When Mom and I stayed at the Ilikai in October of 2010 I made sure to get up early each morning so that I would have two hours to myself out on my private lānai. Having made a mug of Kona coffee I would go out and sit there, watching the night’s darkness slowly melting away into the dawn’s sneaking in. Those two hours enabled me to have some time in Hawaiʻi to myself, enabling me to take in it’s sights and sounds: the boats and yachts in the harbor, the sound of the Tiger Doves, the smells of breakfast from the hotel’s Grill.
Time for myself in the morning, no matter where I am, is crucial for me. It is a time for me to collect myself, to take stock of where I am emotionally, to make sure I am aware as I go into the day. I have found that the awareness (or lack thereof) with which I go into the day acts as the template for my living in that day.
I suppose this 40-year habit is the fruit of my monastic life, in which verse 10 from Psalm 46 was drilled into me: “Be still and know that I am God”. When one enters monastic life one first learns how to still one’s exterior, and then how to still the interior. The inner stillness that one strives for is not so much an absence of noise, not a passivity… but an inner alertness.
So why is this important for me? It is important because I have come to see how vital it is that the way that I live needs to manifest what I believe; or rather, the way that I live will manifest what I most deeply believe, no matter what I “say” I believe. Monastic ascetical practices have helped me in trying to keep my inner and outer lives in touch with each other. Some modern-day people think of asceticism as life-denying whereas those who fruitfully engage with ascetical practices, no matter what religious tradition, come to know that the only purpose of asceticism is to help one get control of oneself, to learn how to catch on to one’s tendency to mindlessly flail about through life!
Whether in Hawaiʻi at the Ilikai or here at home in Rincon, GA, I usually get up early enough so that no matter what I have to do that day, I can go out to the picnic pavilion here at the back of the property with my coffee. As I sit there and sip, I think… I assess… I pray… and I am grateful.