“Sit in your cell as in paradise,” stated the 11th century monk, St. Romuald. “Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.”
A green frog named Romuald lives in the pond near my house, and he doesn’t seem to mind that I watch him. When I am sitting on the bench close to the pond, he will jump right up on the stones I have placed around the water’s edge, and there he will stay, motionless and without affect, betraying no emotion, for as long as I care to stay, Although I sometimes hear him croak in the night, he is always quiet when I am watching, both of us in our cell, so to speak.
For a while, I waited to see if Romuald would actually do something. Maybe he would catch a fly, I thought, or dive in after a piece of fish food that was floating by. But the frog soon taught me that there was nothing to do.
And when I try to understand my frog, there is really nothing for me to do but surmise, conjecture, imagine and then finally accept. I find no answers, no logical conclusions. The frog vigil creates a tabula rasa, a blank slate, for my mind and body.
Now if I were a naturalist or a scientist, I would stay by the water as long as it took to know exactly what this frog ate and where he slept, and really how long he could stay out of water, and how far he could jump. If I were an academic, then I would learn all of those things and much more.
But Romuald seems to be telling me to leave the world of reason and specifics behind, and so I am free to contemplate the frog in itself. I can rest lightly in his passivity and his potential. He is, after all, in his cell. He seems to be empty, content, as if waiting for grace in paradise.