Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No Talking to myself Tuesday 26/10/2010

I did not succeed in this for more than an hour. What began as a morning of silence developed into not a talking to myself day. As hard goes, this was as hard as hang gliding for the morbidly obese.

I went for an hour while mowing the lawn and did not begin to start talking to myself until I got a song from the Simpson's in my head. The Sherry Bobbins episode to be exact which had a few songs. I had realised that I was going to do a bad job on the lawn which segued into “Just do a half-assed job”. I was singing which is technically not talking to myself but it was close to something I would talk to myself about. From here I did not stop trying but it did get harder and harder not to engage the mouth in the mental discussion in my mind. That is where it started and always starts in my head. The idea is planted and I follow the tenuous links till I am far away from where I started.

It is in the head where the battle begins and ends. What are you focused upon? What will you let in? What links will you follow? Where will you end up? I have had mental wanderings that ended up in places I did not want to be in. This is the habit of an uncontrolled and ill disciplined mind. Something Thomas Merton touches upon in Contemplative Prayer in talking about a “deep interior silence” which is an opposite to the “mental prayer” which uses “reasoning, active imagining and deliberate stirring up of affections”. These workings conflict with the silence and get in the way any peace in our minds. Now singing songs from the Simpson's is not a mental prayer at all (except for the Flanders rendition of “Bringing in the Sheaves” or the wonderful “Arise and Shine and give God the Glory, Glory”) but it is active imagining and a genuine stirring up of my affections. The simplicity and peace of deep interior silence is fleeting when we do not have any ability to tame our thoughts. The wanderings of my mental processes let alone mental prayer while mowing the lawn, driving the car, walking the dog, browsing the internet requires a leash to restrain it. The author of James puts this in its place when describing the bridling of the tongue in chapter 3. To bale to bridle or restrain the tongue or mind involves practices that are simple and repetitive. Merton suggests psalmody and a few simple words from scripture or even simple prayer like “Lord, come to my aid.”

What I began and stopped not long after trying it for a week was reciting a few remembered scripture verses.

Be strong in the Lord in the power of his might. Eph. 6:10

Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him and he will keep your paths straight Prov. 3:5-6

I have decided to try and keep in my mind on a loop are variants of these two verses. You can sing them as they do lend themselves to being sung. Be strong in the Lord becomes a dirge and Trust in the Lord has evolved into a country tune. In these versions I can use my habit in brining up songs to use these songs instead. This then becomes a form of basic prayer/meditation that can be repeated in different ways. So from silence I have ended up in meditation and recitation of scripture.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reflection on Silent Saturday – October 23/10/2010

A Silent Day is not me being silent but when all information like computers, stereos, televisions are not turned on. This is a form of silence which earlier in the year I was very uncomfortable with now I am more used to it. This was the second silent day and it was very productive as I spent the morning fixing the toilet it needed a new washer which was at the base of the cistern. After this was done I read some Thomas Merton (Contemplative Prayer) and had a siesta. The evening was just as productive as I spent it at a friends going through our songs. A whole day without any information being spewed out at me.

I am getting more comfortable without having noise around me. However there were moments when I found myself wandering back to the computer like it was on. In fact that is a time wasting habit that I have noticed more and more since. My first impulse is to go back to the computer and search for stuff, check the blogs and facebook. This desire to be amused, entertained and distracted is a part of that cocoon of information that we keep around us. Thomas A'Kempis calls it “hearkening after novelties and rumours” and what this cocoon of novelties does is stop us from being in the place have a “direct encounter” with God.

When I first tried silence I found it very fearful. The silence was cold as steel compared to the warm cocoon of noise and novelties. This warmth though was an artificial warmth like wearing a blanket to generate enough warmth to make a you drowsy. You do not really need the warmth its just an added layer and when you acclimatise to the real temperature you realise you did not need the cocoon at all. Silence is no longer a bitter cold or a black night it is a bracing wind that wakes you up to the reality around you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Silence and the Struggle with praise

Reflection of the no speaking day 20/10/2010

Probably made it too much fun in being able to communicate without talking this time. Instead of being in a quiet library all day with minimum contact I had class in the afternoon. This involved my regular routine of having lunch at the Caf with the regular lunch pals. Of course there was some well meaning teasing and baiting but this was well parried with the set of notes I had ready to use. I also used the laptop to answer direct questions addressed to me. In using the laptop it probably stretched the known understanding of being silent, but it was a social context and isolation is something I do a little too well. What I am attempting to learn is to not control the conversation but let it go and listen to others more than offering my own thoughts. The goal is to have the habit of listening. In the time spent not talking in a social context I had more people talk to me than I would normally have had. This being Australia and me being a loud and very verbose person the tall poppy had to be cut down a bit. I did reply in gestures and facial expressions as to how I thought about the jibes sent my way but I knew it was all in jest. After class was over I was encouraged by most of the class who know me well that what I had done was a great thing. My mother told me after that this was something she had never done. And still I find such adulation and praise uncomfortable. Constructive criticism and pointing out the flaws in how I go about a certain task I love. I can combat and defend these comments, but there is no defence against praise. There is only acceptance or rejection when appreciation is thrown at you. When you have the bullshit metre set on high and the weapons set to stun all the time you have no response to love and praise. I have no response to praise. I do not accept it easily at all. What am I afraid of? Does this link into the control and the defensive stance I have always ready. The one where I hold the weird geek out as a crash-test dummy who can be slammed, abused without the real me getting hurt. Which is the real Phill? Have I been in this defensive stance for such a long time that there is no real Phill behind the dummy?

The silence has no place for the dummy because it cannot boast and flummox about with its big words and loud voice. There is no place for the dummy in the silence about the house as the noise merely generates the information that the dummy feeds upon to be able to boast what it knows about. In the silence there is no place for it because it cannot boast or find anything to boast about, in the silence there is no dummy only the hurt one holding the strings trying not to get hurt anymore. In the silence there is nothing to hurt you, in the silence there is only you and the eternal moment made by the one who is eternal. The eternal tells you there is no need for the defence that it has always been from before you were to the when that will only always be. In the silent eternal moment you stand as naked as you were born yet there is no pain or shock as birth because the one who is eternal is not angry ashamed or afraid of you. All the eternal one has is love against that there is no shield strong enough, no wall tall enough and no hole deep enough. Accept love and be loved resistance only leads to pain.