I recently listened to a wonderful talk given by Jean Vanier (founder of L’Arche Communities) on “Entering into Silent Prayer” – when asking this young woman how she prayed, she replied: “I wait!” Jean Vanier goes on to say: “The whole of scripture is ‘to wait’ ending with the “Spirit and the Bride saying ‘Come, come’”.
We’re living in a world where there is so much pain, so much injustice, with rivers of humanity crossing Europe to see ‘home’- the cry of humanity calling – “Come Lord Jesus Come”.
The Song of songs is full of ‘waiting’ for the Beloved. Silent Prayer – once one has managed to surrender to its depth, is like a well-fed child, resting on his/her mother’s heart – silent but safe in the loving arms of God.
Jean Vanier goes on to speak about different translations for the Greek word ‘menó’ meaning: “to dwell,” “to stay” or “to rest” in my love. Each translation describing three elements of prayerfulness – prayer as ‘staying’; prayer as resting; prayer as ‘making your home’ in my love. Fundamentally each one meaning ‘being in presence’ or ‘communion’ – our cry for love which we feel very deeply here in our innermost beings.
While Christmas Shopping on Amazon, I happened upon a wonderful book by Parker Palmer (a Methodist/Quaker) called “A Hidden Wholeness – The Journey Toward an Undivided Life”. Dare I say, “A God send”!! I promptly bought it and during the holidays poured over its pages with pen in hand to ensure poignant sentences were highlighted for future use and reference – like now for example.
The premise of the book is recounting the use of meditation where one ‘waits’ for the ‘inner-teacher’ as the Quakers call the Soul, but within a community context called “Circles of Trust”. These “Circles of Trust” are best described by Parker himself:
“A Circle of Trust is a group of people who know how to sit quietly ‘in the woods’ with each other and wait for the shy soul to show up. The relationships in such a group are not pushy but patient, they are not confrontational but compassionate; they are filled not with expectations and demands but with abiding faith in the reality of the inner teacher in each person’ capacity to learn from it. The poet Rumi captures the essence of his way of being together: “A circle of lovely, quiet people/ becomes the ring on my finger”.
Adopting a method from Quakers with respect to supporting one to listen to one’s inner teacher, the facilitator of one of these “Circles of Trust” uses scripture\poetry as tools to inform the type of open-ended questions to guide members in their meditative reflection. As with the Quakers’ method, the facilitator nor circle members are allowed to FIX, or PUT someone STRAIGHT – they are solely there to support and to ask open-ended questions. As Parker says: “When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honoured.”
Between the words of Jean Vanier and Parker Palmer, I have had an ‘aha’ moment with regard to the words of Jesus when he said: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”. In the context of this blog, and as outlined in Parker’s book, this fullness happens by allowing the soul the space to “wait” and to be kept rooted in the ground of one’s own being and not getting lost in one’s ego or intellect. Rather by meditating as a community, we honour our need for relationships as this is where we find life. However, if we are to grow, the soul wants to tell us the truth about ourselves, our world and the relationship between the two – paraphrasing Parker. While the ‘Truth’ may be heard to bear at times, it will always remind one gently, that s/he is the ‘beloved’ with the “Circle of Trust” holding that meditative space, silently, patiently, lovingly, while s/he encounters their personal Truth.
I have to say that I have literally being ‘soothed’ by the gentle words of Jean Vanier and those of Parker Palmer and encouraged to keep up my practice of ‘waiting’, listening and being lovingly challenged towards transformation. Alas difficult for one so stubborn and resistant to change but ‘hey’ open tentatively to ‘wait’.
This book is definitely worth a read and I have no problem sharing ‘the joy’ with you – well once I finished it and have watched the enclosed video! Do look up Jean Vanier’s talk on YouTube – words of great wisdom.