Retreat Day7: Is-ness

Yesterday was a beautiful day. The wind ceased after several days of chilly blowing and this allowed the warm sun to be felt on the skin. As planned, John and I walked during the afternoon to a small pond on the grounds that I'd discovered on a bike ride. On the way we stopped by a delapidated greenhouse sans roof that had been used by the monks who lived here formerly. It wasn't hard to imagine their tending the growth therein, flora and otherwise, nor think of death's certitude and the transitoriness of life.

We arrived at the pond and sat on an old wooden bench, watched the fish and talked about the same subjects we'd discussed several years ago. We joked about how the more things change (at least our bodies) the more we stay the same. What are these invisible ties that bind us to one another? With some people they seem especially strong and durable.

Tomorrow, Friday, Father Thomas Keating, age 86, arrives and the additional 80 or so retreatants who are coming from the weekend. Maru arrived yesterday early and two others will join us today. By Friday night at dinner a total of about 140 will be here. As they arrive they'll no doubt be opportunities for practicing the contemplative attitutde of letting go and likely others.

Yesterday David spoke on "pure prayer" and "Is-ness." Father Thomas said this about the latter: "...Ultimate Reality (God) "no thing." "No thing" means no particular thing, whether concept, feeling or bodily experience. God just is - without any limitation. And the way to connect with this "Is-ness" is to just be, too." - from Manifesting God.

Branching from Gregory the Great's classical definiton of contemplation as, "resting in God," David spoke about how to "just be" and rest from all seeking, as what allows contemplaton is to just BE.

I related this to adequacy-inadequacy. Much of seeking has to do with a perception, belief or feeling of inadequacy. I don't have the True Self, I'm not living up to my potential, I don't know God's will for me, I don't do what I know is best to do, etc. etc. To just let go and be is to inceasingly experience the complete adequacy of the moment and everything in God's be-ing-ness.

David went on to mention how God in the Bible is described as, "I am that I am," and Jesus saying, "before Abraham I am," and of course Fr. Thomas's "Is-ness" - for short "Izzie" as Fr. Thomas would say.

How to increasingly realize this Is-ness? "Pure prayer" - defined by Anthony of the Desert in the early centuries as occuring when one "doesn't even know one is praying" - prayer of naked faith without resort to concepts or feelings. Pure prayer is God coming alive in us and our consenting to this aliveness without thinking, self-reflecton or thing-ness as an object of experience.

"Happy is the spirit who attends to perfect formlessness at the time of prayer" - Evagrius the Solitary 4thC

Enough for now...

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