I hope you will answer this question “Where’s Your Cave?” after reading this post by clicking on “comments” on the blogsite, and following the instructions, which begins with “select profile.” You will not receive spam and you can always reply anonymously! And you might see other readers’ comments. Thanks! -Chris
In his autobiography, Paramahansa Yogananda tells of his childhood and adolescent attempts to escape from Calcutta to the Himalayas to find a guru in a cave and pursue a spiritual path. Even after he has found his primary guru years later, he leaves him and his hermitage near Calcutta to seek out another guru in the mountains, one who humorously chides, “Masters are under no cosmic compulsion to live on mountains only.”
This guru asks, “Are you able to have a little room where you can close the door and be alone?” When Yogananda affirms, “Yes,” the guru says, “That is your cave. That is your sacred mountain. That is where you will find the kingdom of God.”
It reminded me of the psalm that begins “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?” (Ps 121) One of my earliest encounters with biblical scholarship was discovering that there should be a period, dash, or semicolon after hills, because the psalmist is not affirming mountains as God’s habitat, but rather, rejecting hills where other gods were worshiped. The psalmist instead affirms in the verse that follows, “my help comes from Yahweh who made heaven and earth.”
Elijah heard God speak in a cave’s sheer silence on Mount Horeb, and Mohammad had his divine revelations in a cave. Jesus preferred “lonely places” to pray, sometimes mountains, and encouraged us to find an innermost room, or pantry, to pray. A Bodhi tree was sufficient for the Buddha. We all need our “caves,” our “set apart” places to be “close to the mystery, [while] never solving it,” in words from Deepak Chopra’s novel Muhammad.
In all the places I have lived or visited, I have found a “cave,” often outside and usually with a view of the outside, to pray. In addition, two places to which I have longed to return each served as a cave away from home, Mt. Calvary Retreat House above Santa Barbara, destroyed in the Montecito fire a few years back, and the shoreline, which I rarely get to these days living in Atlanta. (I was once astounded to visit a church on a perch with a beautiful view of the sea purposely constructed with no clear windows so as not to distract worshipers!)
I’ve written before of Etty Hillesum, who, facing transport to Nazi concentration camps, wrote in her diary (published as An Interrupted Life), “There will always be a small patch of sky above, and there will always be enough space to fold two hands in prayer.”
“Somewhere inside me,” she wrote, “the jasmine continues to blossom undisturbed, just as profusely and delicately as ever it did. And it spreads its scent round the House in which You dwell, oh God.”
Kirkridge is a welcoming “cave” which hosts an annual retreat for gay and bisexual men (scroll down to date after clicking), which I will be co-leading Oct 3-6 this year with Roman Catholic activist and filmmaker Brendan Fay. Register by Aug 31 and subtract a $50 discount, no code required!
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More on Etty Hillesum:
Books that line the walls of my working cave:
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