Sitting on the Grass
The title of this inspirational piece might suggest connotations of college kids at a weekend party in the spring or summer doing drugs. At least, we might suspect some marijuana to be part of the scene. If we were to approach this lawn party, we would expect to get a whiff of a pungent order that would betray the common college drug. But this suspicion would be wildly off the mark. Perhaps it points out the perceptions and prejudices that still exist in our minds.
Rather let me take you to the truth of the scene. It has to do with Spirit rather than spirits! It has to do with a group of students whom I call friends. I am fond of suggesting to college students that the word, colleague, must surely be related to the word, college. Most faculty assume their fellow faculty are colleagues and I agree. I value very much my faculty colleagues. I appreciate the broad range of knowledge and expertise they bring to the table. I am especially in awe of some colleagues in the sciences and the Conservatory of Music where I feel so inadequately informed or lacking talent.
I also like to think of college students as colleagues. Perhaps not all college students are colleagues of mine---not yet anyway. When I use the term, colleague, I like to think they are friends of mine. I see colleague to suggest some kind of personal relationship with someone. And so I use it of college students, too. The ones who choose to do a class with me become known to me. They cannot sit in the room for a semester and remain unknown. They may begin as a college student, but they become a colleague.
Recently, I was teaching a class called Spiritual Disciplines. That may not be a typical college class---even for a Religion Department. But it is one that I very much enjoy. Part of the requirement---the main part as far as I am concerned---is a requirement to develop a regular spiritual practice of discipline. I offer a range of disciplines, so no one is stuck with prayer unless they want to do it.
The other thing that happens is they do significant group work. And then for one day during the semester, a group involves the rest of us in a spiritual experience. And so it was that we were led to the grassy area on campus. As I sat down on the grass, I had to laugh. I am supposed to be in charge and I have no clue what we are going to do! But I was not worried. These friends of mine have become colleagues as the semester’s weeks unfolded. I trusted them as colleagues. More than likely, they know things I don’t know.
Carefully and thoughtfully we were guided into a time of meditation. When I think of the range of spiritual disciplines, I know meditation is not my strength. I know a fair amount about it. I could probably lecture on it. But that does not make me an expert. Besides, I don’t think the point of meditating is to become an expert. The purpose of meditation is something else---being mindful, connecting with God, etc. I was up for this. So I sat.
I closed my eyes because I trusted. I did not have any urge to be in control or stay in control. And in the process I was doing one of the things spiritual discipline teaches. Many of the disciplines are designed to move me beyond my ego’s need to be in control. At least for me, spiritual disciplines help me routinely focus on God, connect with God and live in a meaningful relationship with the One who is an endless Source of love and grace. On my own I am more likely to make a mess of life rather than be a miracle.
As I sat in the grass, I noticed my body relaxing. I was not particularly stressed, but I also was not as connected to myself, to others and to my world as I might want. And had I not meditated, I never would have known that. As my body relaxed, my spirit began to emerge into fuller awareness. I felt love erupting from within. I did not have to open my eyes to look at the people around me. I already knew them. I knew what they looked like. They were my colleagues.
I don’t know how long I sat in the grass. I did not have to look at my watch. I knew my colleagues were sensitive to the situation. We would be taken care of. Care and love do those kinds of things. I smile as I think about all the times that gang and I talked about love and care and all that “book stuff.” I am confident they could write a decent essay about love. But I am more sure they know about love and that they love me.
Sitting in the grass was just one small part of my day. If someone were to have observed it, I am sure it was unimpressive. But I don’t think the spiritual journey is necessarily designed for being impressive. Spiritual disciplines are not taken on to become spiritually spectacular. The spiritual journey for most of us is a quiet, deep walk into a meaningful life with God and others.
Sitting in the grass with my colleagues turned out to be a laboratory of the Spirit.