The Vale

                Through her eyes a welcome glimpse 
                of that pristine garden long past.
                A vision, a signal of purity - 
                all is not lost. 

                We open together in contour, 
                shade, curve and light. 
                Rising in boundless movement,
                at rest in perfect stillness. 
                Where words are small, 
                she becomes vast, 
                holding and quietly healing.  
                The ancient ground and I await, 
                a moment joined in longing.  

               Wiltshire, England, September 2022. 


Turn in

Turn in, turn in, the leaves dance and sway
like terminal lovers beguiled by decay.
In ochre and amber the autumnal edge 
with coloured collapse keeps its annual pledge. 
The now lonely branches, stripped down, unadorned, 
hail heaven with bare limbs, green garments yet mourned. 
Their stilled presence marks time to rest and repair, 
to lean into winter’s quiet swathe and prepare
our cloistered hands, hushed minds and poor yielding hearts,
in silence of wholeness to be set apart. 
11th November 2021, Wiltshire, England. 

Be a lover of silence

Many are avidly seeking but they alone find who remain in continual silence…Every man who delights in a multitude of words, even though he says admirable things, is empty within.

If you love truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sunlight will illuminate you in God and will deliver you from the phantoms of ignorance. Silence will unite you to God himself.”

Isaac of Nineveh (quoted in Merton’s ‘Contemplative Prayer’)

The contemplative life

…is to retain indeed with all one’s mind the love of God and neighbour, but to rest from all exterior action, and cleave only to the desire of the Maker, that the mind may now take no pleasure in doing anything, but having spurned all cares, may be aglow to see the face of its Creator; so that it already knows how to bear with sorrow the burden of the corruptible flesh, and with all its desires to seek to join the hymn-singing choirs of angels, to mingle with the heavenly citizens, and to rejoice at its everlasting incorruption in the sight of God.

St Gregory of Nyssa

God be in my head

God be in my head
And in my understanding;
God be in myne eyes, 
And in my looking;
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking;
God be in my heart, 
And in my thynking;
God be at my end,
And at my departing. 

The Sarum Missal (11th century English origin)

The inner misanthrope bows out

A period of wintery reflection has encouraged me to look back and learn from the tones and textures of paths already trodden.

Once upon a time, my younger self saw that the world was broken and that contemporary society was quite rotten. As a result of this (correct) observation, the youthful me wanted as little as possible to do with ‘normal’, and viewed everything through a lens of fiercely individualistic misanthropy. This was a perfectly reasonable stepping stone to land upon.

“Most of the world is either asleep or dead. 
The religious people are, for the most part, asleep. 
The irreligious are dead.” 

Thomas Merton

I still cherish my inner misanthrope – she knew that something was wrong, and she kindly steered me away from the toxic mainstream and towards a process of deeper questioning. However, it is now time for her to take a bow and exit the stage. She has served her purpose. Scorn and disdain are no longer necessary as protective allies. Today I can do better than this. Developing real faith (by making the journey from faith in self to faith in God) means that I am capable of loving and empathising with my fellow humans.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

We are all here undertaking this incredibly difficult journey, and most of us find ourselves adrift in a sea of pointless materialism, deep in forgetting and entirely without wise guidance. It often amazes me that any of us are sane. A softening in my attitude towards the people around me has arisen in tandem with a deepening of my understanding of disharmony as a teaching mechanism. Seeing this more clearly means that I no longer need to pour all of my energy into protecting myself from disharmonious people and situations. The negative, the challenging, the difficult and the crooked are the means by which we learn. Interestingly, I have found that the more I accept this, the more I encounter harmony.

Consider the work of God;
For who can make straight what He has made crooked?
In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.

Ecclesiastes 2:17

In light of the above, I have four daily contemplations that have been providing me with good company. They represent the shift in attitude that I am currently navigating.

  1. Discern the difference between what one wants to do and what one ought to do.
  2. Differentiate between glorification of self and glorification of God.
  3. Look from a perspective of love. 
  4. Hold life with an open hand.