Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Be Still and Know....

So many incidents through my life.  As I look back ... 
I think they have often come when I was feeling at my uttermost limits - when I'd done all I could on my own and I was reaching out - beyond myself.

About 35 years ago, when I was teaching young children, third graders, I had a particularly challenging class of children.  I was at my wit's end.  I would go to bed at night, thinking of a child or an issue - and usually by morning something would come.  Some new idea.  Some energy to try again.  Some way to empathize with a child or find a way to reach them - personally or educationally.  But I was getting weary... and nothing was coming...

As I say, I was at my wit's end ~ at a point of nothingness.

It was during the time when TM was all the rage.  I'd heard about the method.  Relax.  Say a mantra.  But TM cost money.  And we were poor.  My husband was in grad school.  If we had had another child at that time, the children, if they'd been in school, would have qualified for free lunches.  And as I recall I also was taking grad courses, one per semester, in order to get my permanent teaching certificate (to keep the job).  So paying for TM was out.  (Oh, TM? ... Transcendental Meditation)

But I figured, what the heck, give it a try....

I recall sitting down - must have been one afternoon.  I picked a word.  Who knows what word?  Did I say "Ommmmm"?  I have no idea.  However, I can pretty much assure you it was not a Christian word - because shortly after college I had given up on going to church and stopped paying attention to "any of that".  So I assure you, I wasn't deserving of what followed.

So there I was with my "word" - whatever it was.  But here's what happened.

As I sat there, quietly, paying attention to my breathing and saying this word.....  Suddenly, from deep inside myself, I'm not kidding you....  Prayer welled up!  Yes.  Without my bidding.  Without any willing of this.

Prayer... inside myself .... as if a well had been drilled and water just gushed up.  

Shocked the hell out of me!  No kidding....

Honestly, as I look back, over these many years, I think it was like the bell was rungWithout any effort on my part.  Certainly without any deserving on my part.

After this, certain amazing coincidences followed.  I went to the public library, maybe to return some books.  And there, on the bookshelf right near the circulation desk was Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain - the story of his early life and conversion, his entering a monastery.  It was Lent.  I just happened to pass a church - going who knows where.  There was an afternoon Mass and I went in.  We went out to the nearby monastery.  They had a bookstore.  We bought a book of psalms and started to read psalms together.   Well, one thing led to another....  And on my 30th birthday we had a big celebration - with friends.  We had our son baptized and our marriage was blessed by a priest.   This time in a church.  Yup!  The whole shebang!  (it was all one big "ceremony" - with a nice party afterward)

We eventually came to view the monastery as like a second home.  So much of a home that the next Fall, in kindergarten, our son was in the blocks corner, building:  Some kid asked:  What's that?  And after our son replied:  A monastery, the kids asks:  What's a monastery?  They had cows there then (sheep now).  Our son helped the monks milk the cows.  And they took him to the carpenter shop, where he made some things I still have.  One is just a little block of wood that says:  I love you, mama. (after he learned to write, of course)  Another was what he called the portable cross.  Two pieces of wood that fit together - to form a cross.  I still have it.

It's things like this that - for me - are so convincing.

It's not just chance.

There's something "out there" ~ inside.  Paying attention to us.  Drawing us....

At least - that's my experience - and it hasn't just happened once.


witsend said...

I think the Monastery that you have pictured is Mt Savior in NY- one of my favorite places on this earth- I want to thank you for that and for this beautifully written blog.

TheraP said...

You are correct in your assumption. One of these days I will write another post about Mt. Savior - and its title will be A State of Mind (I have it partly written).

And the monk playing the harp is Br. Pierre. I always hoped that when I got to heaven Br. Pierre would be there playing his harp - Psalm 42:

Like the deer that yearns
for running streams,
so my soul is yearning
for you, my God.

I used to love it when he played that psalm in particular.

I send you greetings. And am thrilled that someone, happening upon this blog, knew the place. And loves it - as I do. (I once met the woman whose father had sold the monks some of their property.) It was very painful when we moved away. On the other hand you learn to carry it in your heart (the subject of a blog to come).

Bad Alice said...

This is beautifully written. I find myself wishing that I had such an experience. I followed the link to your post about the bell. That the bell can't ring without emptiness I think is mysteriously true and a little maddening.

TheraP said...

Dear Bad Alice:

I would gladly give you such an experience - if I could! I extend my blessing upon you: May you be richly filled - to overflowing - with emptiness. And joy.

Thanks for your visit here.