Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 121’

The Post – Leave it to Black Elk, Thomas Merton, and David to Get Things Back on Track

April 29, 2008

Sunday’s gift post read:

“I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which this power could come to the two-leggeds.

If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power would come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish.”

Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Souix (1863-1950)

I owe a thank-you to Black Elk. He reminded me of something I’d been forgetting.

It’s been a long winter. Illness, colonoscopy, biopsies, endoscopy, more biopsies, lack of sleep, ER and doctor visits, pulled muscles…. Over the course of 4 months my coping abilities went through the floor while my exhaustion skyrocketed. I kept going, but it felt like I was carrying a 10-ton load on my back, and not very well.

The pulled muscles were the icing on the cake as that took away my treasured daily walks, my meditative time when I do a rosary. When I was younger I thought the rosary was boring and useless. These days I’ve grown to love it. And for whatever reason, its effect seems to be most powerful when on my walks – the synergy of prayer and nature. The repetition of the prayers are a meditation of sorts — one of those types of ceremonies Black Elk refers to — that centers you, restores you, gives you love to share with others, and opens that hole in your soul that allows the Universe to work through you. And for the record, anything really worthwhile or successful that I’ve “done” in life, I didn’t really do. That power came from elsewhere.

In any event, with everything that had happened over the winter, my rituals had become infrequent. Not done on purpose, just that not feeling well, I figured I’d let it go until I felt better. That was a mistake. I’d forgotten that my true power came from opening to something greater than myself. I was like a car on empty, continuing to drive without stopping to refuel. How far can you really go doing that?

Black Elk said that in his own life, without that outer world power coming through the hole in him, anything he tried to do was foolish. I could relate.

Once Black Elk caught my ear, of course Thomas Merton decided to chime in. Thomas Merton was a Catholic monk, a spiritual contemplative, who was a prolific writer and a visionary and who studied with monastics of other traditions, including the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. Anyway, on the wall over my desk, I have this piece Merton wrote:

“The more you can work in a spirit of detachment, the closer you come to working for God than working for yourself, and the less strain there is on your nerves. You do not worry about things so much, and therefore, you don’t get so confused, so mixed up, so tired. In fact, you recognize that your self-love, your pride, is trying to take over the work by your reaction. When you’re exhausted and upset and haunted by work that seems to be going badly, it means that you’re working for yourself and are taking the consequences. But when you are free, you work with an ease that amazes you. Half the time, without any necessity for special thought on your part, God seems to remove obstacles and do half the work for you. When God wants a thing done, the speed with which it achieves completion and success almost takes your breath away.”

I realized I’d not been working in any kind of spirit, much less one of detachment, and I was taking the consequences. I’d forgotten that I am that hole Black Elk speaks of, the tool to be used, not the power behind it. I needed that force to remove the obstacles, and carry the load. In reality, we are all that hole….each of us is the tool to be used by a power greater than us if we allow it. And it’s that power that can achieve great things, things much larger than we can ever do alone. I’d just forgotten about that.

As soon as that light bulb went off, I decided it was time to get back to walking, even if only briefly, and it was time to also start that rosary again. Its amazing, but even before I finished that first walk and rosary, I could feel the shift in myself. It was like coming home.

Psalm 121, the Song of Ascents says:

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

So, David, Black Elk and Thomas Merton, three different holy men from different times and cultures, but they all pointed to the same source, and they all spoke the same language – that of the soul. I am grateful to all three.