A Lenten Journey, part 1: Finding Wilderness in the Midst of Chaos

Throughout history, people have left the chaos of life to enter a place of quiet stillness. When I was in college in Salt Lake City, Utah, my dream was to find a monastery somewhere; to escape from “civilization” and live a life more deeply connected to God. I always experienced God’s energy more powerfully in the mountains surrounding Salt Lake than in the city itself, although it’s a beautiful city with great energy. Still, I rarely felt God in the hustle and bustle of the city. Today, I love the noises, smells, architecture, food, and sights of cities, but at that time, there was a disconnect between the extreme humanness of everything happening in Salt Lake and the astounding divinity I felt in nature.

It would take years for me to connect to God in every space I found myself—years examining the wilderness of my soul until I started to realize that God is everywhere, only waiting to be discovered. Cities, mountains, beaches, forests, and especially people, all contain God and emit God's loving, transcendent energy in some way. I still struggle with that idea, of course, especially when confronted with people or situations that get on my nerves—for example, driving in Naples during season. The fact my horn still works is a small miracle.
Seeing the presence of God in the people and situations that get on our nerves is incredibly trying. Yet, it's the only way to eliminate the annoyances. For practice, pick any politician that drives you to yell at the television. Now look deeply for God in that person. There is perhaps no more revelatory a moment than discovering the presence of God in the people we think are devoid of any Godlike qualities. However, there is no such thing as a Godless person. There is only our lack of ability to see beyond our own prejudices and annoyances to the God within all beings and all things. It's easy to berate someone with whom we disagree. Analyzing what it is about ourselves that causes that disagreement is much more challenging.

Self-analysis is difficult. It takes brutal honesty to scrutinize the habits and ideas in our lives that disrupt our God connection. As humans, we become set in our ways, comfortable with certain activities. We are creatures of habit, and most of us live by a very strict schedule. Coffee in the morning, go to work, do our jobs, drink more coffee, take a quick lunch break (in the United States, a lunch break that is often only 30 minutes long), have some more coffee, go back to work and drink more coffee. There's a reason we call it "the grind."

To break these habits means finding wilderness moments throughout the day. Unless you work in the mountains or on the beach, it's pretty difficult to take a break from work and go to the mountains or the beach. So years ago I started finding mountains (my preferred meditation spaces) wherever I could.

When I worked in the corporate world, one of my favorite tricks was escaping to the bathroom. I'd lock the door and meditate for five minutes. To the outside world, it seemed like a bathroom break. For me, it was the rejuvenation I needed to finish the day filled with light and serenity. It was the recalibration I needed to see God even in the people that were annoying me. More importantly, those meditation breaks helped me center and realize that merely trying to see God in everyone made a drastic difference in my annoyance level. 

When we see God within another human being, especially one we believe we are in conflict with, there is a palpable change in energy flow and all the barriers and resistance to right relationship we've been experiencing melt away.

Working more diligently to find God in the annoying spaces, so there are fewer annoying spaces, is part of my Lenten journey. How about yours?

Meditation: I see wilderness moments for re-centering in unexpected and unusual places throughout my day.

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