We Share One Life, We Are One Life
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Smaragd - Meditation, Angela Marie Henriette, Flickr
Entering the Inner Sanctuary
Enter this sanctuary time by settling down, becoming quiet, and breathing deeply a few breaths. Remind yourself you are in the Presence of Love. This place you are entering, within, is the inner Temple. Here, you are One with Spirit and all persons, and Nature. You may use a mantra, or prayer phrase, follow the breathing in-and-out, or witness the arising and falling of all around you as the manifestation of Creative Grace. Enjoy these moments of Quiet and come out when you are ready.
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The popular notion of "individuality" in Western history is the illusion of a separate person, or personality, who knows and values himself or herself largely through the affirmation of others given to that illusory, non-existent self. This idea of individual creates, regardless of how much affirmation, isolation amidst others, in which the act of apparent togetherness is a compulsive overlay of resistance to true solitude and, so, communion.
One gift of sanctuary alone, like being alone in a desert, is that there is no one there to reflect back to you anything, to validate you as an individual, to offer you pseudo-community. What is it like to be in a space without anyone or anything reflecting back to you any response of "like" or "dislike," when your personality has been largely constructed from such subjective reflection? There you are, naked of affirmation. This, in itself, may show us how dependent we are on the affirmation of others and assists in detaching more from such a need. This, also, is a reason persons may shun aloneness and bury themselves in busyness for the sake of busyness.
Solitude is an act of courage in a society and religious culture that does not encourage it, not even of its so-called spiritual leaders, but seeks to submerge the illusory separate-self in a tyranny of things to do, even good and so-called holy things to get done, and rewards such busyness with rewards fitting such busyness. A close look at this would show to us, if we were honest, how insane such is and how finally futile to the emergence of the self as a conscious being-in-connection, not an individual, and how detrimental to authentic community.
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The desert, as Henri J. M. Nouwen observes in The Way of the Heart, a treatment of desert spirituality and present-day ministry in Christianity, is a metaphor for solitude. Ironically, as I began reading Nouwen's book in the afternoon, that morning I had read the following from the Christian Scripture: "At that time the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert" (TEV). This is from St. Luke's Gospel 4.2, and immediately following are words of John going out as a prophet, throughout the territory around the Jordan River. And, here, “word of God” refers not to words, but, as usual in Hebrew thinking, a dynamically, creative extension of God.
Later, in early evening the same day, after meal, I left my dad's home to return to the barn where I live, The Hermitage of Peace. I said, "I'm going to the sanctuary." This "sanctuary" is the aged building, a tobacco barn renovated some 25 years ago into a rustic apartment. At times my father will ask me of my reasons for being at or going down to the barn: simply, my reply could always be, "There I go for sanctuary." Solitude is one of my vows, yet, more than a vow. For I need a sanctuary to go to, to be alone, to pull away and apart. Solitude is a way that I am being kind to myself, honoring myself, and honoring those I live among.
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Sanctuary we all need. We need a place to ourselves and God as we understand that. And desert is a superb image of sanctuary. You might like to reflect on desert as metaphor for solitude. What parallels do you see? Do you find yourself sensing any need for solitude, or more solitude? What might solitude teach you? In what way might solitude be counter-cultural? When are the best times for you to get alone? Is there a place inside or outside that you find a good place for sanctuary? Have you ever considered that a local church or other worship house might be open during the week, at least at set times, for persons to be alone Prayerfully?
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One concern could be, What am I to do in sanctuary time? There is nothing to do. You, by setting aside time and place for intentional aloneness, will arrive at how and what to do. I do a variety of things daily at the Hermitage. What I do is only what I do, and that has changed over time, and will. And, unlike some persons, I do not hold strictly to any one schedule or pattern of prayers and readings. I, usually, have an extended morning time and evening time. I often meditate and enjoy quiet when waiting to fall asleep. Experiment as you need and find a pattern that works for you, is my recommendation.
Another concern could be about the relationship between togetherness and apartness. We need balance. That balance will differ among persons and over time. Ideally, togetherness enhances apartness, while apartness enhances community. That means that community is healthier when persons engage in solitude, while being with others is essential to solitude. Indeed, togetherness and solitude are seen, in time, not to be opposites; rather, solitude becomes more an inner experience able to be taken into community and community becomes easily taken into solitude.
The more I am intimate with myself in solitude, the more intimate I am with others outside solitude, and vice versa. Yet, this intimacy is not an intimacy personalized, so not dependent on thoughts or feelings of closeness. I find that often true intimacy does not feel emotionally intimate, for such intimacy arises from Grace, not understood or sought to be received or given personally.
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We are each a lovely, pure Rose, in the Garden of Grace.
*White Rose, Pyogenes..., Flickr
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*You can contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep in mind, when reading from this site, that teachings cover an extended period of years and, therefore, reflect changes over that time.