Thursday, November 5, 2009

Opportunities for Conflict

evadoImage by Ca(non) via Flickr

Cassian taught this: Abba John, abbot of a large monastery, went to Abba Paesius who had been living for forty years far off in the desert. As John was very fond of Paesius and could therefore speak freely with him, he said to him, "What good have you done by living here inretreat for so long, and not being easily disturbed by anyone?" Paesius replied, "Since I have lived in solitude, the sun has never seen me eating." Abba John said back to him, "As for me, since I have been living with others, it has never seen me angry."

Clearly in the serious contemplation of our place in the human community lies the quality of our contemplation. To be a real contemplative we must every day take others into the narrow little confines of our lives -- and listen to their call to us to be about something greater than ourselves.

-- Joan Chittister, OSB, Illuminated Life, p. 30, 34

While I was vacationing in Mexico, I remember having the fleeting thought, “I am not able to practice my spirituality here.” I meant that I had very little solitude in which to ponder, pray and read. But, of course, I had many, many opportunities to practice my spirituality, after all, I was living in close quarters with my family. What better place to practice what I say that I believe and attempt to cultivate in my life. The spiritual practices of solitude, prayer and meditation are much, much easier for me than the spiritual practice of dealing with all of the needs, desires and emotions of those around me. But, the only reason that I pray is to help me become a more loving person in this world, and if I’m not doing that, why bother? So, I would like to learn gratitude for the opportunities that conflict, disagreement, and just plain bad moods present as a means of my transformation.

We tend to think that a spiritual life should be a life without conflict, that peace should mean that we are never at odds with anyone or anything in this world. Thinking now of the great spiritual leaders, all of them were wrapped up in conflict. There was Jesus, Moses, Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King. Almost all of the saints that I can think of were at odds with their church or their government. Throughout history these people were calling us to new places, new ways of being, higher ways of thinking and deeper ways to love. All of these people took a loving and courageous stand for something. They could all be called peaceful warriors. I think that learning to act lovingly and be loving in the midst of conflict is the very highest of my callings.

I have an eleven year old daughter who I love more than life itself. And, she has been hormonal since she was about 5 years old. (And I have certainly been hormonal in that period of time as well.) We are alike in many ways and very different in other ways, and so, we butt heads. Annie presents me endless (endless!) opportunities to practice the way of the peaceful warrior. (And we haven’t even hit adolescence yet.) I am very sure that when I look back upon my life, I will name her my most valuable spiritual teacher because she is always calling me to be more than I think that I could possibly be. More patient, a better listener, less defensive, more grounded, more other centered, more loving.

What are the areas of conflict in your life in which you are invited to practice the way of the peaceful warrior? Who are the great teachers in your life around conflict?

Thanks to Barbara at Barefoot Toward the Light where I first read the passage above.

9 comments:

kigen said...

Rebecca. No way can I add anything. The post simply fills to brim with love. Thank you.

Beth Knight said...

Rebecca - the past 4 yrs as VP of a company of 40 staff with 3 offices, God has stretched me regarding this post beyond anything I ever could imagine. For one who would steer clear big time of conflict, God decided to place me in boot camp. I have learned alot and keep learning daily. Just this week upon returning from Wise Women Wed. and being more centered I went back to a situation where I was able to choose gently how to speak and to refrain from something my lower nature wanted to do and say. As for the gift of Annie in this regard - oh yes ... she is a teacher to be cherished !
Love, bk

Suz said...

Rebecca,

Daughters are wonderful...and very difficult. Katie is thirty (boomeranged back to us and is getting her MSW). I will be sixty next week and we are both still "hormonal"...me in a figurative sense, of course. I could write a ton but I know you live it and would know whatever I would say.

Enjoy the good part and you have my sympathy with the rest!!!

Love,
Suz

lucy said...

for many years i believed my son was my greatest teacher and then his sister hit 13 :-)

in other places, i smile at the opportunities to practice serenity. the comings and goings of participants as i try to have "centering prayer" in a recovery center; the sound of the leaf blower as my soul care supervision group enters meditation; the ring of the phone when i begin my "quiet time." SLOWLY - i am learning to let what could be frustrations go and see them as opportunities to practice deeper presence.

thank you for the quotes and the thoughtful reminder that i, too, can practice spirituality anywhere, anytime! xoxo

Rebecca Johnson said...

Lucy, Beth, Suz, and Kigen,

It is simply amazing how God finds so many different situations to offer all of us the same opportunities, some of them more intense than others sometimes, but all of them helping us get to the same place if we stay open and aware. I think of all of you today and into this next week as we all walk those paths that will offer us fabulous opportunities for transformation!

Love....

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Rebecca -

As Lucy mentioned, let us not forget what teachers our sons are as well as our daughters. I think I've always better known how to deal with the hormones of young women than the complexities of my son. Patience, patience, patience.......not really conflict, just practicing the way of patience and parenting.

Barbara introduced me to sister Joan Chittister also:)

Rebecca Johnson said...

SS, This is so interesting. My son is so easy for me. He is very easy going. Always ready to let something go or laugh at himself. It is true though that I am sure that I have no idea what is thinking most of the time and Annie and I seem to have some weird mind meld. I will say something and she will say, "That is so weird. I was just thinking about that very thing." Stick around. I'm going to need help in this "complexities of hormones". Love....

Rebecca Johnson said...

SS, This is so interesting. My son is so easy for me. He is very easy going. Always ready to let something go or laugh at himself. It is true though that I am sure that I have no idea what is thinking most of the time and Annie and I seem to have some weird mind meld. I will say something and she will say, "That is so weird. I was just thinking about that very thing." Stick around. I'm going to need help in this "complexities of hormones". Love....

Rebecca Johnson said...

Kigen,

I hope that you get this. I can't figure out how to get ahold of you. I can't find any comment form or email at your blog. Maybe you don't want comments about Emily's poems? I was blown away by the last two, so beautiful and your photos are always stunning. Are they yours? The one that you had a few days ago of the beautiful fabrics became a visio divina for me. Let me know how to "find" you. : )

Love....