I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Peg Meisen's reflection on noticing, appreciating, sharing and the value of silence.
My perception of what it means to be a monk in the world is really to be one who is noticing, appreciating, and sharing. Being a monk in the world involves movement, and growth toward greater freedom. It’s growing into the reality of God’s presence with us. It is like participating in an art expression, a dance or a musical piece. There’s always a new “dance step,” to learn as we go along. Hospitality and care are our companions and teachers along the way. Being a monk in the world is multidimensional and interactive. Silence seems to be the vehicle that transports me to greater growth on this journey. Through a contemplative practice and centering myself, my senses are enhanced. Somehow I become more merciful, more flexible, more actively involved in living and serving.
Silence may have different definitions, or facets. What is it? What isn’t it? Is it the absence of noise or more than that? Many times, I have sought silence, saying, “Oh, if only I had a minute to be still….” Yes, life can be busy and noisy. At times, on my quests to carve out a “little piece of peace,” I have arranged to visit the Cenacle Sisters for a day or for a retreat.
One time a sister recommended that I sit by the pond and just watch for a while. She described a beautiful blue heron that spends its time there. Occasionally it shows itself and takes a slow, graceful glide over the pond. She went on to say that if I were patient, I might be lucky and catch a glimpse. I followed the good sister’s lead and sat. Funny thing, I am often depicted by others as patient. Ha! I didn’t feel too patient that day but aimed to try. It seemed like a very noisy experience at first. Though the sky was its bluest, the sound of a plane could be heard as it streaked some white smoky message overhead. Jays and crows cawed and crowed. Ducks quacked. I have to admit that I laughed at it all but was really kind of discouraged. Eventually, after I had let go of the searching, my tension and concerns started to sit back too.
That’s when this beautiful sight appeared.
The noise I had been hearing as I sat there, the ordinary, common and daily noise of life must have continued but seemed to recede or fall away. I only remember silence. The heron had emerged, gliding with its huge, graceful wings over and across the pond. I don’t remember hearing a sound. Visually, nature had displayed her priceless gems and I was awe struck as the sun glistened on the water. It could have all happened in less than a minute, I can’t say. Time seemed to stop.
When life gets hectic, I go back to that time in memory, to rest, and to remember the importance of getting still and waiting for God.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)
Sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament has also been a healing experience, centering me and strengthening me, often without a way to describe it. I just know that I am different from having sat in the quiet presence of the Eucharist.
Nature is noisy for sure. Our lives are full of energy, sound, beautiful sound, and a give and take. In reality, we can decide to make some changes to make our outside lives quieter. It’s the interior silence, like that of the 17th century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence who lived with a devotion to being aware of the presence of God in ordinary life, that is the jewel. Enjoying and, or, appreciating, the ordinary task at hand, opens a way for a personal, creative touch. It dignifies serving and brings joy. Moments, the activities and even objects or tools we use become sacramental. Hearts are heard.
As a person, in the world, I pray to lighten up and be hospitable in letting God work through me, to carry a sanctuary within that allows me to listen to others and serve as a monk in the world, with honesty and humility. I believe that when we embrace what is meant by this verse:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,”(Ephesians 3:20, The New International Version)
We will be more aware of the diamonds dancing on the waters of our lives and trust more fully in the one who leads the dance.
Peg Meisen is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She enjoys working as a teacher and spiritual director. Peg and her husband have been longtime members of a couples spiritually group. Learning, painting, writing, sharing with family and friends, brings her joy. She is grateful for the Abbey community and looks forward to the newness of everyday’s adventure, the call to be a monk in the world.