I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees…
We go to God from Light into Darkness…
Gregory of Nyssa
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
Jesus (John 12.24-26)
One day I was standing in my room doing nothing in particular when I suddenly felt as if ‘something’ had fallen off me. It was as if I had been wearing a warm and protective overcoat and it had suddenly disappeared. My first reaction was to try to get it back on again, but I didn’t know what it was that had fallen off or where it had gone… it was a time of being unable to ‘do’ anything by an act of my own will-power. I could fulfil all my duties and obligations regarding other people but when I had time on my own it was as if there was some obstruction that prevented me from making up my mind, and I would dither about, wanting to ‘do’ something but not knowing what it was. It was as if there was an invisible barrier in front of me and whichever way I looked I couldn’t get past it.Whatever I did do, I knew that that was not what I wanted to do. Whatever I had, I knew that that was not what I wanted to have. I didn’t want ‘anything’ but I did want ‘something’ and I knew not what it was…
It is difficult to explain it more clearly but there was a distinct sense of a change of aim and direction that was taking place from the depths within. I knew that it was not a self-organized change but was a result of being in a state of ‘unknowing’ for such a long time… As I said, the significant thing to note is that this was not a self-chosen movement; there was no way in which it could have been self-chosen because it had been guided from a deeper level than that of usual consciousness. It was an insight that had to come from within myself, which explains why no advice from anyone on the outside could have ever helped me, though I might have continued to seek confirmation.
Georgina Alexander, Following the Silence, pp.63-64, 64-65
If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.
St. John of the Cross
Mrs Alexander’s book should be required reading for anyone who suspects they may be being called to a life of prayer lived outside the walls of a contemplative community – her description here matches my own recent experience so closely that I could almost have written it myself.
I am finding myself more and more reluctant to post here: not because I wouldn’t wish to stand by everything I’ve written here (well, most of it, anyway!) but because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find words for what God is doing with me. More and more I find myself feeling that if I have anything to contribute along this path of ours, it is not in what I might do, but merely in being faithful, open, accepting what God gives, accepting the grace and mercy of Christ, without grasping at it; living along this almost transparent thread of only perceiving, of not trying to achieve. Not for the first time, I’m reminded of a Zen saying I read once – and now cannot find – to the effect that it’s only when we have given up seeking after enlightenment that we can become enlightened.
I feel an intense hunger for hiddenness; I long to be like a wren, living out its life deep in an ivied hedgebank, hardly seen among the dense leaves and underscrub. Somehow all this has to do with the heart, too: mine is too full to accomplish anything outwardly, still less to write more for the time being…
When you awaken your heart, you find to your surprise that your heart is empty. If you search for the awakened heart, there is nothing but tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness. It occurs because your heart is completely open, exposed. It is the pure raw heart that has the power to heal the world.
Chogyam Trungpa, quoted in A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield, with thanks to inward/outward