During the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has meant significant changes to the way we live, as I am sure most of us can testify. For some, the physical limitations of lockdown have been difficult and trying. Even so, you may have found as I have, that the enforced restrictions have produced unexpected fruit.
With fewer of the usual distractions of life, I think this pandemic has provided many of us with a retreat-like experience. It has allowed time and space for a different focus. As our horizons have contracted and our attention has become more focussed on things close around us, we may have begun to see things in a new light.
If we had been on retreat, (sadly our Contemplative Fire annual retreat has been cancelled like so many others), I would have hoped to engage more fully and with greater awareness, in the on-going conversation of heart, with time to allow that inner change towards a deepening faith. Perhaps, during lockdown, in the confinement of our homes, there has been the time for this to happen.
In the unfamiliar quiet and stillness of skies and road, as we have looked out, perhaps we have noticed with new awareness, the inner stillness of the Spirit within, heard again, or for the first time. I wonder if, like me, you have noticed more, more to see and hear, noticing the growing, wild things, and wonder at their intricacy, their beauty. And as I do so, in a mysterious action beyond my doing, I begin to notice my own inner growing and wilderness, my own intricacy and, (dare I say it, admit it even), my own inner beauty, that I am ‘wonderfully made’! I am in that conversation of heart, spacious and still, enabling the change I need, and I go deeper into knowing my true being, into the loving acceptance of me as I am known by God.
I begin to know the silence of myself. The noise of the world, even the noise of my thinking, shrinks. In the new consciousness that is opening in me, ‘Stillness reveals that we are the silent, vast awareness’ (Martin Laird ‘Into the Silent Land’).
Philip Roderick, founder of Contemplative Fire, once described prayer as ‘attentive awareness’. It has something to do with how we notice the extraordinary in the ordinary, when the usual becomes exceptional, when the temporal speaks of the eternal. In attentive stillness, we can notice more the detail, the little things that easily get lost in busyness.
Recently my attention was caught by a small white feather falling into my garden. I recall Hildegard of Bingen’s noticing much the same. She wrote ‘The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus I am a feather on the breath of God’.
We have been borne by strange winds recently and the sweet water well during lockdown may have seemed more like a mirage in a parched and weary land. The words of Christ can reassure us. The deep springs within us will not fail but they will well up like rivers of living water.
I leave you with a short poem written by Companion Helen Beale which seems to fit with our times.
The sweet water well is no fairy-tale wishing well