Retreat Day5: Gentleness & Effortlessness

I've developed a routine of going outside in the mornings while it is still dark before I go to sit prayer. The stars in the heavens have been out in full luminosity. Looking across the Hudson River I watch the occasional descent of car lights coming down a mountain - no doubt people on their way to work, perhaps in "The City". The air is cold, it wakes me up - just a few minutes is enough - time to go inside and sit. 

Yesterday was a cold but sunny day with a strong northerly wind blowing straight down the Hudson and creating small white caps. I went for a bike ride for an hour, partly along the same ground that Benedict Arnold used to make his escape to the British. The ride was a good workout for the heart, lungs and muscles, especially the ascent of a long, winding hill from Garrison's Landing back to the main road leading to the Institute. On my return I found the hot tub with its 104 degree water a relaxing and justly deserved end to my first bike outing - I hope to do more of both.

Yesterday David talked about cultivation of the contemplative attitudes of gentleness and effortlessness in contemplative practice, having spoken on simplicity the day before. We were reminded of the words from the Centering Prayer guidelines, "ever-so-gently" (return to the sacred symbol). We were encourged to practice gentleness in our practice in order to allow the fruit of gentleness to become more pervasive in our experience and actions.

With gentleness comes effortlessness, another contemplative attitude. Given that holy ground is already present here and now, "closer than we are to ourselves," the need for effort is beside the point. This reminded me of a line from Fr. Thomas's book Open Mind Open Heart - "the chief act of the will is not effort but consent". Ergo, no effort is required of us in order for God to find us. He does "the heavy lifting" It seems we often try to take on too much responsibility in the life of contemplative prayer rather than simply consenting to what is already present.

"Come all you who labor...and I will give you rest." - Jesus

"There is no effort in God, everything is already accomplished." - David

Enough for now...

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