Fifty years ago, August 17, 2017, I arrived in Sedona, Arizona to begin my contemplative life in the desert with the Spiritual Life Institute. I was young, naïve, and idealistic. Turning 73 next month, I’m no longer young. And I hope no longer naïve, as I purify and refine my ideals through a growing “faith-based realism.”
What an adventure over five decades, helping to create four contemplative retreat centers in four directions of the globe, from the red rock desert of Arizona in the nineteen-sixties to the woods of Nova Scotia in the seventies, then on to the mountains of Colorado in the eighties and the green fields of Ireland in the nineties! And then the traumatic separation from monastic community into the more eremitical and interspiritual life of the Desert Foundation since 2003.
Now I’m becoming more like my young friends who call themselves the “new monastics” as I explore “contemplation in the city.” I’ve rented an apartment in Tucson for a few months, living the same way I have for the past fifty years, but in an urban environment. How do the fundamental elements of contemplative life I’ve lived and taught for fifty years “work” outside the ideal wilderness where I’ve been privileged to live since 1967? What is a good rhythm between my time in Tucson and time in Colorado? What new collaborations will emerge from coming full circle and connecting again with my beloved Arizona? I have no answers yet.
I celebrate this anniversary with enormous excitement over the newly emerging possibilities as the Desert Foundation explores expanding from the high desert of Colorado into the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona.
And I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems, “Ulysses,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
… Come, my friends.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world….
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.