contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Month: March, 2022

IMAGINATION, ANIMATION, LIBERATION

Looking at the nymph statue above, I am reminded of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. There, the nymph would be one of Narnia’s magical beings, frozen in place as a statue. A malign ruler (for Lewis the witch) is at war with the free abundance of being with which Narnia has been blessed. Liberation, and reanimation, comes only at the end of a hard struggle.

I re-read The Chronicles of Narnia recently, and appreciate the series well enough to look beyond Lewis’ gratingly conservative and patriarchal theology. I like his use of imagination as a force that can bring us spiritually alive. In the sixth chronicle, The Silver Chair, a group of beings is held in a deep underworld realm with no access to the Narnian surface. Here, there is not even a limited or distorted opening to the light. The abundance of Narnia is not simply rejected and fought against. Instead, we find total denial of its existence. Here, there is a seemingly complete lack of access to enabling experiences and understandings. Moreover, this state of affairs is backed up by an active entrancement and policing of the subject population.

There is resistance all the same. Some of the denizens of this realm have been in Narnia, though they have been induced to forget it. Puddleglum, once a lugubrious marsh dweller in the upper world, finds courage and a voice even in this wretchedly dystopian place, infusing it with the promise of life even as he speaks: “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seems a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, it you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live like as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. …. We’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for the Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think,; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say” (1).

In such unpromising conditions, a quest is born.

(1) C. S Lewis The Silver Chair: Geoffrey Bles, 1953 (Chronicles of Narnia, Vol 6)

RIPPLE EFFECTS

Watching the fast flowing ripples as wind moves over water. Enjoying the power of the elements in this playful mood. For a brief time, delightedly immersed. Then stepping back and taking a brief video and a still picture. Seeing, later, how different they are. Rich moments are not hard to find, it seems, if I’m willing to find them in simple experiences.

‘My spirituality’ (an odd term, though widely used) is becoming simpler and more natural. My defining term, contemplative inquiry, has begun to seem complicated and formal to me, though in essence I still find it valid. It also identifies a thread of continuity in a decade of exploration. I am going to keep it as a description of what I do, even as my specific practice and understanding develop. One of my hopes is to simplify my inquiry process itself, without diminishing it, as I continue to move and change. Ripple images feel relevant somehow, both in themselves and as a metaphor which I can’t quite, as yet, fully decode.

A HEALING DREAM

I’ve been unwell for most of this month so far. But now I seem to be mending, and this is partly due to a dream.

I don’t have deeply healing dreams very often, but when they come they affect my whole bodymind. They don’t require much roof brain interpretation. I find it more important to tune in to shifts under the surface, and intuit guidance there. The dream feels like part of my inquiry, offering itself for contemplation, so I have decided to share it here:

“A grey shadow space, unformed … out of which comes a desire, rightly or wrongly framed as a necessity, for an important encounter. Perhaps a revelatory one.

“Now, the descent into a well-defined yet dark (because night-time) space. I am in a large city, which I know to be coastal. There is someone I have to meet within the next 48 hours. I know their name and neighbourhood, but not their address. I have hope, if not confidence, that I will find them. Nonetheless, I am anxious in this night.

“Walking out in the morning, I feel simple pleasure in being at large in the city. An unfamiliar locality approached from a beach suddenly becomes familiar when I realise that I have been here before from another direction. I am on a wide street, actually an avenue with trees. There are shops and businesses of various kinds on both sides. I could eat anything that the world offers, here.

“Later, still in a flaneur rather than questing mode, I become aware that time is passing, and indeed is running out. But instead of becoming anxious, I remain attentive to the scenes in front of my face. They seem like blessing enough, as long as my openness and attention are engaged.

“Now the scene has shifted again. I am in bed in a room, watching a clock with a severe Gothic face. It is two minutes to the midnight on which my time runs out. Then 10 seconds – (it no longer matters about meeting anyone). Ticking down – the clock becomes simpler and friendlier. I’m curious. At the very end I am relaxed and happy.

“Then I wake up, check out my surroundings, and enjoy the feeling of being blessed with a healing dream. I deeply believe that I am on the road to recovery, whatever recovery turns out to mean.”

ST DAVID’S DAY 2022: A WALK IN THE PARK

It is 1 March, a mixed day – bringing together grey sky, bare branches, emerging blossoms and vivid daffodils. It is chilly, and rain is likely, though not just yet. Daffodils (here the strongest sign of a changing year) are linked to St. David, the patron saint of Wales. 1 March is his feast day.

David lived during the sixth century CE, a flourishing time for Celtic Christianity. His defining early achievement was the founding of a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (the Vale of Roses) on the west headland of Pembrokeshire (Si Benfro) where St. David’s Cathedral now stands. He went on to become a Christian leader of great authority, and was eventually canonised in the twelfth century, a different historical period with the church under stronger Vatican control and Welsh identity under threat from the English. David became the patron saint of Wales and his day is celebrated in Wales with parades and other public events.

Gloucester is very much an English city, though not so very far from Wales. Today’s weather conditions would not be out of place there. My wife Elaine and I went out on a morning walk with a sense of the saint’s day and how both the day and the coming of March represent a shift in the year. I noticed, too, how I can honour a saint without thinking of sainthood as a model, or even remotely wanting to be one. I acknowledge that I am on different kind of path, less defined, less heroic, and less religious.

When out walking, I see how the ordinary world seems to transform in the light of a loving gaze. I am looking at the world as it is, not for signs of a creator’s hand or influence or expectations. For me, laid out below – at the micro level – I find grass, earth, twigs, purple crocus and dead leaves. They are simply themselves. All ordinary in an ordinary moment. But an ordinary moment, as we might conventionally call it, is an extraordinary event. It is a small miracle, in its naturalistic way, yet easy to access in a receptive frame of mind.

I do appreciate that a ‘receptive frame of mind’, as a private experience, is facilitated by favourable public conditions, like a well-managed public park. I may not be dependent on such external conditions, but they do make a difference. I am grateful for their current presence in an uncertain world.

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