I am delighted to share this beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series by Lisa Bozarth Ozaeta. Lisa is joining Abbey of the Arts as our new seminary intern for the next two years. She is in training for ordination in the Episcopal church and we are delighted to have her enthusiasm and gifts in service to this community. She will be involved in several of our programs. Here she shares a bit of her own practice of silence:
One of my rituals is to plant myself on my back deck early in the morning. I take a cup of coffee, my journal, my phone, and a blanket. I sit on our metal outdoor sofa with ill-fitting cushions. It is both a little uncomfortable and perfectly familiar. My time is spent reading a verse, hearing a song, scratching in my journal, and sitting. The point is to sit in silence and stillness. Most of the time, I just stare into the forest. Being in the midst of the woods means that my silence and stillness are not very quiet. There are the sounds of the neighbor’s goats and the rooster down the road. Birds sing, the winds blow, and cars rumble down the old logging road at the bottom of our hill. It is very noisy silence. There was a time that I would put noise cancelling earphones on to cancel out all of the sound. I was seeking the serenity of separation from the world. My hope was to create a quiet place that was mine alone. I do still like to enter this kind of solitude from time to time, but my morning time is now about being silent and still amongst the noisy outdoors where I live.
As I have continued to journey into the life of a monk in the world, I have embraced the sounds of the trees, the animals, and my neighbors. I am the crazy lady that talks to the birds, squirrels, and trees. Mostly, I say thank you. Many days, I ask the trees what they have seen over the hundreds of years they have stood in what is now my backyard.
My daughter once asked me if the trees talk back. I assured her that they do. They speak to me about holding my place when things get tumultuous. They remind me to point to the light so that I can continue to grow. They show me how to be a shelter for those in need and to provide food for the hungry. They also remind me that they were here before me and will be here when I am gone. When I cancelled all the noise around me, I could only hear my own thoughts. By allowing myself to open my ears, I hear the wisdom of the trees and creatures that live in my temporary home. It is only be letting the noise of the world in that I can actually find the true grounding of silence.
I take this grounding back into the world of four children and covid schooling and new warning lights blinking in my car. When the sounds around me are the echoes of frustrated voices instead of the goat’s bleat, I am rooted. Even when my first reaction is not the reaction that I want, I am called back to the voice of the tree saying, “Find your strength. Find your silence in the noise.” I am at a place in my journey that I want to move from practicing rituals to embodying stillness. I want to move from doing to being. I am not there. I do not always respond with listening. I talk too fast and too often. I think and plan more than I listen and hear. But, my practice of staring into the forest is transforming me. I believe that the more I listen to what God has to teach me through creation, the more I will find my place as a monk in the world.
Lisa Bozarth Ozaeta lives outside of Seattle with her wife and four kids. She is serving as the Abbey’s seminary intern over the next two years. Lisa teaches in the Healthcare Master of Administration program at the University of Southern California and is a seminary student at Bexley Seabury Seminary.