Archives for posts with tag: Silence

There is a simplicity in silence. Sitting watching the rain over the last two days reminded me of the fullness of life there is in apparently ‘doing’ nothing. Yet watching the rain fall upon a garden bleached brown by the lovely summer to date, awakened again memories of sitting as a child conscious of nothing more then the present moment.

Of course as a contemplative the disciplined practice of silence is an essential element of my daily rhythm of life. I deploy the tool of Centering Prayer as my springboard into silence. For silence can be approached along a number of pathways. The place for silence is growing in importance for as a society we are increasingly turning to noise to distract us from the stresses life presents. I have been surprised over recent years the number of car radios that continue to play even as I travel as a passenger. We talk, yet the radio is a perpetual background noise, filing any silence between our conversation. For others social media affords the suitable distraction. I will turn on the TV instinctively when wanting to relax. Of course all such methods are passive rather than active; I am the object, not the subject of such activity.

I wonder just how lost I am as I wade through yet another Netflix box set. The story lines are much the same, just located in a different context. And I’m amazed at the amount of what I would call ‘soft porn’ has crept onto my screen. I cannot see what additional value or context it affords the plot. Of course all this is entering through my eye-gate and is being processed somewhere in my brain. To good or ill effect I am uncertain, but fear the latter.

Silence is a practice best served without distractions. For those familiar with Centering Prayer it is by use of a prayer word that the individual seeks to refocus upon God when the mind consistently seeks to distract with a myriad of unrelated thoughts. The mind never stops, therefore this constant traffic noise of random thoughts will never go away. Yet learning to abide in silence is of increasing importance in value as we age and have more time on our hands and less energy for activity.

Another favoured route is to use Ignatian techniques that utilise the imagination. This means our mind is employed in directed activity to serve our desire to make use of the silence. These meditative approaches, as distinct from contemplation, enable us to direct the minds creativity to serve a divine purpose.

For me I have discovered an increasing desire for more silence as I’ve applied myself to contemplation. Rather than reading I seek time to be still, silent and rested in the divine presence. The simplicity is the very fact that I need little to sustain me in such a space. I emerge sometimes frustrated for managing my forever active mind has proved draining. Yet, then I remind myself I am being hijacked by a sense, deeply embedded in the human psyche, that time somehow has to produce results. Time spent in silence is its own result. It demands no ancillary product.

So gazing at the rain falling from the sky was a valuable lesson recovered from my childhood practice. I do indeed need to become a child again to approach God in any meaningful way.

IF you are interested in discovering more about the simplicity of silence consider our day retreat in the Oratory on Friday October 19, TURN UP THE QUIET’. A Beginner’s Guide to Contemplation‘.

Brilliant short piece below by Paula Huston for reflecting upon. I love the Aristotelian thought that a Virtue is something we practice daily until it becomes a part of our life and we an enfleshment of that Virtue. It may just resonate with me since I have been thinking awhile about how my rhythm of eating (inclusive of menus) relates to my rhythm of prayer and obedience. So another delightful springboard into reflecting more on those wonderful ways of the Divine.BMS_diagram

Food absorbs a lot of my time as a cook in the Oratory, and whilst never ‘cheffy’, I do invest effort and thought into producing meals. Now, after much reading, I am engaged in a no/very low sugar, non dairy approach to food and I am seeing the impact upon the waistline battle. Nor sure if I feel any more alive than previously as some shout about. I have still got to address my love of ‘comfort eating’ and ‘boredom eating’ when I revert to full powered sugar foods like cakes and cookies. I have also followed the advice of an Orthodox contact who advocates eating, even when alone, without TV or the distraction of reading. I now sit down at table and eat carefully, enjoying every mouthful, whilst considering my guest at the table is Jesus. Battling the sense of isolation within the silence can be unnerving, yet I can glimpse some vague benefits, which will grow as I consider making this a Virtue.

My Myers Briggs ‘N-F’ characteristic suggests establishing a routine and being diligent about it is something my temperament is not naturally suited to, yet will greatly flourish as a consequence if I can apply some perseverance and live consistently. So maybe adopting non meat days as the monks and friars have habitually done might form part of eating as a spiritual discipline for me.

Anyhow take a moment to read Paula Huston‘s great little contribution here. Here new book, ‘Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit‘ might be a useful reflective follow up.

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108 square.inddSaturday January 4th, St. Cuthbert’s held an Epiphany Retreat looking at the Journey of the Magi. The theme was based upon how the Magi left the comfort of the familiar, pursued a star and found a king. Their journey was possible only because they reached beyond all they knew in pursuit of something they hungered for. Using the narrative of the coming of the Magi we explored living beyond life’s boundaries.

All our Retreats are small in number and so five of us spend the day initially reflecting on what we brought into the day and used a breathing prayer to set such distractions to one side in order to gaze upon Christ.

Lectio Divina on the story of the Magi recorded by St Matthew enabled each of us to connect that historic faith quest with our own journey in the footsteps of Jesus. There followed the opportunity personally to explore this in silence and solitude. So often our lives are surrounded with words – the words of others spoken or the internal narrative part influenced from our history and part impacted by the pressure of our tomorrow. Either way, we lose sight of the God we worship, the star disappears from view, because our attention is constantly diverted from our ultimate purpose of being still and knowing God. This day afforded an intentional opportunity to simply waste time in the presence of the Divine.

Lunch provided a wonderful opportunity to share stories over a fine feast, for as we feasted upon God’s revelation, so we mirrored Jesus’ own love of communicating around the meal table.

And then in the afternoon there was time to reflect upon the journey of prayer, the way of purgation, illumination and union. We focussed upon purgation – listening individually to what God had to say about those obstacles that constantly stood in the way of our setting out and leaving the seekingknown in accepting God’s invitation to explore the unknown of Divine love. The day concluded with stories around the hearth of the insights God had given and we were enriched.

All left rested and I am grateful for one comment that captures both the heartbeat of the day and the intention of the life of the Oratory here, ‘Thanks so much for our day of reflection. A great way to start the year for me. It made me realise that our spiritual life needs the help of a structure or framework to enrich our relationship with God. It poses a challenge about what I do about church now. No hurry!

Our next Retreat here in the Oratory is March 1st, 2014 – St David’s Day. We only accept six retreatants for the day. No charge although contributions to the work of the Oratory are invited on the day. The day runs from 9:15-4:30. To find out more email stcuthbertsoratory@gmail.com.

Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening and an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts‘ Thomas Merton.

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