As I contemplate the Way of the Modern Monk and our upcoming retreat, I keep coming back to Submission. I really do believe it is a necessary component to the spiritual life… and yet something that so many in our increasingly individualistic society are so utterly opposed to. We hear words like submission and obedience and will-less machines come to mind. We think abuse of power or bending to the ego of another.
Perhaps, our rejection of this necessary way on the spiritual journey has caused many to be stuck on the road to enlightenment or union, even in their sincere quest for for higher levels of consciousness. Many seem to be playing the same track (or no track for that matter) over and over. They are doing it for themselves or what they think as individuals is the way to go.
Find me a an historical spiritual tradition that doesn’t include some element of submission and obedience at some core level and I will give you a dollar. Ultimately, obedience is about laying aside my desires or ego in trust of another. It could be God, a guru, a practice, a council or any number of other things. The personal choice is still the same. What I want is what (fill in the blank) wants, even if I really don’t want it right now. I choose it because my teacher has been down this road before.
I think many see the truth in this, one way or another, and yet still put walls up to the words “submission” and “obedience.” It is true there is a shadow side… rows of soldiers marching off to war, taxes paid for God-knows what, religious manipulation. There is a dark shadow to all illuminating truth. A useful tool for our discernment may be that the greater potential for good, the greater the opportunity for evil. It is the dynamic tension of paradox. We see the great evil of submission, but we forget the great good of the same. We do well to suspect, to question, to discern. But we are still faced with submission and obedience, and until we learn to embrace them, we will only go so far.
Ultimately, the spiritual journey leads to union. “I and the Father are one.” “It is not I that lives, but Christ who lives in me.” No separation. Only togetherness. Connection. Love. To move in this direction, we must have come to terms with our desire for and/or resistance towards submission.
It is the way of the Modern Monk.
2 thoughts on “Embrace Submission”
Interesting post and beautifully written. I’m curious though. I wonder to what or whom the Modern Monk suggests we submit? Or if that’s too prescriptive, to what/whom does the Modern Monk himself submit and/or obey?
Thanks so much for your questions. I was pointed to your blog by Laura, who along with Leslie and the girls, is our Bend “family.” I love your writing and have found a lot of resonance as my wife and I navigate work, relationship, and taking care of our little one. It is nice to have a good voice for FTFs out there.
To answer your question, it would be different for me than for some others. I am a spiritual director, so my hope is to help people pay attention to God (or whatever word they use) in whatever way God speaks to them. This is so diverse. For me, I would say I submit to the direction of the Spirit, or to the way of Christ. Others may not be so defined.
Ultimately (for a “Modern Monk”), I believe that for those that listen, they find their direction and inspiration from a Divine Mystery that may not be such a mystery after all! I believe that God | Spirit | Divine sounds like God and ultimately looks like Jesus, whether someone puts those words to it or not. It is always a WAY, and when there is a submission to a way, with a humble DESIRE to to find and hear God, there is enough room on the road for us to walk together for a while.
I hope that answers some of your questions.