in to the silence …

doorwayI’ve not blogged for a little while.
I’m conscious that I have said that a lot over the last year or so.
I don’t mind saying life has been hard, particularly over the last few months with the sudden death of my younger brother, amongst other things.
I have, and am, travelling the interesting road of grief and encountering all it’s joys, heartbreaks and confusions.

Now for the first time in a little while I believe I am re-finding me.
Which I think is an example of good God timing … sometimes I marvel at my stupidity and surprise over such things.

Before the summer I had booked my annual retreat at West Malling Abbey.
I had planned for 5 days of silence with some direction at the start of each day.
August was not the right time to take that retreat … it would have meant coming out of retreat and travelling straight to Weymouth to take my brother’s funeral. So, I and the sisters, decided it was not the best time and we re-arranged it for this coming week.

So … this week, from today, I will be intentionally entering into 5 days of silence.
I have a book or two to take which I may or may not read.
The only plan I have is to place myself in front of God …. and … well … just wait to see what happens.
The ‘standards’ will be joining the sisters for the times of monastic office and starting each day with my meditation, but other than that there is no plan.

Am I worried about being bored with my own company  – maybe!
Am I concerned that God won’t show and that  I will experience nothing – definitley!
Am I thinking this was a mad idea – certainly!
Am I just scared at the whole thought of this now that it is here … well, YES!

But … I believe passionately about entering into silence.
It may be scary,
it may be hard,
even painful ….
but I believe that it is in the silence,
when we allow the crap of the world to be filtered out,
when we ‘dull’ the impact of whatever the crap is
when we cut ourselves off from ‘stuff’
that we hear from ourselves
(which is ok if we hold to being created in the image of God stuff!)
and from our creator.

I don’t believe that God only speaks in the silence
I believe God is constantly speaking, constantly calling, constantly loving.
I realise though, that as is the case with the important people in my life
that in the plethora of noise around
I don’t hear properly
or maybe am even too afraid to listen.

That stops today
for now
as I wait
and allow God
to find me
and me
to find God

Please pray for me if you do that thing
if you don’t  … then happy unicorn thoughts and blessings are ok too

I’ll see you on the other side!



reflections on silence (pt1 … maybe)

DSC_1194I quite like silence … to many who know me that probably comes as a bit of a surprise, mainly because I can be a bit of a loud, annoying and nosey bugger … but silence has become, for me, a place of refreshment and rejuvenation. With certain people it also seems to be a place of real valuable place of meaningful communication and connection.

I have noticed that, for me, silence has become an important nourishing ingredient of my diet … so maybe those people that labelled me ‘introvert’ a few years back really did know what they were talking about.

For some background, I joined the sisters of St Francis at St Alphege for a week. Although they are not a silent order, they respected the fact that I wished top be in an attitude of silence for my 7 days with them … conversations were had at meal times as I feel a meal is supposed to be a social thing …. but outside those times I observed silence.

I have done a few bouts of 3 day silences, and I have often found those difficult to enter into. Surprisingly for me, this time, it was not entering the silence, but leaving the silence, which proved to be a challenge. Do you understand that feeling you get at the end of something where you want to leave, you know you should leave, things are pulling you to leave …. and yet … there is something like a trickle of a desire to simply stay …. to continue to experience the space a short while longer … well that was my experience this time. I knew it was time to go … but something within me wanted to stay.

Leaving silence and re-entering the real world, that I had only ‘left’ 7 days before was a challenge. I seemed to be hyper sensitive to the penetration of noise that seemed to bombard from everywhere. I remember looking quizzically at people with a ‘what the fuck are you even talking about that for?’ question screaming from my brain. That reaction was a complete, and quite shocking, observation for me to perceive.

In this seven day silence of reflection I seem to have become painfully conscious of how some, maybe the whole of our society, but particularly me (as I am only really qualified to talk about myself here … and I’m unique so it could just be me that feels like this .. because we are all unique…) uses the curtain of noise to wrap ourselves in and hide from reality.

When there is noise, rambling, music, words, …. I can listen to that and do not need to listen to myself. If i don’t listen to myself I can fool myself about the reality of things. If I don’t face reality it’s easy to act. Then life is played out on a stage … often with an audience of one!

I wonder whether it is true for many that they avoid silence, avoid that meeting with themself, with no one else around …. their simple, bare, open, honest self …. because they are afraid, really afraid, of what they may find.

In my poem in my last post I wrote

to freeze from running
and face who I may be
uncovering the past aches
that could reveal
                 …………… anything

That last word, ‘anything’, has in reality become a pretty scary word.
I was surprised by what some of the silence has revealed. I have been surprised by some of the stuff that I had ‘forgotten’.
That’s not strictly true … stuff had not been forgotten but so covered, squeezed, rolled and compressed into places where, for years, I did not have to think about them.

Silence gives opportunity to uncover, unsqueeze, unroll and decompress ….. and I will be honest …. that means some of the stuff is going to be quite painful to continue to uncover … but … it also means the uncovering and bearing really does leave me feeling less burdened with a much lighter, sunnier, outlook.

So ….. I move forward ……

(to be continued ….)

returning from silence

DSC_1189aI have been back from retreat for a little while.
It can be difficult coming back from a silent haven in the centre of London to the real life of the 21st Century.It felt almost like silence was the norm … and that the world was odd ….

Anyway …. I will write more about the experience over the next few days ….. first I am sharing a poem I wrote while in the silence …

returning from silence

my friend
my refuge
my radiance
a smudged looking glass
still pure enough to unfold
a …. or is that … the … reality
that ordinarily
is too painful to face
in the back yard
of my ordinary day

choosing to hide
so i may be found
ceasing to talk
so I may be heard
tearing at fibrous shielded wounds
so I may be healed

in the silence

the silence of this place
in the well seasoned utterances
of ordinary everyday saints
seems to understand
to chime
with the masked identity
of the essence of my being

a knowledges that embraces
welcomes almost
an unshockable urgency
for me to be here
to freeze from running
and face who I may be
uncovering the past aches
that could reveal
                 …………… anything

I present
I kneel
open yet wary
to bare
what needs to be bared
and accept
the discovery

this silence
my silence
the silence
will hold me today
so i may rest
i may tentatively  hope
i may nervously dream

my light
my space
my ally

in silence

My Erised

Mirror24 men on retreat was a great time. I came away knowing I am very privileged and cared for by this great group of friends.

It was good to catch up with my (old) friends and have time together to reflect and time alone to pray. The convent in Nympsfield is one of those places where it is pretty impossible to be distracted. There is no wifi signal. There is no mobile phone signal. Well .. that’s not strictly true I did manage to get a signal by walking to the top of the hill, climbing up a tree and stretching my phone up in the air as far as I can. That gave me one bar of reception now and again.

Due to its relative remoteness I find silence is very easy to achieve here … and so I spent a lot of time in silence before God. I used the Jesus Prayer a lot; so as well as reading I spent a lot of time in silence before my Creator God. In that silence God seemed to transform some fears into hopes and some longings into dreams. Most of all I seemed to receive two things:
God seemed to remind me of promises and I had this great sense of God simply saying ‘trust me’.
God also reminded me that he called me as me and so a little bit of remembering who I am started to happen. It was nothing like a mirror but the best way of describing this feeling was like standing in front of God who was a mirror. maybe a better illustration would be the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter. It seemed as well as reminding me who I am, that God was reminding me what I longed for most. Maybe I will share that at another time when I am happy to make myself a little more vulnerable and ‘feel’ the grace of my readers!

Trust seems so simple to do in theory .. and yet I find it so difficult when the world and stuff I have ‘learned’ (and maybe need to unlearn) crashes back in on my life.
But i guess trust is hard, gritty and involve pain … I don’t know … but to trust connects with my vulnerability writings earlier in the year. The other side of the trust coin is vulnerability, as we inevitably have to open up ourselves to be let down.

Anyway … a great few days where I was blessed by friendship and challenged by God…. thank you.

Silence pt 1 … the unforgettable tune

12 hours of silence and I feel strangely refreshed.
I’m rediscovering the old mantra
There was a terrible wind,
but God was not in the wind.
Then came an earthquake,
but God was not in the earthquake.
Then there was a ferocious fire,
But God was not in the fire.
Then there was a still small whisper …

I am finding God in the still small whisper
after only 12 hours
immersed suggests I’m powerless
saturated feels like an advert for low fat spread
this is different
this is like coming home
resting in passion
not just in presence

the coils of my DNA seem to resonate
with not a new song
not a forgotten song
a song that I have just realised
I have not sung for a little while

a song whose melodies
i enjoy
know deep down
understand little
but love massively

It’s like hearing a tune from school days on the radio
you know, that song you loved
but had forgotten.
you hear the tune
and before you know where you are
you are singing along with the words
word perfect

So perfect that
when driving
through a tunnel
and the radio loses the signal
you keep singing
and you smile
when you emerge
that you kept in perfect time.

Such an unforgettable knowledge
is not learnt in lectures, books, talks
it is buried in the heart
and apparantly
it only needs a few notes
before it is awoken.