Today it is the sixty-three purposeful steps to my roadside mailbox. Each step offers the on-going gifts of the journey: the tiniest of red mites dancing circles on rain-frayed hollyhock leaves like turning kaleidoscopes of life, the yarrow’s responsive swoop and spill mimicking the deep yearnings of the world, and from the top perches of the steady oak the gargled call of the red-bellied woodpecker replying in synchronicity to the measured jumps of a startled, wood-house toad. The harsh corners of the world are momentarily set aside to embrace these reminders that all of life is one continuous, interconnected, flow of Gift. What can we do but pause, and bend in wonder…
“A contemplative way of life,” pens author and retreat leader, James Finley(1), “is a daily life imbued with contemplative experience, which is that kind of intimate, intuitive experience in which the grace of life is realized.” Looking deeply into our everyday encounters, we become aware that our God is none other than the Abundant Presence that births, tenderly cradles, and sustains all.
We no longer need to dream about escaping into solitude and silence to find the Divine. Rather, we come to know Solitude as the deepest interiority of our own and the world’s existence; contemplation is seeing the silent center of Love in all. This is, as Finley notes later in his book, “…being contemplatively awakened to one’s ineffable communion with the all encompassing totality the present moment manifests.”
“Contemplation,” posits Joan Chittister, OSB(2), “is consciousness of the real fullness of life,” [and, therefore,] “is a sacred mindfulness of my holy obligation to care for the world I live in.” Gifted through grace, we are stirred into a true sensitivity. Held in meditative prayer, we are called to live from within and to act with compassion. Lending words to this inner shift of heart, contemporary author Judy Cannato(3) writes: “…so we are through Jesus invited to engage in relationship with the Gracious One, allowing ourselves to be transformed by Love into love.” Our only response, in gratitude, is “yes.”
“Yes” to the beauty of the perfectly scored fruit of the wild cranberry bush, hanging as lanterns of hope arched toward dawn. “Yes” to the simplicity in the peaceful movement of a child’s dimpled hands sifting acorns and sand. “Yes” to the story of the woman whose eyes no longer see but who still holds visions of a single loon, gliding, on darkened waters through silvered reeds. “Yes” to daily taking the walk to the mailboxes of our own limited lives, Holy Mystery summoning our narrow hearts into loving spaciousness.
What more can be told? The path of seeing awaits your softened step. Everything in life is about Love. Gentle your heart and lay flat your palms; the Jewel-Gift you carry within you is infinitely vast and far more radiant than you have imagined.
1. James Finely, The Contemplative Heart, (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2000) 16, 141.
2. Joan Chittister, OSB, Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1990) 104.
3. Judy Cannato, Radical Amazement, (Notre Dame, IN:
Sorin Books, 2006) 75.
Beth O’Brien is an oblate of Holy Wisdom Monastery and serves as a spiritual guide in the Madison area. Contemplative practice is one aspect of the oblate community at Holy Wisdom Monastery.