the element of monk in all of us

My head is so swirly-whirly with last-minute things to do before our baby comes that I'm having to really discipline myself to slow down, to be really present with Amelia in our last days alone together. I attended a Centering Prayer mini-retreat on Saturday, thinking it would cure this tightly-wound feeling inside me, but apparently that was an unrealistic expectation. At the very least it reminded me that I have the choice in any given moment to stop, let everything drop (mental planning and all) and just be.

Needless to say, any original profundities feels beyond me at the moment, but I thought I would share a few thoughts from Saturday's notes that have given me something to chew on. Interspersed between Centering Prayer sessions were a couple presentations from the retreat's keynote speaker, Abbot Joseph Boyle from Snowmass Monastery. Here are some of his closing thoughts:

The monastery is a symbol of the archetype monk within each person. It activates, reminds, encourages that element of monk in all people. Archetypes generally have a positive element as well as a shadow side. On the positive side would be the singularity of focus on union with God through silence, solitude, simplicity, prayer and service. The shadow side would be a withdrawal from life that is not engaged, that says, "This is my response. I'm leaving."

The Centering Prayer method is an attempt by Father Thomas, Father Basil and Father William to put the inner quiet of the monastic experience into a method that makes it accessible to people leading a more active life.

When Henri Nouwen was visiting Snowmass, he shared that he was searching for a new paradigm for the Christian life that would communicate with clarity in this generation. He said that he believed hospitality is the essence of being a Christian. Then he distinguished between the following latin words:

hospis: the root of hospitality, welcoming

and just one letter different is

hostis: the root of hostility, enemy

Nouwen said that our world is caught in fear because the presence of hostis is so strong. That gives us a crying need for hospis, for welcome and the experience of being at home. But, if we are going to be a presence of hospis, we have to be at home with ourselves, and a major effect of Centering Prayer is to make us at home with ourselves. Only then will we have access to being a welcoming type of presence for other people, for the world around us.