A friend and I have been together on a journey to slow down; our bodies have been telling us they need less busy-ness. With our jobs as “chief purchasing officers” and “head chauffeurs” for our families, not to mention our positions as “chief cooks and bottle washers” we can be busy, busy, busy about many things — many necessary things. We are behaving like Martha in the Christian Scriptures, and our souls are really “Mary”, and know what are primary needs are, in our depths.
Our souls have been letting us know that we are not grounded as we want to be. Our conversations have turned to how we need not only to have a daily “quiet time” where we pay attention to God’s presence, in order to be grounded in our day, but also to incorporate rest into our day. I don’t mean by that, a nap, although sometimes that’s what’s needed. This “rest” is like a “rest” in musical notation. In music there’s sound, melody and rhythm and perhaps several parts, and then there’s a rest — where one voice goes still. It adds to the beauty of the music, and it allows what goes before to reverberate. It also allows the mind to get ready to absorb what comes next. It’s that “rest” that I find I need in my day.
Soon after a recent conversation I came across some reading that mentioned the “cell” of monastic life. “A monk’s room is called a cell. The word “cell” is not to imply a prison cell. The monk may enter and exit the cell at will. Rather, the monk’s cell is a place of refuge.” from A Journey into Lay Monasticism
I would add, that when I practice enough “going to my cell” i.e. my daily quiet time of prayer and meditation, and also staying home as needed and not filling my day with more busy-ness than is required, that the “cell” gradually becomes an interior space within me that I can go to at any time. Quiet time and prioritizing so that I am not too busy, is the practice that gives me an “interior watchfulness”. The exterior “cell” is the outward sign of the interior reality that I am desiring and practicing.
A pithy observation that makes this same point: “Just as fish die if they stay too long out of the water, so the monks who loiter outside their cell or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. So, like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside, we will lose our interior watchfulness.” St. Anthony (St. Anthony was one of the early Christian men who went to live in the desert in order to give themselves wholly to God)
And another piece of wisdom from the Desert Fathers: “A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked for a word. The old man said to him, “Go sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything”.
We might quibble about “everything”, but the point made is that it is with God and in silence with God that we find our grounding and our perspective that makes everything else fall into place.
HOW WILL YOUR SOUL FIND REST TODAY?