“Stay Within Yourself”
By Rev. Elizabeth Rechter, Executive Director
Violence that takes innocent life, and while people are at prayer, is a growing wound in the human community. It is a devastating sign of the brokenness in our world. Our hearts are broken too, and we wonder what we are to do.
The attack on the Kilbirnie Mosque in New Zealand happened as the Spiritual Directors International Conference was beginning in Bellevue, Washington. The leaders, gathered from many faith traditions, decided to respond by making this video. I am grateful that their witness and prayers continue the human chain surrounding the suffering in Wellington.
In February, I attended a Wisdom School retreat on the Desert Mothers and Fathers led by Cynthia Bourgeault, held in Tucson, Arizona. I brought something very valuable back with me from this Southwestern desert. It was a word Cynthia gave us. She is often challenged in her work by people who are critical of contemplatives who commit themselves to a life of prayer, and talk about the need for prayer, when what the world needs is action. I was strengthened by her answer, and the ferocity with which she shared it:
What is needed is for you to stay within yourself. Silent prayer is what helps us do this. To be grounded as a spiritual being is the best you can bring to the world. When we are committed to the practice of daily meditation and can stay within ourselves, grounded, alert, present in a pool of inner attentiveness, we are the people the world needs. Centered within is how we will know what is ours to do. Staying within ourselves we will know we have what we need to do what is ours to do.
The desert elders of 3-6 CE didn’t go to the desert to escape a troubled, distracted world, or worse, to prove their spiritual prowess, but to live lives more present to God, and to God in the world. They went because they deeply desired to become vessels through which God’s light would shine. People began seeking them out for their wisdom, born of the fire of the desert solitude. People would say, “Give us a word”. Give us a word that will help us know how to live full, true, holy lives. A word most often came with a story and an action. People sought their advice because they trusted that the desert contemplatives had done what was needed to prepare their human vessel to hear God’s word.
There is much to be done. Prayer is where we are to start. Staying true to the spiritual practices that help you stay within yourself will keep you connected to the source of all healing. Then you will know what is yours to do, and you will know you have what you need to do it.
And then pray some more. Desert Father Abbot Anthony said, “Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so you who loiter outside your cells lose the intensity of inner peace. So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lose our interior watchfulness.”
Blessings for your Journey,