Lent – a wilderness time, a time to enter the sacred space of liminality that the reading from Richard Rohr speaks about.
“A time to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown.
“There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often” Rohr says, “and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way. This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed.”
Not a space we normally choose to be. Certainly not a comfortable space.
Sometimes a wilderness experience, a sacred space in our lives, happens to us – when between employment, or after retirement, or in hospital after life-changing illness or accident.
But it can be chosen. In fact I think it must be chosen, even when our circumstances seem to dictate a wilderness time. If we don’t choose to embrace the uncertainty of the wilderness we can fill that sacred space with worry, with activity, trying to regain control of our lives, trying to make the wilderness time as short as possible.
Our busy world encourages us to take control of our situation through rational thought and practical action.
Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Here’s what Steve Jobs says about intuition:
“The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and the intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world… Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”
And Anne Lamott, whom the New York Times calls a feminist C.S. Lewis, says, “You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”
So how does one voluntarily enter this sacred space, where “our old world is left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence”, “the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way?” How can we practice uncertainty?
Here are a few tips;
Get in the habit of wondering, not worrying or building up expectations. I wonder what is going to happen – stay with the uncertainty, like the birds of the air, or the flowers of the field.
Pay attention to the now –
Go for a walk and pay attention to your surroundings; monitor your thoughts – am I in the present or am I thinking of the past or the future?
Look for beauty; when you find it, take a mental snapshot; say, “No matter what happens in the future, I have this!” and give thanks.
Every time you change activities during the day stop for a minute and listen. See how many sounds you can identify.
Meditation, entering into the tradition of the Desert Fathers, is all about paying attention to the now, about stilling our busy thoughts so we can be open to God. Christian meditation groups that follow the John Main tradition open their sessions with this prayer:
Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of the spirit of your Son. Lead us into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call, ‘Maranatha…Come, Lord Jesus’.
Or you can just breathe
Breathe knowing that the word in Hebrew, ruach, that is translated spirit is the same word as breath or wind. Breathe in the holy Spirit, breathe out thanks.
Breathe knowing that while the name of God is never to be spoken it can be breathed without being spoken, Yahweh Yahweh Yahweh