This morning I depart from this chapter of my journey which has led to many places without traveling far at all. I have had many flavors of silence in the last four days and I have also had many conversations. It’s amazing how silence allows us to converse in the purest form. I have had conversations with those who used to be part of my life as I allowed them to reach me in ways I have not yet known. I have had conversations with those who I randomly intersected with on my side trips away from the monastery. I have had conversations with they Divine as it exists in places like this Abbey at a level where we are more inclined to listen. Mostly importantly, I have had numerous conversations with myself and in the process I have learned something very important. I’ve learned to be a better listener.
This morning after I cleared out my quarters and loaded my things into the car, I took an hour to walk the grounds one last time. Ultimately I landed yet again at the chairs by Merton’s gravesite. The chairs were not in the exact position I left them in last night after I returned a part of Richard’s ashes to the soil. They had been turned to face the back of the headstone at more of an angle and they had been placed a little closer to each other than they were last night. The chairs were slightly angled towards each other in the perfect position for two people to have an intimate conversation with each other so that they could see each other while still surveying the beauty of their surroundings. I sat in one of the chairs.
Of the many conversations I have had on this journey, more than a few of them have been with Richard’s spirit. It seemed one more conversation was being called in. When I sat I took a moment to drink in all that Is. To drink in all that had happened in the last 72 hours, which in reality seems more like 72 days. After a minute or two of silence I began to speak. I spoke not only in my mind. I spoke with my real voice. The grounds of the monastery were completely empty. Retreatants are asked to vacate their rooms by 8:00 a.m. on Fridays so the rooms can be prepared for new arrivals. Most leave right away, but we are allowed to stay until 10:00 a.m for final reflections. Since nobody else in human for was with me in the graveyard I spoke out loud for the first time on the monastery grounds.
When I was done speaking, I closed my eyes and listened in silence one last time. In that silence I got the loudest message of all, “Walk out of this garden and walk fully into you life…James!”
There are many untold stories in my life both from the past, the present and the future. Some of them are mine to tell and some of them are intended for me to listen to. When I stood to walk away, I turned and took one more look at the chairs as they faced the back of Merton’s grave. I had just crossed another important finish line and in the process was reminded that the journey had just began. I walk out of the Gethsemani and I walk fully into my life. And so it begins…