Monday, July 4, 2016

Running, Connection, and Timely Silence

Running connects me. It connects me to the earth. It connects me to the sky. It connects me to my breath, my body, my soul.

It makes me stop thinking, and start thinking. It makes me take stock, and let go.

Running lets me see the world and find myself. It is prayer, meditation, and inspiration. By the end of a run, even a not so great one, I am transformed.

Running is a way to be, a way to be outside, and a way to be quiet. It cultivates silence, even if I am listening to music or saying hello to folks I encounter. It is funny how it is easier for me to be silent, to empty my head and listen when I run, than it is sitting still.

Lately I've been hanging in the desert, in the wilderness, with the Desert Fathers. Fascinating folks, Christian hermits that lived in the third century, and decided they needed to get out of Dodge, cultivate their solitude and silence, so that they could shine their light to the world and beyond. They have drawn me for a while and I finally picked up Thomas Merton's "Wisdom of the Desert," and as I am reading Henri Nouwen, his second book in the collected tome is "The Way of the Heart: the Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers." Sneaky hermits are ganging up on me.

Nouwen looks at the desert folk and points out the need for solitude in order for transformation--"solitude is the furnace of transformation"--to take place. He also points out that, "compassion is the fruit of solitude," and I can see that, I tend to be able to be around people, and look forward to it more, when I have had quiet/down time.

We live in a society that doesn't dig silence. It doesn't seem to value it. Nouwen points out how the constant stream of words that comes at us, takes away the value and meaning of any of the words themselves. You need silence to hear anything words might say.

Silence is the home of the word... The word is the instrument of the present and silence is the mystery of the future. In the sayings of the Desert Fathers, we can distinguish three aspects of silence... First, silence makes us pilgrims. Secondly, silence guards the fire within. Thirdly, silence teaches us to speak. - Henri Nouwen

We've talked about pilgrims and pilgrimages here before, and we'll come back to that. Part of what prompted these words this morning is the notion of silence guarding the fire within. That is a fire I have been coming to know and feel more and more of late. Running is part of what stokes mine.

Nouwen quotes Diadochus of Photiki, who says:

When the door of the steambath is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; likewise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech, even though everything it says may be good... Ideas of value always shun verbosity... Timely silence, then, is precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest thoughts.

Timely silence. That's it. That is something that I find when I run. That is something I find outside, with the sunrise or sunset. And that is my part, make the time, find the time, whether to run, or be silent outside somewhere. To guard the fire within. Because when I do, I find a hand that isn't mine, comes along and stokes the inner fire.

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