The early practices formed during The Hermit Years, as I like to call them, are the foundations of this church, this temple, this heart inside a house inside a mountain. They form the basis of the patiently knitted together Daily Practice that takes place.
There are three main simple practices, summarised in the line: The Blunt and Loving Sweeper of Time and Life.
PRACTICE ONE: A liturgy of The Hours
Oh Virginia, Oh Mrs Dalloway, Oh The Hours - if only we had listened.
Across every single religion and human faith there is an honouring of the passing of time. The Liturgy of the Hours, The Sounding of the Bell, The Call to Prayer. The passing of day into night and season upon season is a fundamental part of our human experience. The cycles to which we human animals are part of. And we have always worshipped it. Always looked to time.
Checking our watches and punching our time clocks. Paying by the hour.
When I came here I put down my understanding of time. In order to learn something new. There are no clocks that work in my home. I work to calendars few might recognise. I pay attention to the moon and the stars. The seasons and the rhythm of my own body. I have trained myself over the years to know the sound of my own bell.
A reminder to stay with it. Stay present, stay in practice, stay. Just stay.
Within the structure of a daily rhythm, I sit for a moment and gently notice the rhythm of breath. I invite you to do so too. Notice our bodies, our surroundings, what we see, hear, smell. The stopping itself is prayer. An invitation to rest in restorative silence. To carrying ourselves wherever we go.
If you come here, you will abandon time in order to reclaim it as your own.
It is an opportunity for your heartbeat to match the heartbeat of the universe.
Time. It's all about time. And Time is an Art; Time is Art.
PRACTICE TWO: Sweeping
(or The Way of the Bald Monk who says fuck a lot)
Occasionally, from time to time, us humans can get a little to over-attached to our thinking minds and our emotional rivers. We become a swirling storm of suffering and confusion. There is a practice for this. Do not come to me with your drama or your suffering until you have spent an hour sweeping in silence. I will do the same. If either of us forget, we are there to remind each other and pass on the broom. It is the single most effective practice there is apart from breathing and maybe doing the washing up. Sweep.
PRACTICE THREE: Down to Earth like the Ammas, White not Red
In the early Christian faith, many House Churches were led by women. They were spiritual guides; teachers and leaders of their monastic communities. They were simple and straightforward. Blunt and savvy. They name what needs to be named.
And so there is this, the final of the three practices, stated bluntly and wisely so that all may hear:
The Desert Fathers and Mothers practiced white martyrdom as opposed to red martyrdom. Sacrificing one’s life is not what happens here. We stay alive.