13 March 2015

alone with ourselves

The title of this post is taken from this Huffington Post article. I strongly recommend the article. It is well written and makes a solid case against, "busy."

Recently, at a Vestry retreat, the facilitator told us that, "Busy is a sin." Saying that to a room full of volunteers trying to balance the demands of what medical professionals call, "ADL" that is, "Activities of Daily Living" and the demands of a church that needs everything we can bring to it, was brave. Predictably, the reaction was mixed.

Being "alone with ourselves," Christian mysticism: the rosary or prayer rope, Centering Prayer, or Lectio Divina, represents for some, a major stumbling block. But is it really about time? I am not sure.

Although one hears about time issues, "I am too busy!" the time required is not a large portion of the day. One can do either the Anglican or Roman rosary in less than half an hour. Of course, a monastic might take two hours, but one can begin the journey with twenty or so minutes. Most contemplative prayer systems suggest that one begin with twenty minute period, once or twice a day. TV & Cable viewing patterns suggest most of us can find those twenty minutes.

I think the problem is found in our discomfort when we engage ourselves and God in concentrated silence. Years ago, my spiritual director offered me a koan: (meditation puzzel) "The reason to pray is to become like a person who prays." Understand the meaning of that puzzle, which took me a while(!) and you may be on a journey,

Beginning a contemplative journey often involves moving past the mind's attempts to avoid the internal silence. The mind plays tricks, showing us flashing lights, stars, even visions of saints rather than concentrating on the silent contemplation of the divine. Tails of various side tracks are legendary among contemplatives. In fact, if you ever see three or four Zen teachers laughing together, you can guess what the topic might be.

One of the medieval saints (I do not recall which one) was told one day by two excited novices that while they were praying the rosary together, they saw a vision of Mary. He told them that next time she appeared, they should shout at her, and she would leave them to their prayers. They did and she indeed went away. Understanding what happened, helps us understand being alone with God. It is not the twenty minutes, it is the experience(!)

So is, "busy" a sin? Yes, when we mean too busy to bother with God. Jesus was asked what was the foremost commandment replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." He went on, "The second is similar -- love your neighbor as you do yourself." That and the Great Commission tell us how we should spend our time.

I read an unattributed quote: name three things more important than God. Too busy? Really?

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