John Cassian, a saint in the Orthodox Christian tradition, was a late 14th, early 15th century ascetic monk. In his writings, he relayed a story of John the Evangelist, here paraphrased:
“St. John the Evangelist was one day sitting quietly with a partridge in his lap, gently petting the bird. A hunter came up to him, and in an accusatory way asked how St. John, a man of high standing and repute, could be found demeaning himself with such a base amusement.
St. John looked at the hunter and his bow and asked, “You are hunting. Why do you not have your bow strung and pulled?”
The hunter replied, “If I always had my bow pulled, its tension would tire my arm, then I would not have the strength and vigor to deal a forcible blow, when I come upon prey.”
St. John replied, “Just so. This brief relaxation of my mind similarly eliminates constant tension, so that when I am called upon by Spirit to do Its bidding, I can obey.”
A 40 day Journey holds the mind in tension—the tension of being and becoming. The ten-day reprieve between Journeys is like petting a partridge. At the end of a Journey, my mind deflates; it just lets out all of the tension in one deep exhale as I attend to “base amusements”, so to speak. I re-accustom myself to what my life feels like when it’s not on a Journey, when I am not in that mode of constant contemplation, heightened awareness, and always attuned to connections, alignments, and congruences (or inconsistencies).
For the first few days after this Journey I felt almost lost, unanchored, like I was drifting aimlessly. I didn’t know what to do with myself; my routine was not there to tether me. Life without the Journey felt disassembled, fragmented, and random. This was not unexpected, nor was it upsetting or inconvenient…it was just different. At times I have caught myself thinking, “Is this how people experience their lives [without a Journey to anchor them]—fragmented and random”? Of course, I will never really know the answer to that question.
By the end of a Journey, my mind can be pretty worn out. It takes a lot of energy to maintain a contemplative practice, especially while maintaining a semblance a “normal modern life”. Everyone’s point of tension is different; that is one of the reasons I encourage people to do what they can do, drop by drop. Everyone needs a rest from the mental-emotional-spiritual-physical work, and only each individual knows that point for him/herself. I honor your work. If you are here, reading this, I know you have commitment to your inner work, whether it is with me on these Journeys, or through your own practices.
I also honor your base amusements! The time spent in relaxing the tension gives force and vigor to the next movement!
It occurs to me that even this is part of the overall alignment. In a way, I am at a similar place as I was in May, when I began Journey of Abundance. This time of rest is a period of allowing the spiritual work to merge with the material experience.
When I am in the Journey, doing the work, I am consciously, intentionally moving my mind, becoming. At the end of the Journey, the effort has brought me to a new place of being. Doing the work is the tension; relaxing is allowing that new place of being to exist in my life naturally, easily, without the work…thus the necessary period of rest and re-alignment.
In each of these Journeys, there is an aligning process of a different aspect of the spiritual-material experience. If we accept that humans are “multi-faceted”, then this aligning process must occur with and for each of these facets…infinitely, until everything is aligned.
It feels daunting and exciting all at the same time. Step by step, drop by drop.
Each time I finish a Journey, regardless of how mentally tired I am, I am still greatly overwhelmed with gratitude for how far I’ve come. This time of reflection helps me to see it, appreciate it, to know this is a process, and the process changes me and my experience of life. So often, when I am in the Journey, I have a sort of tunnel vision: I interpret experiences through the Journey. Stepping back helps me to understand the whole thing, to watch my steps, to watch my own evolution.
How did I do on this Journey of Freedom? For the past several days, I have been assessing the Journey, and that has resulted in self-criticism. Without going back and actually reading the Journey with fresh eyes, I was thinking, “I really let myself down on this Journey. I did not live up to my expectations. I had a whole lot of days when I was not in the right mind-space, in the flow…” Then I went back and read: Why, oh, why do I psych myself out like that? The Journey was fine. In fact, I can see, and now feel, progress. All is as it should be. Now I feel good, optimistic, and ready to start the next Journey!
The next Journey should be fun (for real). It’s a Journey of Gratitude. The value and benefit of gratitude has been circulating in the mass mind for a few years now with the Gratitude Challenge, and gratitude memes on social media. Unlike the mass gratitude movement, the Journey of Gratitude is going to go broader and deeper than just gratitude (would you expect less?). It is going to pick up where a Journey of Freedom left off, and begin to explore the connections between gratitude and trust, gratitude and living harmoniously, gratitude and Divine individuality, gratitude and expansion, gratitude and praise…
When we live in that mental-emotional-spiritual space of Divine Love and trust, praise and gratitude are a natural extension of our Being, and of our experience in the material world. How can we not be grateful for Being and being in Divine Love? That is the experience I am going for—knowing the fullness of my Being so thoroughly I cannot help but to praise and thank all of Life for who I am. Would you like to join me?