To Journey Down the Deep and Rich Paths
Updated: Jun 27
A few years ago I returned from 12 weeks of Basic Officer’s Military Training (BMOQ). What an experience! Words like, “The Mega”, “Stand two, stand two”, “Oh, we’ll have fun in Farnham”, “Sentry, keep right” sound familiar to the initiated. For some life experiences there are no adequate words. And that might be the point. Platoons get forged together in the crucible of stress and common experiences such as early morning PT, staying up all hours sewing on countless labels on every last sock and kit item, getting yelled at to do drill just right, rushing to get a laundry machine before they are all taken, daily scaling countless flights of stairs with FFO, swapping IMP rations while on field exercises, frantically trying to accomplish tasks in order not to bust timings, and bonding with your Fire Team partner when moments are tough are some examples that come to mind. But, whether you have experienced Basic Training or not, we all have experienced stress and frantic busyness in our lives.
Stress can be good. It can motivate us. But, if you’re anything like me, I don’t like unneeded stress. My idea of peace includes sitting in an Adirondack chair by a calm lake, soaking in the warm rays with a favorite beverage in hand. Actually, come to think of it, entering into deep solitude and silence, I mean the type that goes beyond “sun tanning on a tropical beach” and embarks on the ancient paths of spiritual practices can be hard to do. Coming to terms with our own inner voices, facing up to our inner demons, taking an honest and authentic look at ourselves, and listening for the divine can be a challenging and potentially discomforting experience. However, I think that in our busy modern day, what we often search for, the answers that we crave, can only be found when we set out walking down this ancient and well-worn road.
So I invite you to slow down, sit back in your chair, grab your favorite beverage of choice and enter into this story. It goes something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a woman who set out to discover the meaning of life. First she read everything she could get her hands on--history, philosophy, psychology, religion. While she became a very smart person, nothing she read gave her the answer she was looking for. She found other smart people and asked them about the meaning of life, but while their discussions were long and lively, no two of them agreed on the same thing and still she had no answer. Finally she put all her belongings in storage and set off in search of the meaning of life. Everywhere she went, people told her they did not know the meaning of life, but they had heard of a man who did, who lived deep in the Himalayas, a tiny little hut perched on the side of a mountain just below the tree line. She climbed and climbed to reach his front door. When she finally got there, with knuckles so cold they hardly worked, she knocked. “Yes?” said the kind-looking man who opened it. Ecstatic, she blurted, “I have come halfway around the world to ask you one question,” she said, gasping for breath. “What is the meaning of life?” “Please come in and have some tea,” the man said. “No thank you,” she said. “I didn’t come all this way for tea. I came for an answer. Won’t you tell me, please, what is the meaning of life?” “We shall have tea,” the man said, so she gave up and came inside. While he was brewing the tea she caught her breath and began telling him about all the books she had read, all the people she had met, all the places she had been. The man listened and as she talked, he placed a fragile tea cup in her hand. Then he began to pour the tea. She was so busy talking that she did not notice when the tea cup was full, so the man just kept pouring until the tea ran over the sides of the cup and spilled to the floor in a steaming waterfall. “What are you doing?” she yelled when the tea burned her hand. “It’s full, can’t you see that? Stop! There’s no more room!” “Just so,” the man said to her. “You come here wanting something from me, but what am I to do? There is no more room in your cup. Come back when it is empty and then we will talk.*
May we be poured out and thus increasingly opened to be encountered by the divine. May we take stock of our busyness and create space for listening to our most pressing deep questions.
May we take time in our busy life to journey down the deep and rich paths. And I am confident that in so doing, we will find and even be found.
*Story excerpted from Brown-Taylor, Barbara. “Re-orienting”, Sermon from James York. June 3, 2012