Mid-Lent I like to take my spiritual pulse. How am I doing? Sufficient silence, prayer and giving up/taking on? All in all I've experienced some peace-filled moments and clarity: other times I've been distracted by the daily squirrels. Squirrel! (Looks elsewhere).
Thus I came across this wonderful reflection by Joan Chittister. Why is it the emptying IS harder than filling?
Once upon a time,” an ancient story tells, “the master had a visitor who came to inquire about Zen. But instead of listening, the visitor kept talking about his own concerns and giving his own thoughts. After a while, the master served tea. He poured tea into his visitor’s cup until it was full and then he kept on pouring. Finally the visitor could not bear it any longer. ‘Don’t you see that my cup is full?’ he said. ‘It’s not possible to get anymore in.’ ‘Just so,’ the master said, stopping at last. ‘And like this cup you are filled with your own ideas. How can you expect me to give you Zen unless you first empty your cup?’”
A monastic Lent is the process of emptying our cups. Lent is the time for trimming the soul and scraping the sludge off a life turned slipshod. Lent is about taking stock of time, even religious time. Lent is about exercising the control that enables us to say no to ourselves so that when life turns hard of its own accord we have the spiritual stamina to say yes to its twists and turns with faith and hope. . . . Lent is the time to make new efforts to be what we say we want to be.
From The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister (Crossroad, 1996).