Day 19 – Read Thomas Merton

“I shall discover who I am and shall possess my true identity by losing myself in Him.”

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

This is my first Thomas Merton book. Richard Rohr said New Seeds is the finest treatment of the false self and the true self. So I decided it was time to dig deep, into a master writer and into myself.

This afternoon I slipped out of my office building, with just the book, a journal, and an apple in my bag. I walked a few blocks in breezy, splendid sunshine to Bartholdi Park, an overlooked garden near the Capitol. Tables with umbrellas dot the park, around the central fountain. I slunk into an empty chair, pulled it into the sun, and began to read. Two pages in, I was arrested by the quote above.

Lose yourself in order to find yourself. But really lose something. Let yourself be emptied out. Let die the false self you keep trading for what is actually love.

Now this is not something you do, or decide to do. This is not about will. It is about actually losing yourself in something — someone — who is other, wholly Other.

This city is about ambition and putting your best foot forward. But all of it is rubbish, compared to knowing the Other. And that’s the only way to know myself. I no longer live, but the Other lives in me. My life is hidden with him, secreted away in God. Whoever would lose their life for my sake, Jesus said, will find it, and keep it.

So I wondered…

  • What must I empty in order to be filled?
  • What must I lose in order to be found?
  • What will it cost me to be more fully claimed by love?

I do not know the answers to the questions. There is no program or technique to apply. There is only an invitation to communion.

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Day 6 – Ride Metro Un-competitively

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Have you ever noticed how competitive people get when riding the Metro? Recently, I have noticed this tendency in myself.

During a morning commute I was 3 feet from the door, the first in line to exit at the next stop. As the train pulled into the station, a young man squeezed in front of me, right up against the glass, so he could leave first. His backpack was literally poking into my stomach. This was an unholy act, and I decided he must be punished. So after we got off the train, I sped walked ahead, careened back in front of him just as we entered a narrow, one-way path forward, and then I slowed to a painstakingly…deliberate…pace. I could feel his frustration on the back of my neck, and my smug sense of triumph swelling in my chest.

What did I really win though? I think I’ve actually been losing by playing this zer0-sum game. Acting as if it’s either them or me, causes more stress and distances me from others by turning them into an obstacle course.

Today, I tried something different.

I refused to rush up and down the escalators. I let people pass me, including a rude woman who was playing the jostling game. I did not crowd around the door in order to get off first. I deliberately took the last car of the train, even though I knew the first car is closer to the exit at my home station. Meaning, when I got to Columbia Heights, I wound up at the very back of a very long line to get out of the turn stall. (Spoiler alert: I waited less than 3 minutes.)

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I have no illusions that I’m converted or have obtained an inner peace. But I am convinced that how I interact with others on public transportation is a sign of (and impacts!) my sense of well being. And if I stop acting as if the game matters, then who cares about that a-hole with the backpack.

Small, deliberate, daily actions that reflect and shape my inner well being. Relating to people as their best self, as my best self. That’s my way of being a spiritual person in the city. Or just a decent human being on the Metro. 

10152385_10152438274791000_2092731162634142269_n  P.S. Does this mean these Silver line stops are now open? Wonders never cease.