Sunday, September 27, 2009

Short and (hopefully) Sweet

Some days there just isn't any time. Some weeks are like that, too. This week I've been away for two days. On one of them I went to Newark Airport to collect Br Bernard on his return home from a long visit with his family in Belgium, and yesterday I spent the day with friends and their extended families in New York City - mostly in Central Park. In the meantime there have been all the meetings, conferences, letters, emails and all the other stuff that make up the week, to be gotten into a week with two fewer days than usual. Today several of us had another meeting this morning, this afternoon we have the first of the Bach Vespers of the season and this evening we have a community social time.

So the amount of time available for writing spiritual reflections is very small, and I'm just going to bite the bullet and do the sensible thing: since I have a small bit of time, I'm going to write a small amount.

The experience of the past week that is now floating on the top of my mind is that a 2-hour train ride is a perfect time for meditation and spiritual reading. The beauty helps, in this case. The train trip between Poughkeepsie and New York City follows the Hudson River all the way, and in some places the separation between the rails and the water is a matter of a very few feet. It's one of the most beautiful train journeys on earth. Just looking at the view is enough to alter your consciousness.

And of course, you are a prisoner of the coach while you're on the way. There's not much in the way of alternatives, nor of distraction. You can't go to the dining car because there isn't one. I suppose you could have your computer with you, and all that goes with that, but I don't have a laptop, and that's deliberate. You're right there in your steel-enclosed chapel, with breathtaking scenery flashing by and nowhere to go but where the train is going. So what else are you going to do?

Thanks to my habit of wearing wrist beads, they are always at hand. They do their usual job of facilitating meditation whether your eyes are open or closed. The car was pretty quiet, and it usually is. The sound of the wheels on the rails is rhythmic, and that helps. If you want the time and the space for some inward adventuring, it's a pretty good opportunity. The Jesus Prayer, some more formless silent prayer and then some reading to let my mind refresh and ponder - not bad for someone who really needs to pray.

There was resistance, of course. There's always resistance. The mind doesn't give up its reign easily or willingly. It's good to recognize that for what it is, and the limitations of being on a train help in that process. Some planning helps, too. I only brought one book, and it was my current spiritual book, so I hadn't allowed for reading distractions. I had my beads. I deliberately didn't have anything else.

It worked. It was good. It was what I needed.

And I also have a belief that this isn't just about me. Everyone has places and times like this in their life. Maybe it's a church you go by on your way to work or home. Maybe it's a park that beckons as you go by. Maybe it's some place that I haven't thought about and wouldn't think about in my wildest dreams, but it happens to be your perfect spot, or your perfect time. Whatever, wherever, it waits for you to answer its call.

So yesterday I had 4 hours to pray and read. It's more than I get almost ever. It was really good.

So where's your place?

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