An Extravagant Beauty ~ Peony
Today's Saying: Holiness, or sacredness, is not something added to life - it is life, it is beauty.
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Life was intimately transmitted to us from an ancient source all the way to our existence today. ... Only a limited view of life can come from our minds. It comes from what we think life should look or feel like, or which life is more important. In such limitation, we miss that we are, right now, original life continuing the radiance of energy that began eons ago. It is difficult to take that in. Are we a source of life beaming from billions of years ago? What is this life? And for what reason have we been entrusted with it?
*Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. The Deepest Peace.
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I was trying to clarify to a woman what my path called contemplative, and, among other words, some say wakefulness, consisted of. I had been vowed to a contemplative life in September 1996 and afterward began offering retreats, workshops, and classes in varied modes of meditation, contemplative prayer, and the contemplative life. A group of persons from a church I served 1999-2005 had trained under my guidance and became vowed to a contemplative life - this was a first, to my knowledge, within the United Methodist Church or any Protestant sect.
I was finding it problematical trying to get the point across to this woman, while she expressed interest to understand why I spoke of so much of my pastoral work as uneventful, at times boring; yet, somehow, the work was beautiful, all of it She could not fathom how this could be.
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The beautiful appears non-eventful, non-exciting. When we are accepting of life as it is, life shows us itself. We see and feel it is beautiful, regardless of its contents. It is mundane in appearance, while sometimes drapped in the spectacular.
This apparent paradox of the beautiful being mundane appears in a selection from Peter Robertson's The Abbot's Shoes: Seeking a Contemplative Life. He, a Protestant, had been welcomed to live at a Cistercian monastery - Our Lady of the Southern Star Abbey, in New Zealand. He writes of the chapel where the community would enter for communal prayer at the Hours, the first Hour being 2:30 in the morning, daily.
The church was humble and not at all the great cathedral-like structure many might have expected. The atmosphere was unexpectedly cosy [or, cozy] and intimate. A few lights made the bare wooden floor glow golden, and the air always smelt faintly and pleasantly of polish, beeswax and incense. It was not romantic, but real.
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The beautiful - not romantic, but real - appears when we cease trying to emotionalize and sensationalize life. If we do not accept life as it is and instead try to make life something fitting our demand to be pleased, we will never find contentment except as a fleeting appearance.
Why not learn to feel the beauty of stillness and quietness? What is so displeasing about time not to do?
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In wakefulness, we are not seeking or denying pleasure. What is, is here. Yet, we prefer a quiet spirit to restlessness. The contemplative experiences fun as a fleeting experience. While it is, we enjoy it. When it leaves, it leaves.
And even the most minor acts bring enjoyment. Today, I experienced beauty washing dishes after lunch. To give oneself to the one act of hands, dishes, suds, and water is a ceremony of sensation. These earthly, everyday acts take on beauty when we become one with the act. Washing dishes, a vehicle, our pet, or ourselves can become a baptism or an act of ritual cleansng.
When we live this way of inner rest - not inactivity -, we live with a calm, contented enjoyment of life. We live in gratitude. We enjoy, first, life itself, not what might appear and mistakingly be called life. Life is always waiting to be enjoyed.
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I would think many persons seeking distraction from life, for life is not pleasing enough for them, would consider my beautiful life noneventful, boring, and something to spice up - or, for some literally drug up. But it is healthier than the ups and downs inevitable when trying to fly off the routine path into an emotional paradise.
How can we taste and savor life, if we are pushing it away for another life? This other life is not. We can only live in harmony with what is. What is not is an absence. What is is a presence.
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My life remains beautiful, for life is beautiful. My life is here to serve and love life and inspire others to serve and love life. I am grateful for my life and life, and I need no other. It is sacred, not for being exceptional, contemplative, religious, or spiritual in contrast to any way of living. Words, however, cannot capture what I feel of life.
I would like, when I leave the body, for someone to say, "He lived a beautiful life." This beauty is such a gift! I cannot name where this gift arose from. Yet, it is here, and I am here. I hope to live this beauty for many more years on Earth. Regardless, I sense it will continue after - how, I cannot say. Thank You, Life!
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.