“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.

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?