Image 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.