We humans are story-telling creatures, and we are also have stories in the sense of layers and depths–depths of suffering and also depths of insight. And here is a secret: we open to those layers and depths as we learn to be still and attend to what is. We must learn to let go of striving to be anything other than this. Awakening is not climbing a ladder. It is a door opening inward. Children have moments of awakening.
In Moments of Being, Virginia Woolf describes a few instances in childhood of “sudden violent shock” –a moment of suddenly remembering that she was in a body alive on the earth. “I was looking at a flower bed by the front door; ‘That is the whole, I said. I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves; and it seemed suddenly plan that the flower itself was a part of the earth; that a ring enclosed what was the flower; ad that was the real flower; part earth; part flower. It was a thought I put away as being likely to be very useful to me later.”
Yesterday, we experienced the way these moments live in us like time-release capsules of living truth. Very useful.
“All you’ve got to do is to stay where you are,” taught the author and Trappist monk Thomas Merton to a group of novices. “You don’t have to get out of this ‘base, earthly being’ which you are and climb Jacob’s ladder and get way up in heaven where God is, because if you do that, you’ll never pray. You couldn’t pray.”
Meditation and prayer are alike at the level of stillness, as we sink below striving or asking for something and begin to listen, to attend to what is not known. Whatever we are doing in this spirit can be a prayer or meditation. Writing can be a way of praying, a way of opening to what is unknown, allowing a truth to appear. Transcribed and collected in a work called Hidden in the Same Mystery, Thomas Merton’s teachings remind us that whether it is prayer or writing, there is really only one place to start: “You have to start where you are and stay with it, because God is in you as you are, and doesn’t expect you to be any other than you are….”