Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: September 2005

There is a time

Morning and Evening is closed for re-assessment

This page began with the intent to explore my soul through writing, examining each day for the wisdom it held. Recently, however, I feel like instead of moving along in this process, my writing has begun going in circles. It is not that I am no longer learning, indeed I am learning a great deal. However, I’ve realized much of my conversation is about assessing the lessons I’ve already learned, taking stock of my last five years and writing out the various strands of wisdom I’ve come across, or realized I need to come across. I was able to put into words the realities of the last many years, and so did so on a regular basis.

Now, there’s something different going on. I cannot define it very well, as it’s a process entirely different than before. It is a step up, requiring me to learn in each moment, and absorb the lessons. I read the ancient wisdom of mature Christians for insight and direction, understanding that, for now, I am unable to assess my present reality without some sort of interpretive experience to give insight and meaning. This leaves me more baffled than anything else, fluctuating, having reached the end of the roads I knew and now traveling down different paths, with different vistas.

It is more that what I am learning is more subtle and focused, leaving this page to be far too periodic as I am not able to daily discover the words for what is going on. This periodic quality then begins to take its own tone, revealing not so much the fullness of my inner being as those occasional times I decide to document some inner reality. I fear that while early on it was a fair picture of my soul, now it has become a distortion of sorts, and no longer focused on the purpose of describing the journey for what it is.

Instead of trying to post for the sake of more posts, continuing to go in the circles of consideration, I am putting aside this page for the time being, realizing that there may well be someday, even soon, in which writing in this forum will again be fruitful.

Turn, Turn, Turn.


“Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.”

So says a desert father. Well, more than one. It’s a theme which runs through the deep spiritual writings of the centuries.

Don’t go anywhere. Stay where you are at. Do not distract yourself. Do not engage in things which offer a false sustenance. Engage the soul by shutting off the soul’s propensity for diversion. Do not seek answers elsewhere, for they are within.

The answers are within, coming from the Spirit who is within. This is not self-empowerment, this is self-weakening, self-loosening, self-forgetting.

Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.


Only if you stay in your cell. These monks were not talking about a weekend or a week. They spoke in terms of years and decades. The human soul does not, they knew, need continually more input. It needs to realize itself, the beatiful and the gruesome within, and by recognizing itself it can only then begin to recognize that which is outside of itself.

It is a long, long journey when one decides to never leave.

What is the punishment for those who break the rules within a prison? What is the incarceration for the incarcerated?

Solitary confinement. For the soul accuses and demands like nothing else. When all else fails, lock them up alone, and the teaching will begin. Prisons know this. Christians have forgotten this. So we always look elsewhere.

That’s the danger for those who have committed to searching for Christ in a focused way. There is always the looking elsewhere, sometimes in foul places, sometimes in noble, distracting one from the struggle because the cell teaches too loudly and too strongly to bear.

What then to do when it seems the lessons to be learned have been learned? When it seems the lessons are swirling about in circles now? When they are circling instead of spiraling.

The monks would say, did say, stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. The wise ones would at least.

I am not yet wise. For I am weary and cannot but help looking elsewhere, split between the words of the wise and the perceptions of those who would otherwise make up my present community, lost between the depths and the crowds, split because I cannot find a home in either realm.

Yet, the call is to be filled with thanksgiving, with hope and with faith, to deny the present negativity and fierce assault my soul is undergoing in this moment and find light, find light, find light. Stumble, maybe, but get up and stand. Be thankful. Rejoice in the midst of the suffering of emptiness.

Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. It will teach. Yes. But, this is the least passive spiritual reality one can engage. To hear in the midst of silence, to see in the midst of darkness, to feel in the midst of isolation, these are the strains of the soul within the cell, training the spiritual senses to encounter the divine nuances.

It is terrible and it is beautiful. It is a war constantly fought.

I need prayer and I need to pray. I need to rejoice and be thankful. I need to look and notice and find. I need to touch God and taste heaven and discover the fullness of peace in the midst of chaos.

How do I go about that? This is what the cell teaches. So those who are wise tell me and show me. Others tell me other things. Whose words will I listen to?


It’s cold.

I’m not talking late summer chillly evening cold. I’m not saying there’s a bit of a cool breeze blowing through the valley and encouraging one to grab that windbreaker. No it’s cold. Hat cold. Coat cold. Brrrrrrr cold. Put on socks cold. Put on long pants cold. And a long sleaved shirt, and maybe that warm vest.

It’s not shut the window cold. It’s never been that cold. My roommate in college thought it got that cold in the Chicago winters. I made sure to crack the window just a bit. Because, really, it can be add more blankets cold, which it is tonight, but it’s never shut the window cold. I like the cold air. Makes me think and whatnot. I always write better when it’s cold and so forth.

My hands are cold, my toes are cold, my nose is cold. My head isn’t cold because I put a hat on. I might even have a cold, though I don’t think that’s quite it. A four hour nap today and a vague queasiness for the past couple of days suggests I’m not exactly at the top of my form. I ran my usual run on Friday, but still had that queasiness. So today I threw in the towel and barely got out of bed. I’m not too bad to do anything if it’s needing to be done, but I thought if I feel like sleeping that long I might as well give my body a break and let it get to fighting whatever is going on.

Plus, it’s cold and I sleep so much better in the cold air. And it’s windy. So yes, in case you were wondering, it was in fact a perfect mid to late Fall day even though it’s not actually autumn yet for another ten days. As an old timer up here said the other day, “It’s not going to warm up again. The seasons aren’t determined by the date up here… it’s Fall.”

I agree. It’s fall. We had a month of summer there in July and that was it. I expect the weather was just too plain busy in other parts of the country these past few months.

Now I’m off to bed. After reading half the day and sleeping the other half, a person has to make sure to get to bed on time.


There’s something quite wonderful about feeling a chill on a late summer morning, waking up before dawn, putting on a heavy long sleeve shirt, and watching the sun rise while a cool breeze makes the branches dance and hum.

The chipmunks are delighting in the morning air, though it seems the birds are deciding to sleep in yet a bit longer. It’s a fall day, the kind of day which inspires the mind and soul, provoking one to finally getting to tasks long put aside, pushing one to pray and let thanksgivings become a refrain.

Call it a shift of heart and mind and soul, symbolized by the weather. All seems new. My decision to reset my focus this week is paying off, albeit slowly. It was a wall, and now the thought of watching news or discussing current events seems almost obscene. Like any misfocused addiction, however, it takes some time for me to restore fuller habits. But it’s happening.

Which is a nice thing.

So I continue to pray, and hope, and push myself forward. However, even in my prayers I’m learning. I’m learning to pray not beseech, to listen not demand, to yearn not to whine, to embrace not grab. There are points at which I want to throw myself into prayer for long periods, and yet I realize this is not a spiritual call but an emotional response setting me up for expectations of God which will disappoint. Not because God is disappointing, but because my goal is not to demand of God but to hear and respond to his call. I am learning to pray but with a looseness about it all that finds fluidity instead of viscosity. This is a struggle, for it means to have faith but be free in the faith, to want and yet be free in the want, to desire but be flexible in the yearning so the goal of Christ becomes always primary.

It means letting go, even of prayer at times, so that I can take hold of the higher things of God in my life, releasing so that I can find, freeing so that I can catch. It is the paradox of the way of the Spirit. In this is freedom and life. But, it’s a struggle to maintain.

So I keep working at it. May the light continue to shine.


I haven’t been writing very much recently. There are assorted reasons for this, some of which have to do with the fact that last week I spent my online writing time mostly elsewhere.

Another reason is that I wrote alot, and erased it before it ever was presented. Such acts are exceedingly rare for me… except for the last month. I am not sure whether I have lost my trail or if I am in the midst of the storm, whether I am poor in heart or whether the path before me is uphill.

That’s what I like about running, you know. Running uphill one moves slower, breathes harder, feels the muscles strain. Running downhill gravity takes over, so that the danger is not in the effort but in the misstep and tumble.

Life is precisely like this, only we can’t often see the spiritual path in front of us. Those who run downhill often are critical of those who are running uphill, because the only thing seen is the speed and force of the running, not the incline or obstacles. Which is why it’s always dangerous to judge, others or ourselves. We often don’t know. There is only to press on and trust that one will get stronger no matter the trail if one presses on. But how does one express the reality of this unknowing? To say what presently appears to be the reality may be misguided, for what one sees now may not be what is truly real.

A lot of what I want to write I can’t fully or freely express, for there are doors to depths which remain locked in this forum. Suffice it to say I don’t write because I don’t even know good from ill in my present state, dependent on the observation and on the later destination my present could be fully grand or rather sad. It’s a state of incomplete existence, determined by a future and present beyond my ken, though it is this interpretive future which is my only frame of reference.

So there is faith. Things we can’t see and do not know, and have not yet heard, and so forth. Faith exists because to find light one has to believe in something, in something grand and hopeful, which points beyond the present into a divine reality which encompasses the realities of those near and far. In believing, in trusting, I hold onto that divine unity in order to take hold of all that for which Christ has taken hold of me. Stumbling or doubting or frustrating serves to buttress my freudian ego, but such a defense cares little for that higher call of Christ. So, one must deny this ego, press forward, believe in things impossible and set forth to pray when all is dark and light, not distinguishing the moods in deference to the prayer induced strength.

That being the case, there’s more to this spiritual life than earnest intent. To find prayer one must at times be ruthless. Or at least ruthless in particulars.

I realized some particulars the last couple of days, and spent some time today doing something about it. There’s a lot going on in this world. There’s a lot of suffering, and a lot of talking, and a lot of blaming and a lot of posturing. There’s a lot of pain, and sadness, and controversy, and politics.

Very little of which requires anything from me. That’s the rub. I wander through story after story, read this opinion and that, take in the news and the analysis of the news, trying to form opinions which will ripen then rot, fallen upon the ground. There is none to pluck my opinions once formed, and make use of them. Yet, on every topic of consideration I have well considered my position to argue, to discuss, to relate to others who likewise form decisionless opinions.

Today I realized it’s not for me.

My freshman year at college I watched, maybe, a couple hours of television throughout the entire year. I was cut off from news, and insights, and opinions, and controversies. This was before the internet bloomed, so even if I had a computer at the time, I had no real connection with a world outside of the one I was living in.

I appreciate this now.

Too much. Much too much. It’s not for me, nor the contemplative path which has been set out for me. Even if I am not presently aware of the destination I can no longer dilly dally with distractions and frustrations. Either I focus on that which is my task, that fuller life of the Spirit or I change my situation altogether, throwing my lot back down the hill to be fully engulfed by the meritless mire.

That my path will eventually open up I do not doubt. So, to jump ship and lose myself in the terrible tragedies and controversies is to waste no end of time not doing now what can only be done now. Obviously, such a thing is silly, yet I do it. I look a mile ahead or a hundred yards distant and run into the boulders right in front of me. It’s ludicrous but I do it.

No more, at least that’s my intent.

I’m fasting. Maybe food, but mostly the other kinds of additives which provoke nothing from me but more discontent. I am happy and eager to participate in opinions asked of me, or to ponder decisions put before me, or engage situations and people pressed in front of me. But for those things which I can only hear and see, yet not touch or know? I have got to let it all go.

The news sites I regularly visit… gone from the bookmarks. The opinion formers I often peruse… no more will I pause in my day to read their words. My very start page, that initial burst of news and information so efficiently displayed by my.yahoo.com is now no more my internet home. I’ve switched to something entirely more in keeping with my intended pursuits to open my browsing experience.

I must, I must, find my muse in other things. In things light and ethereal, earthy and present, spiritual and beautiful, brilliant and palpable.

Only in pursuing Christ will I find the peace of Christ. Only in reaching out after the Spirit will it be the fruit of the Spirit which forms within and through me. Odd thing that I expect the peace and the fruit without my focus remaining on that which calls and demands my soul.

So I pray. I pray for fruition and peace, joy and light, for myself, and for those near and far whose call is the same.

I seek the restoration of the contemplative life in my reality so that I can find the fullness of Christ in my reality with whom and wherever he leads. This is the only way to tap into the fluidity of the Spirit. That, above all, is my present goal. And I need to get back at it with more than half-hearted zeal. My heart demands such.

And it demands quite loudly at this moment. For this whole post was intended to be little more than a note saying I’ve changed my Morning and Evening blog a bit, with a new program underneath the digital hood. I’m going to personalize it over the next coming days or weeks, just not yet.

The heart calls out, you see, and I stand listening to the echo of its call, to determine how exactly this valley hereabouts is formed.

And I listen for another or others doing the same.

If you wish to be in control of your body and soul, forestall the passions by rooting out their causes.

–Thalassios the Libyan

© 2023 Learning to Dance

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑