I recently read a story told by Tibetan Buddhist Monk, Yongey Mingur Rinpoche. The story is a simple illustration that goes like this – Imagine living in a room with one locked window that is so dirty it barely lets in any light. The room remains dimly lit. Movement outside is hard to make out, and even some of the creatures appear frightening as they cast odd shadows. Suppose that one day, after a big storm, a bit of water leaks into the room and down the wall, onto a corner of the window. To dry it, you rub it with a towel. As you do, the dirt comes off and light begins to shine through. Curious, you get more water and begin to clean more of the windows corner, then from there expand and expand until the window is entirely clean. The sunshine floods the room, and the dark and dreary is illuminated and brightened. Out of the window, the strange shapes are seen to be people, just like you, moving about. Inspired by commonality, out the door you go into a “new world” from the “new room.” Only here’s the thing, the world isn’t new or different, nor are the people outside it.
The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly…” Whether mirror or window, either illustration provides something for us to consider. What more is there beyond our current “seeing?” In the illustration of the room, those moving shapes outside and that which is inside remains the same, except for one thing, the window and how it does or does not let in the illuminating light. When the window is cleaned, little by little, perception of the world, inside and out, is seen and experienced differently. For Paul, he also notes that we don’t accurately see that which is before us in the mirror.
During this Lenten season, we recognize the importance of cleaning the window and the personal investment and work it takes to do so. Some have covenanted to read scripture and pray. Some have joined together to sit, pray, and meditate in silence before worship. Some have joined in the meditative practice of viewing the life of a French monastery with following reflection and conversation. Some have accepted a saintly person as a model of faith. Beyond these efforts, there are other spiritual practices people are engaged in.
By our spiritual practices, among other things, we recognize the importance of our being given to the transforming, illuminating Spirit of God. In the room with the dirty window, it is easy to adapt as if that’s all there is. Thoughts, internal conversation, recognition of things as they are as if they are of the limits of possibility is easy to succumb to because it is all we know. Our thoughts and beliefs and ways come to be at home in the room, then one day water drips in and we give a little effort by wiping a towel. From beyond ourselves, light shines and things, while the same, are changed.
Spiritual disciplines are Holy relational investments that move us from self-limited to God-expanding. They open us beyond ourselves with intentionality and devotional openness to God. “God, I give myself in this time of spiritual practice that more of my window may become clean for you to shine in, that I may see more clearly and relate more dearly.”
Our investment in giving ourselves to the work of the Spirit by consistent spiritual practices cleans our windows. The world and those in it, including ourselves, while very much the same, are seen and experienced differently. With new “seeing,” the possibility for new ways of being and relating are illuminated. Life is different by the light of God.
Some practices to pick up, if looking…
- Pick a Gospel and read a story each morning without trying to “figure it out” or analyze it. Just be open to it as it becomes open to you.
- Sit with God in a time of silence each day for whatever time you find on the edge of comfort and challenge. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever.
“God, accept me into your heart.” Then, sit, relax, breathe, notice your breathing. Let thoughts appear and let them go, returning to your breath. If you like, add a prayer word that flows on your breathing. Exhale. “Yah…weh”
- Take a walk and notice that which you experience without overthinking. See other creatures, human and others, with compassion and kindness.
- Lift evening prayers to God.
- Give time to self-examination. Without judgment, know your precious self within the grace of God.
- ….and more
Happy window washing! – Greg