Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
Don’t search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Then, perhaps, some day, far in the future,
you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
It’s almost four months since I retired from a life which, for 35 years, provided me with meaning and purpose. As the days go by the sense of panic which emerged with the letting-go of the structures which had provided that meaning and purpose has subsided. Yet there is still an urge to find something to fill the space.
But, slowly, I am recognising the importance of that space – of emptiness and no-thing. At another level this might be a primal urge to understand what happened before the ’Big Bang’, before ‘the beginning’ when the Word brought Creation into being. Whilst creation is good, grace operates outside the natural world in that space where we don’t have control. I recognise the problem I have in not being in control of my universe, but I realise that only occupying that place of ‘not-being-in-control’ enables grace to flow more freely. God cannot easily move us when we are seeking to be ‘in control’.
So, too, I have begun to realise that so much of our activity can act as a distraction and prevent me from giving my attention to the heart. In his book Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird makes the point that we are inclined to pay less attention to ‘the mountain’ on which we live our lives and more to the ‘weather’ which occurs upon it. The mountain represents the ground of our being, the true Self. ‘The marvellous world of thoughts, sensation, emotions, and inspiration, the spectacular world of creation around us are all patterns of stunning weather on the holy mountain of God. But we are not the weather. We are the mountain. Weather is happening – delightful sunshine, dull sky, or destructive storm – this is undeniable. But if we think we are the weather happening on Mount Zion (and most of us do precisely this with our attention riveted to the video), then the fundamental truth of our union with God remains obscured and our sense of painful alienation heightened. When the mind is brought to stillness we see that we are the mountain and not the changing patterns of weather appearing on the mountain. We are the awareness in which thoughts and feelings ( what we take to be ourselves) appear like so much weather on Mount Zion.’ (‘Into the Silent Land’ p.16)
At times of transition like this it is easy to find ones attention (and, consequently, oneself) caught by the storms as the climate changes. Yet the mountain is that to which we need to give our attention at such a time if we are not to become disorientated and lost. The contemplative within us needs to be focussed on the space beneath the weather (the ‘noises –off’): the emotions, feelings, fears etc…, and attend to the mountain. To fix the eye of the heart on Mount Zion, the centre of our being. On God, the rock of our salvation.