Deepening what you know about your spirituality, and deepening your spirituality per se, are two different things.
Deepening what you know about spirituality is relatively easy; just read everything you can get your hands on, go to lectures, talk endlessly with all kinds of people, and soon you will deepen what you know about spirituality. You might even become an expert and know everything there is to know about spirituality! Trouble is, knowing and being are two very different levels. We can know all there is to know about spirituality, yet not be spiritual at all.
Many people these days want to deepen their faith, but they haven’t a clue how to do it. They may pick up some hints, such as it requires solitude and a one-on-one relationship with that which is sacred, but this is rarely talked about in our congregations, because we need to congregate! None of this solitary business, how would the church pay its bills?
That leaves us pretty much on our own to find our way, and the way can have many twists and turns. For instance, it’s difficult at times to see any progress being made; it seems that the deeper we go, the more we see how awful we really are compared to that which is sacred! It’s as if we are going backward most of the time, and after awhile, that old congregation begins to look good again!
Henry David, an expert on the woods, says that you must wait – for something to happen. That’s the key – waiting patiently. Waiting with such resolve that we are willing to wait an eternity. That’s what it takes. Waiting just beyond that moment we can wait no longer. Waiting so long that all of our ideas and opinions, all of our thoughts and our dreams are stilled. Waiting beyond all hope.
That which is sacred is waiting as well, waiting to see if we can out-wait our selves. During our quiet times, we observe carefully all that disturbs our silent waiting, all that comes between us and that which is sacred, and we become ashamed that such frivolous thoughts drag us into our selves and away from our Source relentlessly. When will we make the decision to go all the way? It is really up to us.
Eventually, we will decide to sit in our woods, silently, in anticipation of that which is greater, that which few come face-to-face with. Why is it that the contemplative saints of Christianity; St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila squirreled themselves away and devoted their lives to deep prayer and meditation? Did they know something we don’t, as we scurry here and there in pursuit of our everyday ideals that vaporize like the mist on Thoreau’s pond?
Why do Buddhist monks meditate night and day in the forest to find enlightenment? Why are common people finding themselves asking questions about life, and wanting to know for themselves what lies beyond?
We can only do what we can do, and we can’t make quantum jumps from our heads – all big leaps come from the heart – and if our heart begins to ache for that which is sacred, nothing else will satisfy us again. That’s just the way it is. Try as we might to make things relative and normal again, the energy for those things is quickly exhausted, and we soon find ourselves back in the woods, wondering what happened.
There is no set roadmap to your particular truth; it is your solitary, unique journey to map out yourself. Just remember to wait in the woods. This may help.
By Raymond Rock
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center