Deep Spiritual Roots of Silence

Trees are spiritual because they have deep roots, roots that are unseen but their strength comes from their deep roots. Just like the trees, the deep roots of my own spirituality are not seen outside but it is those deep roots that strengthen me. The trees are also a place where many living things find their abode. . Christ is the one in whom I find my adobe and rest in. If I am deeply rooted in Christ, and grow out of Christ, then I will become an extension of Christ’s love that points people to the rest in Christ. The tree is a deeply mysterious being which reflects God’s nurturing and life giving side. So being among big trees in the evening was to be mystic presence of God.

Below is my account of a 6 hour spiritual discipline of silence that I followed from 5pm till 11 pm at the Memorial Park in Houston. I choose that place, because trees move my spirit to a place of wonderment about God. Trees are a place of deep life and consequently deep spirituality. Just like God showed His presence to David by the stars in the sky, for me, God manifests His presence to me by the trees. Perhaps, it shouldn’t surprise me that Treebeard (the guardian of all Trees) is my favorite character in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (of course no surprise either in that Tolkien channeled himself into Treebeard!). 

Trees point to deep spiritual truths. They have deep roots, roots that are unseen but their strength comes from their deep roots. Just like the trees, the deep roots of my own Christ-centered spirituality are not seen outside but it is those deep roots that strengthen me. The trees are also a place where many living things find their abode. . Christ is the one in whom I find my adobe and rest in. If I am deeply rooted in Christ, and grow out of Christ, then I will become an extension of Christ’s love that points people to the rest in Christ. The tree is a deeply mysterious being which reflects God’s nurturing and life giving side. So being among big trees in the evening was to be mystic presence of God.

As always being alone and silent, my anxieties came up. I did not want to get stuck in my state of anxiety and so walked around looking, deeply looking, and meditating on the tree. There was this one tree which was so exquisitely beautiful – its dark branches that had fractal precision were like a painting of God across the light sky. Looking at the tree, carefully observing how the branches were shaped by God’s providence and design, I was drawn out of my self-absorption. Below is a picture of that tree.
 

 I was walking among the trees looking at them I found myself moving from a state of self-absorption to a place of self-transcendence. I sat at a bench and looked at the trees. I took more picture of the dark ominous spiritual beings. As I was there, I did not know when it started but I realized that I was actually singing the song, “Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me…” Somehow even before my conscious mind was aware of it, my sub-conscious mind was reveling in the presence of God in that spiritual space. 

After a while, as it got darker, I realized that I could see the moon above. I lay on the bench to look up at the moon. Dark clouds came between me and the moon but still the light of the moon couldn’t be dimmed off completely. I could see the moonlight form designs in the beautifully shaped clouds. I was reminded about how brilliant God’s design was. I kept watching the moon and the clouds back and forth, I don’t know for how long. 

Then I went back to watching trees and taking pictures of trees which looked interesting… Then after a while as I was sitting on the bench looking at the trees, my body started swaying gently the way it usually does when I am in deep prayer, filled with the Spirit of God. I enjoyed being in God’s presence there. I felt like I did not want to leave that spiritual place, it was like the mountain top transfiguration experience that the disciples did not want to leave. 

Of course, I had to come back to the real world. But there was an interesting difference. As I was back in the “real world”, the real world was now different because I was carrying with me the presence of God with me. Because of God’s presence being with me, everything I did where it was going to the gym or reading a book, it was now different – I was living out of a much deeper place in my soul, centered in Christ. The spiritual roots that I had had gone deeper into the soil of my being and was drawing it sweet nourishment from the deep source of God’s presence deep in me and that is what made the world come alive in a new way.

Most Important New Year’s Resolution: Making Space

One way to counteract modernism’s corrosive nature is to consciously make space for God’s presence. One important way of this making space is performing ceaseless prayers. I have found it to be most useful for my life is to say short prayers through the day, “Father have mercy on me.” “Father take care.” “Jesus, Son of God have mercy on me.”

I think the most important New Year’s resolution for me is to make space – make space for increased awareness of God’s presence in my life. Augustine says, “my soul is too crampled for your to enter it – widen it out. It is in disrepair – restore it.” 

Spiritual growth happens when we make space for God’s presence in our lives. Modernity with its pervasive materialism and cognitive overload, which comes by the way of hoarded homes and the buzz of social media frazzling our mind, makes it difficult to make space for God’s presence in our lives.

One way to counteract modernism’s corrosive nature is to consciously make space for God’s presence. One important way of this making space is performing ceaseless prayers. I have found it to be most useful for my life is to say short prayers through the day, “Father have mercy on me.” “Father take care.” “Jesus, Son of God have mercy on me.”

Taking a quick moment at different points in the day to say these prayers helps me be aware of God’s presence through the day. This way of making space for God’s presence mitigates modernity’s inexorable chipping away of my spirit; thus fostering spiritual growth.

Who is a Christian Mystic?

The one who is tuned to this deep presence of Christ in the subconscious self is the Christian mystic. The mystic does not have to be cloistered within the halls of the monastery. For the mystic the whole world is a monastery. For the Christian mystic the whole world is sacramentally held together by the Word of God (Heb 1:3) and God’s presence is manifest through it.

A friend asked me today how I define a “mystic”. Having spent the last few weeks reading a bunch of patristic and medieval mystics from St. Cassian to Julian of Norwich, I figured I could venture a definition. 

I define a Christian mystic is one who values the power of the subconscious self enough to want to give credence to the subconscious and celebrate the union with Christ in one’s subconscious self. 

Now, the aforementioned definition of the mystic needs some unpacking. The subconscious self is the “inner man” that needs to be strengthened which the Bible talks about in Ephesians 3:16. It is also the seat of the creativity, desires and anxieties which in Jungian psychology would be called the unconscious. The mystic realizes the centrality of the subconscious to the identity of the self and so takes time to care for the subconscious self.

Now, what does the phrase “celebrate union with Christ in one’s subconscious self” mean? The Gospel of John highlights on the Logos aspect of Christ and the mystical union the Christian has with Christ, especially in chapters 14-17. Romans 8:26 discusses the Spirit groaning from within in a language that is beyond the reckoning of the conscious mind, which is a key manifestation of the union with Christ. A mystic is one who is attuned to this. When 1 Thess 5:17 says pray continually, it is the subconscious self revels in the presence of God always, even as the conscious self is doing about its daily activities.

The one who is tuned to this deep presence of Christ in the subconscious self is the Christian mystic. The mystic does not have to be cloistered within the halls of the monastery. For the mystic the whole world is a monastery. For the Christian mystic the whole world is sacramentally held together by the Word of God (Heb 1:3) and God’s presence is manifest through it.