I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Linda Lyzenga's reflection on the practice of hospitality in the face of illness.
I had no idea when I signed the Monk Manifesto here at Abbey of the Arts three years ago how a broadened, deepened practice of hospitality would free me from much struggle and anxiety.
Seven years prior, following St. Benedicts example, I had written my own rule of life when I began a course in spiritual formation followed by a spiritual direction practicum. There had been much unlearning to make room for new understandings and I was learning to hold all of life loosely so as to welcome ongoing conversion and transformation. Even then I committed to daily spiritual practices that invited silence and solitude, cultivated community, kinship with creation, and Sabbath rest.
For several years, then, my life was orderly and structured as I framed my quiet contemplative life with spiritual practices. Then early last year, as my health faltered and failed, I found myself in the tension of putting all these spiritual practices to the test and asking, what was the point?
The first shoe dropped and I found myself waiting. The other shoe dropped. Again and again – How many times did I consult with yet another doctor, asking, what now?
As each new complaint presented itself, the practice of gratitude helped keep things in perspective but I must admit that when pain and discomfort were off the chart – songs of lament – born out of loneliness and isolation found their way into my repertoire.
Here was a threshold that invited me to ponder the fact that others have gone before me and they could become companions on the journey of illness and dis-ease.
Now, after much recovery and restoration I’m left with one disorder that is, in the words of my neurologist, “notoriously difficult to treat.”
A treatment plan has been prescribed that holds hope for remission.
The initial prescription was for 2 grams of immune globulin extracted from serum. A gram is an exceedingly small amount. These two grams are diluted – instilled in a liter or so of Dextrose. So, what’s the big deal about these 2 grams? Imagine this – it takes over one thousand plasma donors to contribute to just one gram of the IVIg therapy that I am undergoing.
As I sat tethered to an IV pole for the first five hour treatment, a sense of overwhelming resistance washed over me as I considered the thousands of individuals who helped supply the medicine that was dripping into my veins. Who were these people that this collective infusion represented? I felt swamped and engulfed by all that energy. Nearly drowning in the liter of infused fluids over so many hours, I knew my focus needed to shift if I were to survive more of the same the next day – and in the months (and perhaps years that followed.)
The following day, I arrived at the infusion center with a courageous and hospitable heart and the intention of accepting the gift that these thousands of souls were bringing to me.
The clock ticked in tandem to the drips and for a time, I sat in deep contemplation and simply received the blessing of potentially healing energy made possible by these generous human beings. Rich or poor. Black or white. Gentile or Jew. None of that mattered. We were linked in a profound sacred union. I am not alone. My body as a container now houses the DNA of a multitude of unknown persons – each bearers of God’s image-each one a holy soul.
This experience has taught me much of hospitality – of radical acts of hospitality which welcome the stranger both without and within. And now, a year since the diagnosis with multiple treatments under my belt, there is hope borne of gratitude and the joy of being very much alive.
I now fully commit to being a dancing monk, in the holy disorder that is this online community called Abbey of the Arts – cultivating creative joy and letting my body and heart overflow with inexpressible delights of love.
As I go deeper on the contemplative journey, hospitality abounds as I surrender into Mystery. In him I live and move and have my being.
May it be so for you.
Linda Lyzenga hails from Michigan in the USA. Now that her husband is retired she loves to travel – especially to see her California kids and grand babies. She is a spiritual director, mentor, and occasional blogger. You can find some of her writing at her blog, or on Facebook.