I have spent the last week or so gently working my way through Jim Finley’s book Merton’s Palace of Nowhere. It has made a good companion for my daily commute.
It has left me wondering whether one of the hallmarks of spiritual maturity is not interior freedom. Interior freedom is something we cannot fake. It has nothing to do with what one chooses to do or not, it is simply about the inner disposition. The flavour has to be both compassionate and empathetic.
It is impossible to describe, but we know it when we see it. Not through the ‘holiness’ of the person but through the unmistakable aura of something real and trustworthy. And the overall movement is towards inclusive connection.
Such people are at once deeply attractive and profoundly unsettling. Something in us does not want to spiritual maturity to be packaged like this. It is too simple, too ordinary, and perhaps too honest.
As Jim writes elsewhere on healing:
Shortcomings, both real and imagined, when deeply seen and accepted, are an important part of the transformative process of learning to let go. If we do not let go of the need to be perfect, our need to be perfect will get in our way. Likewise, if we do not let go of our fear of failing, our fear of failing will get in the way. But as we learn to let go of the need to be perfect and the fear of failure, the intimate, earthy stuff of being a vulnerable, loving human being begins to shine through. In an ongoing process of learning to let go we bear witness to the great truth that the master limps. The mastery of life is intermingled with the ongoing weaknesses and limitations that gives life its rich and many layered texture and meaning.
Most of us don’t want the limping master. What if that means that I need to accept my own limitations, weaknesses and imperfections?
Interior freedom comes at the cost of acceptance of all of that. It is a price few are willing to pay.
We pay lip service to it, but when the rubber hits the road, the letting go is not easy.