A Desert in the Woods 

Holy Wisdom Monastery Benedictine Reflections 9 Comments

By David McKee

opening 
the Opus Dei 

in this 
bardo 

intimate 
as ever 

was 

Five days alone in the hermitage—no phone, no internet, no reading, no writing, no music—only the Liturgy of the Hours, many hours of wordless prayer, walking, eating, sleeping and silence—suspending all the usual outer distractions of daily life in order to face all the inner ones—all the things that drop a veil between myself and God—all the false selves for which I have so many names, and the desire to let go of all those names and disappear into the true self that is hidden in God. It certainly is what the Tibetans call a bardo—an in-between place—neither this nor that—no familiar ground to stand on—no comforting handles to hold. Just each moment, arising and passing away, and the impulse to cling to it, to make it last, or the impulse to reject it, to make it go away—even while, in fact, the moment is already gone—it  can be neither clung to nor rejected—it is just succeeded by another moment, another sensation, another emotion, another thought, another bur oak shadow cast onto the snow by the waxing moon. Each moment is itself a bardo—one after the other in an endless stream—boundless and bottomless, one unknown passing into the next unknown, inviting me to disappear into it.  The breath comes in, the breath goes out. Sometimes I am breathing, and sometimes there is just the breath and no breather. 

last night of retreat 
the emptiness 
around each star 


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Comments 9

  1. Thank you for sharing the life of the monastery with me. I’m a senior citizen. SSI barely pays for basic necessities. Have applied for numerous jobs with no luck. 42 years of office management and all they see is an old woman of 70. I’m in great health and have stayed active. Life changed with a serious car accident last August but I great now. Please continue to pray for me.

  2. Michael Belongie- poet and contemplative companion

    David, the poetics of the Silent Whisperer,
    “Did I compose these artful words or overhear the Silent
    Shepherd prompting syllables of the sacred?

  3. Thank you David for sharing your experience, even as it was ever changing. I appreciate your gift with words.

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