film, cotton candied sunsets in montville, june, 2020
Here is a sweet melody to accompany you as you read; 'Faith's Hymn' - Beautiful Chorus
The afternoon chorus of birds sing the sun down over the horizon. I find a spot out on the deck, cradling my cup of dandelion and chicory tea, giving warmth to my hands. I look out onto the terrain of glorious creation encircled around me, nestled in my home amongst the gum trees. The smell of wood fire burning brings back memories of mornings in Cambodia and a small town south of Sydney where I grew up as a child. A salty and gentle breeze lingers from the ocean that isn't too far off and I marvel at how this is my home for this very strange and surreal season of life. The Sunshine Coast. This place is everything the name implies. I have now been living here for almost four months. It has been a place of quiet retreat and in some ways, hidden from all the uncertainties and horrors of the world. There is a farm where you can pick your own strawberries at the end of my road and a boardwalk surrounded by the wetlands that winds down to the river where I go for daily walks. The stillness and beauty of the environment around me has not always echoed my own internal story. That has been quite jarring, for one would think that dwelling in what seems like heaven on earth would instil such peace. And yet, it is an ardent reminder that regardless of where it is that you find yourself externally, the interior landscape within trumps all. The majority of us seek rest for our souls, especially in the midst of turmoil as we have undeniably seen the world in its current state and that of our own personal lives. Sometimes it can feel as though the storm within our own minds is more tumultuous than anything we witness outside of ourselves. Once we have exhausted holidays, meditation retreats, a change of diet, gardening, binge watching a show and everything and anything else you can think of that hopes to bring some clarity or rest, what else is there to do? Now hear me, I am not saying any of the aforementioned activities are wrong, they have their place and are sorely needed. But they are all dependent on external circumstances, and don't ultimately satisfy the aching desire for long lasting rest for our wearied hearts and minds. What if the peacefulness we so desperately crave was not something to be found outside of ourselves, but within?
I am ever learning the art of stillness, of quieting my soul before my maker. There are many treasures to be discovered in this 'silent land'. It is not so easy to find and many times I fall into distraction. The chaotic rambling of thoughts and the flurry of everyday life clamour for my attention. Oh, but then there are moments of such unadulterated bliss when I am able to centre my scattered senses upon the presence of God. In the stillness- He speaks. In a language of such tenderness, drawing me deeper into a love I never knew existed, but that which my heart so desperately craves. The truest of all realties I believe, flower in silence. An innate knowing that you are loved, that you are truly seen and you are held in Eternity's arms. One of my favourite books, 'Into The Silent Land' by Martin Laird writes so eloquently- “Dying is all about letting go and letting be, as is the awareness of God. People who have traveled far along the contemplative path are often aware that the sense of separation from God is itself pasted up out of a mass of thoughts and feelings. When the mind comes into its own stillness and enters the silent land, the sense of separation goes. Union is seen to be the fundamental reality and separateness a highly filtered mental perception.” The deepest longings and sighs of our hearts are met in the interior of our souls communing with the Divine maker.
I know I won't always live in a tranquil home, in so sleepy a town. But I do know, regardless of what a day holds and in whichever place I find myself in, I can retreat to the inner sanctuary where God is delighted to dwell. Despite how disorderly and turbulent this season has been, I want to give myself wholly to all that there is be learnt in every season of life I find myself in. Not to shy away from the pain and sorrow that arises when all the busyness and distractions of the world are set aside. Again, ever so poetically, Martin Laird describes as such; “The doorway into the silent land is a wound. Silence lays bare this wound. We do not journey far along the spiritual path before we get some sense of the wound of the human condition, and this is precisely why not a few abandon a contemplative practice like meditation as soon as it begins to expose this wound; they move on instead to some spiritual entertainment that will maintain distraction. Perhaps this is why the weak and wounded, who know very well the vulnerability of the human condition, often have an aptitude for discovering silence and can sense the wholeness and healing that ground this wound."
A couple of practical steps that I have found to be helpful in facilitating rest and setting myself up for the day, is turning my phone on airplane mode before I go to sleep, so in the morning I am not distracted by a hoard of notifications. I then go for a walk without my phone to read, to write and to be still in the early hours of the morning. I find such sweet solace in these morning rituals. When I haven't began my morning like this, I find I am so restless! Obviously, not everyone's season looks the same and things inevitably change and with it, you find ways to adjust. We each all prioritise that which we deem important and worthy of tending too. I personally find writing so cathartic and incredibly helpful to help me slow down and process. To navigate and articulate matters of the heart. I have found when I am stuck trying to write something though, it is a nudge to listen. To enter into stillness and have an attentive heart to what it is that the beloved lover of my soul wants to whisper to me. There are so many treasures in this silent interior land that are yet to be discovered and lived out in experiential knowledge. For if everything flows from our innermost being, then tending to the deepest parts of our soul is the greatest pursuit to endeavour on. It is an arduous, thrilling, terrifying, messy, exhilarating and most rewarding journey. The art of silence is not a quick fix nor just a technique. It is a lifetime of learning and yielding to the process. It is for those who truly desire to find fulfilment that is long lasting and innately satisfying, that which nothing and no-one in this world can ultimately give. He has created things in this world for us to enjoy, to be sure, but there is more beyond this one dimensional reality to be discovered and revel in. Such pleasures that this world offers are but a shadow, mere counterfeits of the glorious true pleasures found in intimacy with God. Lord knows I have indulged in almost everything this world has had to offer. Stories for another time. Yet again, there is still so much yet to ramble on about, but I shall end with this poem below. May these words fill your heart and entice you to go deeper and deeper still.
"It was like church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in the hand.
It was quiet.
What God was there made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In movement of the wind over the grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the hearts passions- that was praise
Enough; and the minds cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke generously on me as bread."
- R. S. Thomas "The Moor"
film, my room in bli bli, august, 2020