And you wait, you wait for that one thing
that will infinitely enlarge your life;
the gigantic, the stupendous,
the awakening of stones,
depths turned round toward you.
The volumes bound in rust and gold
flicker dimly on the shelves;
and you think of lands traveled across,
of paintings, of the clothes of
women found and lost.
And then suddenly you know: it was then.
You rise, and before you
stands the fear and prayer and shape
of a vanished year.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, “Memory” translated by Edward Snow
Dear soul friends and kindred spirits,
I am grateful to one of our Abbey monks for sending me the above poem. Poetry is such nourishment for threshold spaces, because poetry speaks across gaps and opens up new connections, possibilities.
What is “that one thing that will infinitely enlarge your life?”
My sense is that, like Rilke, you know it. Those missed moments and opportunities. The season when possibility opened up for you to step into something brilliant, bold, terrifying. But you hesitated. You held back. When you casually mentioned it to friends or family, they laughed it off, and so the dream shrank back again. And the year vanished, the moment passed.
The beauty is that I don’t believe we get only one opportunity to step into something bigger.
The God I believe in is continuously luring us toward the spaciousness and freedom that is our birthright.
This moment is always another possibility. The prophet Isaiah tells us: “Now I am revealing new things to you, things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment. Of these things you have heard nothing until now. So that you cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this.” (48:6-7 from the Jerusalem translation).
Regrets only serve to make us smaller, to curl us in on ourselves, while wishing wistfully for what could have been. The monk in the world remembers that there is always opportunity to begin again, to re-discover God in new ways,
Sometimes as we wait for that one thing, we get distracted. We discover all kinds of things that bring us enrichment and joy. But they aren’t the “one thing” that our souls keep clamoring for.
I was perfectly happy in Seattle in our comfortable home, living a very satisfying life there.
And yet. There has been this quiet call growing louder. A sense that I am being drawn on this pilgrimage of living abroad and I do not know exactly why, except that I am certain it will infinitely enlarge my life.
As I walk the streets of Vienna, I sense a connection to something ancient, ancestral, powerful, and wise. Something which will break me open in ways I cannot know now. This is a thrilling and sometimes terrifying experience. My mind so desperately wants to control things, my heart is ready for however the path unfolds. So many of us experience this tension between mind and heart, between thinking and knowing.
The contemplative tradition and way of the monk has so much to teach us about living in this tenson, about thresholds. I am so grateful to have my monk practices to help me stay with my experience, whatever it brings.
Are you feeling ready to take that step across the threshold?
Does it scare the living daylights out of you (as well it should!)?
Do you want fellow pilgrims and kindred spirits to walk with through the unknowing?
Please join us . . .
. . . as the Abbey offers a brand new program, Women on the Threshold (now with more options for participation), created collaboratively by four gifted women who know something about reaching for that one thing, who can offer stories and guidance for your own path, companions on the journey into the unknown.
Or follow the monk and artist path. . .
by registering for Way of the Monk, Path of the Artist and work through Christine’s book The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom with kindred contemplative and creative souls.