The Brief Rule of Saint Romuald

I recently came across the Brief Rule of Saint Romuald, an 11th-century European Christian monastic reformer. Now, I’m quite sure I read this Rule, which is only a few paragraphs long, many years ago in seminary and gave it no consideration, but returning to it today I found it quite interesting, unusual, and potentially useful.

Since moving to New York City from Rome in 2005, I’ve had the good fortune of finding a Buddhist sagnha (spiritual community) to study and practice meditation in, and the sangha members are truly good friends, almost like family at times. Yet lately, I find myself impelled by my own interior promptings to return to the spiritual roots that nourished my youth and inspired the first flourishing of my humanity. This return is not without difficulties, but that’s topic for another day.

I was struck and amazed at this little passage from Romuald’s rule:

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

I’ve never come across anything that so clearly, succinctly, and helpfully places the commonalities of Buddhist spirituality and the Christian mysticism into such a useful and (rather) easily intelligible Christian context.

Perhaps there are many more useful discoveries to be made in other spiritual traditions, also.

~BT Waldbillig
December 12, 2016

Two Paths as One

In the moment of trial
Two paths will be as one

While we are tempted to regard the lives of warriors, mercenaries, assassins, mariners, soldiers, prisoners, slaves, and madmen as less important than the lives of those regarded as great or noble or holy by this world, we do well to recall that the great, the noble, and the holy are few, self-concerned, passing, and keen that others might perceive their value. Let us not disturb them, Friends, and let us not imitate them. Ours is not reward, recompense, or achievement so easily earned or so lightly regarded.

Brother will be as Father
And Father as Friend

What began as a family of blood has become a family of spirit. From time immemorial, some small number of our kind have dedicated themselves to an impossible task and in so doing become family to one another. They have often remained, to outward appearance, that which they were before: beggar, farmer, courtesan, merchant, slave, monk, spouse, teacher, thief, and so on; from many peoples and nations; some following this god or that, others following none at all; at times warring with one another, at times living in peace. Yet all consecrated to a single purpose.

The way forward
Is the path of return

A family of blood alone or name alone or appearance alone might easily perish from existence, by chance or by design. But a family of spirit endures. So long as there is life in this place we inhabit and call the world, a family of spirit can endure. But more wondrously, a family of spirit has the power to endure beyond what we understand as the world, beyond what we know as life. For us, our experience of life is as a twig or reed, whether short or long, but for some life is as water or wind or light, flowing and never ending, limitless and without boundaries — or so it seems from our vantage. Yet they are family to us and we to them. How strange and beautiful the mystery!

~BT Waldbillig
December  9, 2016

Ephphatha!

It happens, every once in a great while, that we discover the world as we thought we knew it turns out to be something quite different. The blessing-command of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark comes to mind: Ephphatha!

“And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”

We, too, in our day witness events that are beyond measure astonishing. Yet most of us simply lose ourselves in astonishment, rather than experiencing the clarity of opened minds, opened ears, opened hearts. Open mind, open perception, and open heart belong to our nature, though few of us understand this. We simply refuse to set aside the mask we receive at birth and wear throughout life; we turn our backs on our innate courage to experience who and what we really are. We are like the wretched apostles of Jesus who always miss the point of the miracles and wonders Jesus is said to have performed. In the Ephphatha story we see the apostles behave like rabid groupies or silly school girls (peace be to school girls!). See how they fail to carry the secret! They mistakenly believe that the present opening of this particular man’s eyes and the present loosening of the string of his particular tongue constitute the wonder. Oh, poor apostles!

And so I say this to you: Ephphatha! The true wonder and great miracle is that the eye exists and humans can experience it in a manifestation of openness; that the tongue exists and humans can experience it in a manifestation of direct communication. Now, this is not to say that the miracle Jesus is said to have performed is of no significance. Rather, the small wonder participates in the great mystery of mind and communication. This reality is far more marvelous than any miracle or circus trick. Alas, it seems that apostles have something of circus-miracle fetish.

May we who participate in a new experience of mind and communication in this our favored day not lose our way along the journey.

~BT Waldbillig
December 8, 2016

Silent Expectation

Some say choose the Path of Renunciation
Others claim the Path of Excess is best

There are those who offer a Middle Path
But this I tell you:

Everything in this world has value
And even sorrow is useful

One man cannot in himself
Experience fully this world

But we are many Brothers
A legion of mighty warriors

We are the wicked, the damned, the lost
We are the saints, the just, the light

Scattered throughout history
Like the sands of time

And so:

That which we have received
Let us hand on to others

Honoring one another
In silent expectation

~BT Waldbillig
December 6, 2016