It is September, and as our sojourner community continues to grow, the monastery prairie again beckons me to come and see and learn from its cycle of being. The long light of summer has fallen from the sky and has stained the landscape a muted golden brown. The chorus of birdsongs has taken flight to some warmer winter home. The towering plants now bend toward the deep from which they come. All is stilling, quieting, making way for another season.
I too am feeling a desire to quiet down, be still and move inward. My extroverted energy is waning (for a few days, anyway). When I lived alone, with a lot of time my own, I could easily move into the more solitary nature of fall and winter. Now that I am living and working in community on a daily basis, this is more challenging. But I trust as we get to know each another (now six sojourners joining the sisters) there will be plenty of room for the gifts of both solitude and community to flow and flourish – just as soon as we figure out how to gracefully dance around each other in the kitchen.
It all begins with listening, I am finding. Benedict begins his Rule with just that invitation. “Listen with the ear of your heart.” Listen closely to the stirrings within, the needs of the other, the words of gospel life, God’s presence in everything. What I hear in the prairie now is let go, delve deeper, open to the mystery. Sister Joanne talks about each of us being a mystery of God. Given that, we never fully know ourselves and will always be a mystery – sometimes and especially to ourselves. But if we desire personal and spiritual growth, she adds, we need to make the effort to understand what is behind our ego motivations and actions, and to let go to the guidance of our True Self. Community is the painful yet wonderful place for growth to happen.
In our weekly time of study together this month, we sojourners are looking at human resilience. How does trauma – major loss or the everyday variety of stresses, past and present – affect how we interact with others and make our way in the world? What are the practices and behaviors that enhance or undermine our resiliency?
I’m not sure this kind of reflection will make it any easier in the kitchen, but my experience is that listening deeply to one’s life and the life stories of others grows both the individual and the community from the inside out. The process requires commitment and compassion toward oneself and others. Benedict prescribes a healthy dose of humility to break down the towers of self-protection and illusion that we construct in the natural course of life’s sufferings. We need to find ways to break through the profound hurt and disappointment that naturally affect our perspective and keep us from changing.
If we persevere, by the grace of God, we just may see the possibility of new life come spring. For now, let the composting begin.
Follow this link to read earlier entries in Trish’s blog series, Living in Community, A Benedictine Sojourner’s View.