Do you think in words or pictures? For me and my analytical mind its almost always in words.
Mindfulness or contemplative practice is the new way I have adopted to try to escape these incessant thoughts, causes of anxiety and depression, to be able to reconnect with God. When I sit still and try to be silent its always verbal thoughts that are going through my mind that I have to try to bat away. Occasionally though I see a picture, and when I do it usually has some significance through which God speaks. Yesterday was a picture day!
I saw a fairground with a Big Wheel. I knew I was in the picture somewhere, it was a bit like Where is Wally! There was lots going on. Then I spotted myself, at the top of the Big Wheel. Yet not sitting comfortably in the chair….. I had fallen out and was hanging on for dear life, legs swinging and holding on with one hand on the bar at the top – rather stressed!!! I was scared, I needed the wheel (the busyness of life) to stop so I could climb back in. I wanted to sit down in the chair, be still and enjoy the view. Clearly a message from God to slow down, take time to relax and appreciate the view of the wonderful things that God is doing. Message received and understood!! Now I just have to make it happen (its not easy climbing back into the chair from that height). I’m sure mindfulness practice will help.
However, today I realised that climbing back into the chair is just the first step. This morning I started reading an amazing book “Into the Silent Land” by Martin Laird. Godincidentally, Chapter 1 explained one of the early church images of the wheel. It explained that God is the hub at the centre that unites all the spokes (us). Most of us spend our life at the outer rim (like I was, clinging to the chair on the Big Wheel). We are far from God and distant from others, we might trust God and even allow him to guide us through the circle of life, but we are not living in union with Him; we are still caught up in the ways of the world. Our relationships with others are often strained and not rooted in love.
Union with God is not something to be acquired it is something to be realised (we already have it but do not experience it or appreciate it). It is beyond thoughts and pictures, beyond our emotions and feelings; it is being immersed in the love of God. It is through silence that we are able to journey towards the centre of the wheel and the closer we get to the centre the closer we are to God and to others; the more we are able to experience and share God’s love.
In doing so we come to know our true self and to truly experience the love of God. As St Augustine said in Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” When we live life from the centre the stresses of life recede, we see God in everything we do and we are able to live in the likeness of Christ. However, that journey to the centre is not easy. It requires us to take time out from the world to be still and enter the ‘silent land’.
It’s not necessarily about joining the monastery or the convent, God can work in you wherever you are and you can rest in Him in your living room as well as in a monks cell. However, it is recognising that it if we don’t spend time in silence we will miss out so much of what God has for us. Silence is necessary if we are to hear God speak; prayer is not a shopping list it is spending time with God listening to Him.
So in your next prayer time, talk less – God already knows what is on your mind and the desires of your hearts. Start by offering these to Him and then nudge away those thoughts and feelings that are distracting you and just spend some quality time quietly in His presence, demonstrating your love for Him. As St John of the Cross said, “Our greatest need is to be silent before this great God….. for the only language he hears is the silent language of love.”