A week or so ago, I spoke of our need to “demystify mysticism”—taking time to claim and embrace contemplation as an ordinary gift, available to each and all of us. (cf, Keeping Your Ear to the Ground [of Your Being])
While available to all (and an inevitable part of the spiritual journey), though, it’s not that easy. What Chesterton said about Christianity, also applies to the contemplation (at the heart of mysticism): “it has not been tried and found lacking as much as it has been found difficult and hardly tried.”
It demands, for example, that we “wake up,” as Anthony de Mello put it – acknowledging that we’ve been “sleep walking” in life. Here, a quote and a story from de Mello are helpful beginnings:
Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. (Awareness, p. 5)
A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
Years passed, and the eagle grew very old
One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.”
So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was. (Song of the Bird, p. 96)
“Repent,” Jesus said, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17) Among other things, it was and is an invitation for each and all of us to wake up… and claim our true identity!