These past few months the weather here in Vancouver has been ideal for mountain hiking. The days have been sunny and warm and I have taken advantage of this fine weather to get out for several mountain hikes with a good friend of mine. The most challenging hike we undertook was the Lion Binkert Trail, which runs from Lions Bay up to the top of the famous Lions which stand guard over the lands of the Coast Salish people upon which Vancouver lies.
The online hiking guide estimates that completing the trail, up and down, should take approximately eight hours and it advises that the trail is for serious climbers. Well, we were serious about climbing, but not overly experienced. Plus, we are both in our fifties, so not exactly young. So, the eight-hour trek took us twelve hours, and took my legs three days to recover afterwards. But, the whole adventure was a great experience and while I may not repeat this particular trail I most certainly hope to continue to hike in the mountains.
A long hike like this allows for plenty of time to reflect. One of the themes of my own reflection concerned the method of contemplation-in-action that I seek to follow. I reflected more particularly on the movements of transcendence and immanence, the going up and the going down, in the spiritual life. What better time to reflect on these movements in the spiritual life than climbing up and down a steep, rugged mountain through the cool of the rain forest.
There is much in life that calls me to transcendence, to go out of myself, to seek the ‘more’ in life, and to seek the higher good. At the same time, a fully human life requires that I live immanently, that I live embodied, on the ground, with others with whom I live and have my being. Indeed, a balanced spiritual life requires the integration of both dimensions.
The best term I’ve read to describe the integration of the transcendent and immanent dimensions of the spiritual life is that of transparency. In a gem of a work called ‘God’s Witnesses in the Heart of The World’ (1981), Leonardo Boff discusses how the bringing together of transcendence and immanence can result in a person who is transparent. With a transparent person we see how their horizon of transcendence is lived with their immanent life through their practice of compassion and the pursuit of justice.
To follow a path of engaged spirituality is to follow the summons to become more and more transparent. It is to put into action one’s theories, beliefs, and convictions. When this path is pursued with the concerns of justice for all and the retrieval of sustainable practices and patterns of living with our good earth then a person becomes a witness not only in the heart of the world, but for the heart of the world.
To live transparently is to live not only with our hearts on our sleeves but also with our ideals informing our actions in the world. This can be difficult for being transparent often means that people ‘see right through us’ and we begin to realize that we have little to hide. But this is good for there is really only one person within me, one self that seeks to be in this world, the true self wherein the divine abides. It is this self that climbs the mountains heights and the walks the valley floors. And it is this self that sees the horizons spreading out from the mountain tops and knows the blessings to be found in engaging with others in building a better world for all. It is this self through whom God works.