The Hardest Thing To Do
Eager for Father Theodore's morning lesson, Conradus took his place in the circle with the others, and peace settled upon him. Conradus did not know that when Theodore had passed through the novitiate the novices had sat in rows facing their master at the front. He did not consider Theodore's reasoning in arranging the stools in a circle; even so, he was not insensible to the atmosphere of community in this room. Here was a place where people learned together, and everyone felt included.
The young monks and their novice master, all now gathered, sat without speakng in the circle - another innovation of Theodore's. Invariably late to almost everyting as a novice himself, his memories were of lessons begun and half missed: he used to miss the start because he was late, miss the next bit because he was overcome with bitter humiliation and self-rebuke, and miss most of the rest because he couldn't quite make sense of it, trying to imagine what the bits he had missed might have been.
So he initiated the practice of starting the time together in silence.
"In silence we enter the room, brothers. In silence we take a place in the circle - any place, not my place or your place, not the same place always, for place is nothing to be possessive about. We sit quietly then and take in where we are. Sit with your eyes open or shut, it matters not; but be aware. Know that being a monk is not about withdrawal but about community, and feel the community here. We listen to our brothers...see them...smell them...(that usually brought a laugh) and we stay open to what else we can notice. Restlessness? Weariness? Friendship? Peace? Every day is different in community, and we are made more sensitive to the differences because every day is the same."