Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 170

“It is I,” Jesus said when he met Mary Magdalene in the garden on Easter Sunday. You can’t take those words lightly. To truly own those three words is the moment of enlightenment. Or resurrection. To say aloud, “It is I,” is to be born anew. You have emerged from the grave of family and peer expectations, from all the fake mirrors and masks, from all the false roles and fears, and stand radiant in the brilliant light of “self.” You have found yourself.

Now and then I come across a piece of writing where I get an “It is I” feeling. The writer is without pretense, vulnerable, revealing where they are at this particular moment, come what may. “It is I,” they say. “This is who I am. Here is where I stand.”

I copied two such passages in my commonplace book recently. The first was by Thomas Moore who wrote:

“I’ve never been satisfied with the mantra so common among spiritual people today: ‘Live in the moment.’ Sometimes spiritual teachers try to get people to do something that is not natural to them and that they don’t really enjoy and people often succumb. It takes effort to be in the moment, and in my experience, the effort isn’t worth all the praise it gets. I’d rather live more in the past and in the future. I’d prefer to expand the time frame in which I live rather than contract it into a moment.” (Ageless Soul by Thomas Moore)

Two things about that passage. First, it gives good advice about not following any spiritual teaching—even if it’s the most popular at the time—just because everyone else is. Always ask yourself: Does the spiritual practice being given jibe with your “it is I.” And second, it takes a person very comfortable in their own skin to even write that paragraph in this day when best-selling books and retreats and workshops are all centered on “present moment, mindful moment.” Not for me, Moore says. It is not “I.”

The second was by Rabbi Shapiro who was asked this question in the advice column that he writes for Spirituality and Health magazine: “The older I get, the less a “joiner” I become. Is this normal?"

He answered: “As I enter my late 60s I find most people annoying, and most organizations more annoying still. I was never a ‘joiner’ unless I could also be ‘the leader,’ but now I don’t even want that.”

I feel little need for community, and none whatsoever for the politics community necessitates. I’m not saying this is good or normal. It’s just what is true for me at this moment. My advice: Be present to what is true for you in this moment, know that things may change in the next moment, and forget about the idea of ‘normal.’”

Oh my gosh, when I read that I wanted to leap into the page and kiss the Rabbi. This is exactly how I feel at the moment, but I don’t know if I’d ever have the guts to write it. After all, I’m a member of a religious community whose charism is “community.”

The only New Year’s resolution I’d like to keep is to write with honesty. But first Old Monk has to claim the “I” in “it is I.”

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A blog by Mary Lou Kownacki
A personal journal captures what’s in the heart. Most of my adult life I’ve recorded my notes, brief reflections, poems, reactions to daily events in a journal. It is an ongoing source of monastic formation; the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. About a year ago, Old Monk began to appear on my journal’s pages. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator.

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