“Live a life of friction. Let yourself be disturbed as much as possible, but observe.”
― G.I. Gurdjieff
In my last letter I shared about our process of moving to Denver. Part of my prayer for buying a home and moving here is to apprentice myself more deeply to material reality. Now that we are settling in here, the practice has become to sustain and maintain that prayer, to keep giving it shape and structure and to tend to its physical manifestation.
I love to make big changes and have big ideas, but sustaining the focus to carry them forward is also a powerful alchemy. In many ways the deepest relationship with life is forged through maintaining it. It is much easier to get pregnant than to raise a child for example. It is easier to get married than to sustain a marriage and evidently, it is also easier to buy a house than to maintain it!
Making a prayer can often feel special, creative and revelatory. Sustaining that prayer is more… mundane.
As we all know, life requires a tremendous amount of maintenance: the dishes, the cleaning, the lawn, the tools, the taxes, the vehicles, the DMV, grooming, shopping, cooking… the literally endless details of a life. It can be easy to feel like these things aren’t the important parts of life, that they’re mundane and not sacred, burdens distracting us from more “meaningful” experiences.
But mundane is an interesting word. One of its roots is from the latin word mundanus which means “of this world” and it was used in that sense to distinguish this world from the world of the church and the spiritual realms. This speaks to a way that Western cultures have separated the worldly from the spiritual. In this way we have to go to a church/temple/mosque or have some sort of peak experience to feel the touch of the holy, as though it can’t happen while we are washing the dishes or in line at the DMV. This perspective leads us to feel that friction or discomfort is somehow wrong or not a vital part of a spiritual process. It assumes that life is about flow, and that if it’s not flowing, you’ve made a mistake. (In fact, as I’m writing this right now and having formatting trouble, my wife yells “it’s not HOLY, it’s a bug!”)
Yet, flow and friction are BOTH great teachers.
I have actually spent several hours at the DMV in the last week. I can speak from experience that it too is a holy place to practice prayer and presence when one can remember to do so.
Our attention to the present moment, whether flowing or frictional, has the possibility to elevate any moment of life into a communion with the holy. The process doesn’t have to be too precious or something we linger on. It can just be a simple acknowledgement of our capacity to be present with reality, even right now as you read this. Then its time to keep moving forward.
May your friction serve you.