Walking the Talk: A Small Reflection on the Spiritual Life

Walking the Talk: A Small Reflection on the Spiritual Life August 11, 2020


Once, the poet Mary Oliver was invited by some friends to visit Walden pond.

Instead, she wrote a poem.

“It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by night fall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.
Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!

Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe. But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing.
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.”

So many echoes here.

I think of that saying from the Desert Fathers of the ancient Christian tradition of the hermit who said the holy book told him to sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor, so he sold his Bible and gave away the money.

And I think that tale of an ancient Korean worthy who heard of the Zen way in far off China and proceeded on his journey. One night burning with thirst, groping around in the dark he found a bowl with cool water that quenched his need. Relieved, he fell asleep on the spot. In the morning he discovered he was on the wreck of a battlefield, and the bowl of rainwater was a human skull only partially picked clean by birds. After vomiting, we should remember that part of the story, as well, he realized how much his mind created the choice between good and ill. And thanking the Zen masters of faraway China for the pointers he now understood as his own transformation, he turned back and returned home.

With, as they say, bliss bestowing hands.


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