Reflections on Precious Time with a Master Teacher
Thanks to some interesting conversations here, I started reflecting on what it means to come and spend intense times of study with a master teacher like Mirka. For those of us who don’t live very close to our teachers, the time with them is a precious jewel.
Santa Chiara (Clare) emphasized the importance of working with your hands as an expression of devotion. One observer of the poor sisters said this of how Clare and her followers lived.
“I found one consolation in those parts: many men and women, rich and worldly, after renouncing everything for Christ, fled the world. They are called Lesser Brothers and Lesser Sisters (“Fratres et Sorores Minores”). They are held in great esteem by the Lord Pope and the cardinals. They do not occupy themselves with temporal affairs, but work each day with great desire and enthusiastic zeal … They live according to the form of the primitive Church … They go into the cities and villages during the day, so that they convert others, giving themselves to active work; but they return to their hermitages or solitary places at night, employing themselves in contemplation. The women live near the cities in various hospices. They accept nothing, but live from the work of their hands” (Clare of Assisi. Early Documents. Edited and Translated by Regis J. Armstrong OFMCap, Paulist Press, New York, 1988, pp. 245-246)
In my experience, one’s spiritual journey is like the craft of sewing a blanket by hand, piece by piece. As you go through life, you sometime find bits of fabric to add you your blanket, but it is a slow process for most of us. Your personal practice is like the thread that pulls the pieces together. At first, your blanket is so small that it covers maybe only your foot. Over time it gets bigger, but most of us need some help to find pieces that fit into our blanket.
Being with a master teacher is like sitting with a master weaver and seamstress who builds beautiful pieces of fabric out of the threads of ancient wisdom, and then she teaches you how to sew them together so that the blanket stays together as long as it is needed. She also advises you on which fabrics work best for your own blanket and which ones may not fit so well. Time with her gives you inspiration to keep sewing and keep creating.
When you walk away from the time with your teacher, she has given you enough fabric to keep sewing for years to come. And suddenly, one day, you begin to realize that she has not only given you the fabric to add to your blanket, she has taught you to weave, and you begin to create the fabric for yourself. With enough time and work, you blanket becomes big enough to not only cover yourself, but it can become so large that is can also offer warmth to others and possibly big enough to embrace the entire world.
If you are truly blessed, she also makes you laugh like crazy at yourself and life (in between all of the serious stuff).