There are temples all over this place.
My dining room floor, the kitchen table, underneath the pear tree, in the meadow amidst the grasses…no tall arches or stained glass, no austere organ music or deep mahogany. Just these hands, this body, these thoughts.
“To mark out a temple” is just one meaning of the word contemplation. (L.L. Barkat in God in the Yard, page 21)
Contemplation to me is a gentle wondering—a noticing. Right now I sit by the window. The rain falls in sheets of silver. Trees give in recognition of its presence. Welcome, welcome, they say. Touch me…caress my leaves and quench my thirst.
I am noticing how green the world is becoming. Contemplating how the seasons announce their arrival. And celebrating this great wonder.
Summer has arrived.
Last night I sat out back and watched the fireflies in the trees. How does one put words to such loveliness? No, I think, it cannot be done. At least not by tongue-tied me. There are places for words, but sometimes nature just asks to be noticed. When I see, I feel Him. And Peace settles over me.
It has been a difficult few days. A trip home to see the relatives…a midnight soiree to the urgent care with a sick child…the grief of a pending goodbye…and the sudden realization that I’ve had it all wrong for so long.
Part of me wants free of this contemplation. It reminds me of that old R.E.M. song, Near Wild Heaven:
It’s just a gift I’m given
Try to live inside
Trying to move inside
And I always thought that it would make me smarter
But it’s only made me harder
My heart thrown open wide
In this near wild heaven
Not near enough
My personal psychology gets me down.
But she says I should dwell there. I know this…after all.
In some ways, it seems too self-focused to let the inner landscape be part of our reaching towards the Divine. Spiritual practice is supposed to be about God, isn’t it? Yet if the word contemplative also means “putting together”, which it does, then it may be needful to search for darkness, the broken pieces of life, with an openness that these are somehow important parts of communion with God. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard, page 26)
These words unbind me.
I imagine the darkness like a cord. It is wrapped around me, I cannot move. But slowly, I start to turn. I am uncertain at first…baby steps, one foot beside the other. And then I am spinning, I am whirling around in this freedom dance as the cord slips down over my shoulders and puddles in the floor at my ankles. I twirl unfettered now, fast and free like the child that I am. This maniacal singular ring-around-the-rosy ends in a heap in the floor and I remember doing the same with my babies, and how they would laugh as we all fall into one pile–arms and legs and fleshy love. I laugh now too.
I am free. I am free.
And nearer to heaven.
This was written in response to week 3 of L.L. Barkat’s book God in the Yard: spiritual practice for the rest of us. Join me?