Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Detachment is a big thing in the Carmelite spiritual tradition, one of the things most noteworthy in the teachings of John of the Cross. During my thirty years in the monastery, I tried to learn how to practice it in a healthy manner. I think of myself as a caring person, but one who is detached in the sense Ali ibn Abi Talib means. Or in the sense found in the prayer of Ignatius Loyola: "Teach me to care and not to care." Think about it.

Anyway, as I am going through my boxes and files and tossing things, I am aware of how the roots of detachment can go deep. I won't mention all the things I threw out this morning, but I was surprised at how often I felt an internal tug to keep something that I knew I no longer needed, that I would never use, that I need not lug around any longer. I have a near-eidetic memory. There is plenty stored up there behind my eyes and between my ears. I don't need scraps of paper tucked away in a cluttered closet to remember people, places, times and things that have been important in my life.

John of the Cross says that it does not matter if a bird is tied to the ground by the thinnest of threads or a heavy chain. Until the tie is broken, the bird cannot fly. 
In case Ali ibn Abi Talib is not familiar to you, he was the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, ruling over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661. Ali was also the first young male who accepted Islam.


Thomas Withers said...

I appreciate your references to traditions other than your own Christian roots. One thinks the world would be a happier place were everyone to discover elements of truth beyond the boundaries of the familial and familiar.

May the blessing of light be on you - light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire, so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you, like a candle set in the window of a house, bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you, may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines, and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you, soft under your feet as you pass along the roads, soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly;
up and off and on its way to God. And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen.

Bob Slatten said...

I once read in a book, The Art of Happiness I think, something I have since been using in my life:

"Want the things you have, don't have the things you want."

It's pretty simple and it's served me well.

Michael Dodd said...

I also like the verse from the Tao Te Ching: "To know you have enough is to be rich."

Kirstin Dodd said...

I like that