Archive for September 2nd, 2009

Evensong – 6:30 PM and the day is already beginning to reflect the short march toward the Fall. Just a slight but pleasant chill in the air as I sit outside in our backyard and take a few moments to gaze at the trees.

In Tolkien’s “Ring,” Ents were the giant shepherds of the trees:  protectors whose task it was to watch over those threatened by logging dwarfs and other insults. My mind wanders off to why the “Ents” were imbued by Tolkien ( and the rich history of myth and lore preceding him) with such steadfastness and singular purpose.

Ent elders were a ponderous lot for whom time was measured in very long and deeply reflective periods. Trees remind us to slow down, wait a bit, let some time pass, while we look for the larger patterns and rhythms; the music of the cosmos.

This is  my favorite time of the day as the sun begins to set, and the trees are painted with gold as the glow of sunlight dims at the threshold into dusk. I find myself thinking of the great masterpieces of northern European art and the chiaroscuro ( the play of light and darkness that gives heightened definition to all objects) as I delight in watching the change in the color palette come over the branches and the leaves.

The serenade of the crickets has already begun as I remain  still and generally undistracted (except for the regular white noise of traffic on the road beyond our back fence).  I am struck by the power of the moment. It’s as if time starts to run backwards as the swath of gold on the largest tree recedes and gives way to the time of shadows and then the darkest green.

Two biblical exhortations become my mantra in the moment: ” Be still and know that I am,” and “G-d is in his Holy Temple, let all the Earth keep silent.”


© The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The first word of the “Rule of Saint Benedict” is “ausculta,” Latin for “listen.”

With all the preparations for a new day, my thoughts run ahead as I rehearse everything that I need to do. In the meantime, my body is on auto-pilot.

I fly through my morning process (shower, eat breakfast, catch the news on the fly, pack for the day). Then, off I go in a whirlwind (which thankfully no longer involves the lengthy commuting I did for over 30 years).

So, without the luxury of a quiet and undistracted earlier morning, how does this harried mystic get in a little slice of spiritual practice?

Well, it turns out that Saint Benedict provides the clue.

Listen! Just listen.

For 5 minutes ( at any point in the racing process) I just stop and pay complete attention to what I hear.

This morning, I took 5 in my home office, sat down, calmed my breathing, and then listened with my eyes closed to the complete soundscape around me: noises coming from the upper floor, an unmistakable high pitched hum from the fluorescent lights, my heart beating in my ears, a lawnmower nearby, and ( delightfully) a choir of birds – no doubt doing what they need to do to survive, but doing so with song that is soothing and reminds me of our connection to everything. This is surely what the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Thich Naht Hahn meant by “inter-being.”

The time spent feels longer than just 5 minutes but, no, just 5 it is, and I feel qualitatively different.

This little retreat has me in a different and readier state of mind to encounter the day’s stuff. I feel most importantly like less of a machine that dutifully turns on early morning and then goes into sleep mode at night like a desktop computer, and more like a human being with a soul, a purpose, a set of convictions and a love of life.

The “Great Spirit” is all around us and is the matrix on which our entire being rests. The Spirit infuses us at the deepest levels and consciousness reaches well beyond the confines of the brain.

I am reminded of the beautiful statement of Philosopher-Paleontologist- Jesuit Priest Teilhard De Chardin: ” Matter is spirit moving slow enough that we can see it.”

Now, I am ready for the day.

© The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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