Zen Wisdom in the Desert



A little later today my spouse and I are off to Joshua Tree to meet up with some old friends and spend the weekend in the desert and environs.

While this is a holiday, I am also mindful of the spiritual power of the desert. It can swallow all our ideas of what is and pushes us to front life and death.

So, as the Christian mystic with some serious Zen leanings, Thomas Merton, translates from the Desert Fathers:

Some elders once came to Abbot Anthony, and there was with them also Abbot Joseph. Wishing to test them, Abbot Anthony brought the conversation around to the Holy Scriptures. And he began from the youngest to ask them the meaning of this or that text. Each one replied as best he could, but Abbot Anthony said to them: You have not got it yet. After them all he asked Abbot Joseph: What about you? What do you say this text means? Abbot Joseph replied: I know not! Then Abbot Anthony said: Truly Abbot Joseph alone has found the way, for he replies that he knows not.

Being present to the desert, the physical desert, the desert of our hearts takes us to that place of not knowing.

Not forgetting that holiday is a contraction of holy day, the invitation is always there. Each moment as we draw a breath. Each moment as we notice.

An invitation into the wide and spacious, an invitation into the great fire.

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