How mysterious that the Lent in which I did not attend church or immerse myself in Christian reading, ritual, or prayer was my most powerful one ever. I didn't read about Jesus, or even think about him much, but I have been going through a death/rebirth process that I think is what he was trying to teach about in the first place. Actually, it's not so much an ongoing "process" as it is a momentary, repeating occurrence: I find myself upset about something, and instead of trying to fight myself, I surrender, let the feeling die, and am reborn back into myself. It may happen many times a day.
I didn't know what I would do on Easter, and I deliberately made no plans. Since I had already been experiencing these rebirth-moments, Easter didn't strike me as terribly significant. When I arose Easter morning, I considered going to church, but found myself uninspired to do so.
I felt a certain sense of loss, of regret, that I was missing out. It was just a little nagging thing in the background of my attention, but it was enough to keep me feeling slightly off-center. I was sitting in my backyard feeling this offness when the church bells at San Francisco de Asis began to ring out. At first, hearing them intensified that uneasy feeling, but then the bells became church for me. They only rang for a minute or so, but as I surrendered my full attention to them, to enjoying them, I entered into those moments fully, and the Easter bells put me in the resurrection mood, brought me back to myself. Out of the tomb and into the day.
And I thought, as I often have, of a quote that Barbara at barefoot toward the Light posted a while back:
Just as the gong in a center for meditation reminds us from time to time to return to ourselves in the here and now, we all may become "bells of attentiveness." ~Dorothee Soelle in The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance.I love this analogy, the poetic beauty of it and the immediate effect it has on me. Just by thinking bell of attentiveness, just by entertaining the image in my imagination, it becomes my experience, now. It's a little icon.
This rumination also led me to remember other "being a bell" quotes from two of my favorite writers:
“The day's blow rang out, metallic -- or it was I, a bell awakened, and what I heard was my whole self saying and singing what it knew: I can” ~Denise Levertov
"I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck." ~Annie DillardThe thing that occurs to me is that in the sound that rings out, bell and what strikes it are one. Which leads me to another quote I discovered recently:
Take time to stop and smell the flowers," says an old homily. Albert Hoffman, the Swiss scientist who discovered LSD and lived to age 102, had a different approach. "Take the time to stop and be the flowers," he said.Easter afternoon, I walked over to the church, something I've not done much recently. It was sunny, warm, and breezy, and no one was around. I lay on a wooden bench in the courtyard for quite a while, gazing up through the branches of a pine tree.
That's my advice to you. Don't just set aside a few stolen moments to sniff the snapdragons, taste the rain, chase the wind, watch the hummingbirds, and listen to a friend. Use your imagination to actually be the snapdragons and rain and wind and hummingbirds and friend. Don't just behold the Other; become the Other. ~Rob Brezsny, Freewill Astrology
On my way back home through the grove, I noticed a lovely little patch of green green grass, something we don't have a lot of here in dry New Mexico, especially in early spring. I sat down in its softness, letting the play of light and tree branch shadows dance over me. I became very still, and watched two large crows fly back and forth among the trees, until they both came to perch in the one nearest me. Out of intense stillness and silence, their occasional lazy caws resonated through me, and the three of us just rested together. As I gazed at one of them, he or she looked back at me with tilted head. I felt an unmistakable connection, a message, the warm thrill of a caress. To be noticed by such a glorious creature! I was lifted and struck.
I may have missed church, but I didn't miss communion.