The need to withdraw

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. – Mk. 1:35

Understanding the need for solitude and prayer is important if we are to live centered lives.

In order to find ourselves, we will almost always experience the need to withdraw from ‘regular’ social life. We may be less enthusiastic about meeting people or even corresponding with friends we are close to. This is a necessary phase as we grow into social transcendence – that is the inner peace that remains undisturbed by social acceptance.

Recently some friends of mine expressed that they haven’t felt this close to me in a very long time – and that in fact they had felt that we had been drifting apart, that I have been distancing myself from them. In all honesty I told them, yes, it is true. 3 years ago I had suddenly realized how bound my behaviour had been to pleasing others and making them happy – so much so that I was perpetually floating. I had decided that I needed to grow some roots into the soil of my own heart – I needed to find my center. And my center was Christ.

As I continued that personal journey, I became more aware of how pampered I am and how easily enslaved I am by material goods. By this time, however, I deeply desired liberation from material enslavement. And yet, because I was not strong enough to resist the temptation, I consciously withdrew myself from friends who were living lives rich in material extravagance. The sense of judgment and repulsion I felt for such life-styles were a knee-jerk reaction because I was fighting to be free.

But in my recent conversion experience, I have been enlightened further. True transcendence and liberation from materialism means that it all does not matter anyway. Whether a beat up Nissan Sunny or a posh Lamborghini, a car is just a car. Whether a simple brandless bag or a thousand dollar Louis Vuitton, a bag is just a bag. True liberation from materialism means that I would feel neither pride nor shame for owning what is feted by the world or not. It would mean that regardless of what I own, it does not affect my soul.

This realization struck me further when I thought about the Franciscan Order at St. Mary who live in great comfort and even what some perceive as extravagance (though all they have are given by others, shared by all and owned by none). True poverty goes beyond the physical and external senses. That these brothers can live in such comfort and yet preserve such genuine humility of spirit is testimony that they are poor in heart and spirit.

Let us be true to our journeys and do whatever we need to do to find who we are and what we can be!

Two dear sisters of mine are concurrently undergoing difficult personal times. I rejoice because I can see that they are experiencing hardships because of their desire to live authentic lives. Joy and liberation is waiting for them at the end of the tunnel even as they now walk in the dark hand in hand with our Lord!

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