Monday, March 16, 2009

Beyond Speech

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

For the past four days I was at the Lutheran Volunteer Corps Mid-Year Retreat. It was wonderfully refreshing and gave the 19 LVCers in WA a good chance to relax in community with one another. On Sunday I had the chance to take part in my first ever silent retreat. From 10:30 until 4:45 there would be no talking amongst the group. We were encouraged to find a place and meditate or simply sit. I used this opportunity to sit with a tree as I wrote about in my last blog. After spending the morning journaling in my room and then napping a little (napping is silent, right?!), I set out on a hike to find a tree...or more appropriate, allow a tree to find me.
The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech...Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear friends, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not...
~Thomas Merton
I passed by the cabins at the retreat center, found my way to the muddy hiking path, and started out. The trail took me to a part of the forest marked "Fern Gully". If there was ever a place to sit with a tree, this had to be it. A few paces into Fern Gully I found myself in front of an enormous old pine tree that had a perfect little stump in front of it for me to sit on. My tree had found me. I then realized I had overlooked something when imagining this act of love towards all creation....I would be sitting in solidarity with only a tiny portion of the whole organism! Taking up my position at the base of the trunk, I was amazed to see so much moss growing on the bark. Dark green, light green, gray, brown, so many colors. I moved my face in real close so I could see into every nook and cranny. After some more observation I closed my eyes and just sat with the tree. I imagined I was invisible. After a time of silence I was struck by how peaceful it was in the woods....and that the tree experienced that peace all the time. The more I thought about it the more convinced I was that peace is really all a tree could ever want. Anything beyond is unnecessary. Simple peace. This tree I was sitting with was doing only job it ever could: live. It did this peacefully with all the other organisms surrounding it. What would it look like if I simply lived? Gave up my worries, my wants, my inner chaos and just did what came peacefully and naturally to my soul. How would such a life look? I took off my glove and stood with my hand on the tree (Vulcan mind-meld style, for those who know the method) and meditated on the word "peace" with the tree. After a few minutes I stepped away and quietly headed back towards camp. I know my "act of love" for this week wasn't earth shattering or epic, but it was a way to connect with the greater circle of life that often gets overlooked as I bustle about my day. It centered me in Creation and I hope the tree in Fern Gully is feeling a little more peaceful as a result.

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