Kinship with nature

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) (Photo credit: DUCKMARX)

“How necessary it is for monks to work in the fields, in the rain, in the sun, in the mud, in the clay, in the wind: these are our spiritual directors and our novice-masters. They form our contemplation. they instill us with virtue. They make us as stable as the land we live in”

                                                                                         —Thomas Merton

The season of Fall offers many reflections for the monk and artist. Nature is one source of revelation.  Helen Waddell‘s Beasts and Saints is filled with stories of saints from the Western monastic tradition. who had encounters with animals. Once a day I have occasion to see deer in the yard. Or a walk in the words lets me know that a coyote is nearby. Today there were several wooly bears and also orange butterflies.

In one of his letters Thomas Merton describes the ideal monastic life: “The monk here and now is supposed to be living the life of the new creation in which right relation to all the rest of God’s creatures is fully restored.” The poet Kenneth Jackson wrote of the hermits: “The woodland birds might sing to him around his cell, but through it all, rarely expressed, always implicit, is the understanding that the bird and hermit are joining together in an act of worship; to him the very existence of nature was a sort of praise in which he himself took part by entering into harmony with nature” (Studies in Early Celtic Nature Poetry).

When on a walk I try to be present to the animals and the trees they are my abbas and ammas. I practice listening. This is a source from which all loving is possible. Each step is in gratitude to the Divine artist.


silent night

silent night (Photo credit: balanced.crafts)

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“There is only one thing you should do.

Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple  “I must,” then build your life in accordance  with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sigh and witness to this impulse.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Letters To A Young Poet

On the Open Road

Narrow winding road leads through extremely di...

Narrow winding road leads through extremely diverse terrain in Nepal. This road leads north from Kathmandu towards Tibet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, you just gotta bust outta there, and hit the open road.  This has always been the hermits quest.  From the deserts of ancient Egypt to the woods dwellers of today, the yearning is the same.  Who has these desires?  The monastic seeker.

Of course, Thomas Merton is the classic example.  He has brought into our awareness that the 20th century monk is still a man of the road.  From the coasts of California to the mountains of Nepal, Merton travelled the world in search of deeper consciousness of the presence of God.  But in a real way, his journey was an inward one.  The gift of centering prayer, which he learned from his fellow monks at Gethsemani Abbey, when he was professed, gave him the tools to head outward into the wild.

Perhaps, we can take some inspiration for our 21st century longings today.  We, too, hit the open road in search of spiritual treasures.  What will we find?  Only the adventure itself can give us a clue.  And that is just around the next bend.  So, let’s get on our road shoes and head out.

More Merton Mentoring

English: Library at Merton College, Oxford, UK

English: Library at Merton College, Oxford, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves ant the same time.”

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

“Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future, rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.”

“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”

“We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.”


Thomas Merton Quoted

Thomas Merton hermitage interior2 (Abbey of Ge...

Thomas Merton hermitage interior2 (Abbey of Gethsemani) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone. We find it with another.”


“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love therefore, is its own reward.”


“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.”

Hermitage Script

Thomas Merton's hermitage (interior) at the Ab...

Thomas Merton’s hermitage (interior) at the Abbey of Gethsemani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is the feast of St. Luke, festive red stoles but joyless. I am OK not to feel joy, the whole experience is calm and peaceful however sometimes when the bells wake me from sleep i am annoyed. i just need not to do. No expectation of myself or of God.

The walks on the windy hills, the whisper in the pines, the beauty and inspiration, this place inspires me even though my stamina for long walks is noticeably less

Trying not to act like a tourist with the store full of books, bus loads visiting and the diningroom filled with new faces at each meal.

Still not content with not being able  to see Merton’s hermitage

As I let the chanting of the psalms roll over me no clear words   penetrate me. I must just allow this and not be aggressive with the Spirit.