Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Shift

"Simply living in a convent hasn't made me safe from my interior flood, or stopped me from obsessing on my own thoughts and feelings. But the practices mean I can lessen the length of time the afflictions last, weaken the impact they may have on my soul, and reduce the damage I may do to myself or others through acting on the impulses stirred up by the afflictions. I've become better at discerning their onset and on rare occasions have even been able to shift myself toward God--that place where all feelings, thoughts, and desires sit back and rest and there's no fuel for destructive or heightened emotions." (Mary Margaret Funk, OSB)

I've had a lot of spiritual food to work with the past few weeks. A lot.

When I was at NADI, a former prioress from the Beech Grove community, Mary Margaret Funk, presented on the eight thought afflictions that we humans wrestle with on the journey of seeking God. These afflictions (food, sex, things, anger, dejection, acedia, vainglory, and pride) were a common theme of early monastic writers like John Cassian, and from her studies of the monastic tradition, she has written her own books.

Funk writes about tools that seekers can use to replace afflictive thoughts such as the Jesus Prayer, St. Therese's Little Way, recollection, and others. These are the "practices" referred to in the opening quote, practices that help us along the journey. 

During our retreat last week our presenter, Bonnie Thurston, gave a lecture on a perspective held by some who view entering the monastery as "fleeing the world," a way of leaving reality and issues behind. As you can tell from the above quote, this is far from the truth. The thoughts keep a-flictin' and reality keeps a-comin'.

Through all I have been hearing, lots of self-awareness has arisen about my own "interior flood...thoughts and feelings," which is why I love this quote so much and why I share it with you. But, I share it mostly because of the last line: "to shift myself toward God--that place where all feelings, thoughts, and desires sit back and rest and there's no fuel for destructive or heightened emotions."

While the inner work isn't necessarily easy or fun, the "shift" is the gift, if you will. By entering the monastery, we have said that our greatest desire is to seek God, so we seek that shift, and in turn, seek to give ourselves to the world that we "flee."

Let us walk in the holy presence.