delight in friendship.

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