What to do Under the Bodhi Tree
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614 – 1691) was a humble discalced (shoeless) Carmelite who resided in Paris. He was a cook and a sandal-maker and he was a great mystic and theologian. His Bodhi Tree was the kitchen of the monastery, where he cooked in silence, and waited for God to speak to him. Among the many, many beautiful spiritual maxims that came from this quiet mystic are these:
Everything is possible for one who believes, still more for one who hopes, even more for one who loves, and most of all for one who practices and perseveres in these three virtues.
No one in chaos, no one in the midst of madness, drenched by noise, can possibly make contact with the grace of hope. Nor can a person who needs to make significant life changes possibly hear the direction she or he is receiving when surrounded by the endless distractions of the sensory world. Stillness is required. Silence is required. At times, absolute silence is required. And for that reason, your life comes to a standstill. But it is not your life that has come to a standstill, but your distractions. Often such an experience gives the appearance that nothing is happening, and in the physical world, nothing is happening. Nothing needs to happen. All the activity that needs to take place now is within you. Such silence is an invitation to go within yourself to resolve the true origin of your chaos, which begins with confronting your fears of survival and aloneness on this earth – fears that may compel you to make decisions without wise thought of the consequences.
Waiting is a Bodhi Tree, a time for introspection and reflection, a time to review where your life decisions have taken you and how you should or should not move forward. Stillness is a time to assess what it is you believe about your spiritual life and the quality of your life’s choices.
The flow of life changes as a person matures. That is, there is an archetypal pattern in us that is a soul appetite. Survival draws us to find a job, our ego imagines us in a career, our spirit longs for a vocation. And our soul ultimately responds to the call to explore the mystical life. That pattern is locked into to each of us. It is in our blood and in our bones, as surely as the natural law of survival animates our survival instincts. Times of helpless stillness – particularly those that demand endurance from us as we watch entire parts of lives get dismantled in front of our eyes – are also times when this compass inner direction is maturing our appetite. Nothing moves in our outside world until we move in our inside world.
And during this time of stillness, automatically every person will wonder, “What do I believe about this life? About God – a God, any God?” “What is my life worth?” “What have I been born to do?” Either hope or hopelessness will emerge – and you will begin to cling to faith and hope that some force greater than yourself is in charge of your life. For many, this is the beginning of their spiritual path. Persevere says Brother Lawrence, as do all the great mystics. Every one of them knew without a doubt that hope and trust in this unseen force of the Divine always – always – brought miracles. Never did prayers go unanswered. But the individual sometimes had to practically go mad waiting – yet, it wasn’t and isn’t ordinary madness that the individual is forced to endure. It is disappointment in external expectations and external timelines – in having their lives move according to the speed of their fears instead of the flow of their faith.
I love the life story of saints from all traditions because their lives are replete with examples of how the world of time and space and matter and form danced around their command. Mother Teresa would ask the wealthiest people for money for her missions, particularly people who were known to be stingy. And they would want to run from her, knowing that if they made eye contact with her, they would have to give money to her because they could not refuse the power of a saint. There are stories about saints from all traditions who could command illness to leave the bodies of people and who could bi-locate and serve as conduits for countless miracles. Such is the power of faith and of trusting in systems of power that requires detachment from the distractions of the five-sensory world.
And so you are placed under your own Bodhi Tree at various times in your life to wait, to be still, to reflect, to find hope, to find the power of your faith – and to detach from the controlling imprisonment of your hundreds and hundreds of distractions. This waiting is a gift.
What to do Under the Bodhi Tree
- I always hear this phrase said during crises after people have done everything “humanly possible”: “Well, all we can do now is pray.” Prayer is seen as the last option for people, the last resort on the road, the power we turn to when everything humanly possible has failed. Prayer, in fact, should be the first thing you do, not the last because you have no other options. While under your Bodhi Tree, you withdraw from your distractions and you engage in deep, NON-PETITION prayer. Move beyond the, “can I have, will you please protect me and this person and can I have a job and will you do this for me????” That’s a child’s prayer, which is a fine beginner’s prayer, but it’s time to evolve out of petition prayer. Select pieces of sacred writings from any great mystics of any traditions that resonate with you and write about them in a journal. Write how they inspire you and apply them to events unfolding in your life.
- Channel grace to people in your life. Practice healing at a distance. Open yourself as a channel for grace with the prayer, “I am a channel for grace and I open myself to serve as a vessel for healing grace to flow to others in need and to this earth.”
- Write down five areas of your life that need changing and what you need to shift in these areas. Work only on one at a time. Write down what you do not want to take forward in your life, what you can feel changing, what you know you need to release, and what you fear most.
- Be still and listen for guidance. This is where Entering The Castle is perfect as it is written to take you deep into your soul, into the journey of learning how to dialog with your soul. Still, you are in touch with that part of yourself and you know when you are receiving guidance to act in your life and when you are blocking that guidance. Blocking keeps you under the Bodhi Tree.
- Write about hope – what are your hopes. How much of your hope is around safety in the physical world? What about your spiritual life?
- Would you consider yourself in a faith crisis? If so, how can you imagine moving through this?
- How devoted are you to managing change in your life?
Remember that time under the Bodhi Tree is a sweet reprieve from madness. You may think nothing is changing, but everything is changing. You have to trust that. This is a time of rest, a time of reflection. Go inside.
Be still and know you are with God.