Monday, 18 December 2006

into the silent land [with thankfulness]

There were two books that contributed significantly to my time at Burford last week. One was being read at meal times (lunch and supper)and it's Into the Silent Land: the practice of contemplation by Martin Laird. He's from Villanova University, PA. Laird describes how we run commentaries in our head on our issues and anxieties, or "play videos" on them, thereby building them up instead of meeting the issue/s with God silence. He emphasises that to learn the skill of contemplation is not a quick fix and there are dangers in doing a synthetic job if you don't grow into the process fully. We need to learn how to solve what he calls the "riddles" to allow us to go through each of the three doorways or levels of contemplation. The descriptions, advice and examples in the book pressed lots of helpful buttons for me. (It evidently did the same for others, because the Priory's supply of the book had already sold out before I got there.)

Described as a 'wise and compelling' book (by Dr Douglas Burton-Christie of Loyola Marymount University) I see Desmond Tutu and Rowan Williams have appreciated it too ...
This book is different. There are plenty of books on contemplation that feel rather tired--either wordy and labored or unhelpfully smooth and idealistic. But this is sharp, deep, with no cliches, no psychobabble and no short cuts. Its honesty is bracing, its vision utterly clear; it is a rare treasure.
Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury
Often they say 'you learn how to swim by swimming' but a good coach or swimming manual is essential. Equally, we could say 'you learn how to be contemplative by contemplating' and a good guide or mentor is necessary. Into the Silent Land is just that. I tried it and it works. Try it.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
[Oxford University Press, USA]
The other book was given to me recently by a friend - I'm grateful to her, and very glad I decided to have it with me last week. It's How to Keep a Spiritual Journal: a guide to journal keeping for inner growth and personal discovery by Ron Klug. There's heaps of practical advice and suggestions in it - too much to take in all at once - but it's written in a clear and helpful way and in among the variety of spiritual exercises there's one that's proving particularly helpful to me right now.

If you're interested in spiritual journalling, the London-based Infed (informal education) site has a page on it, using Klug among other references to help you do it.


colin darling said...

Hi Gill Good to see you today and also good to see that your blog is high up the googletree when I put the right words into google.

Thanks for the links to your reading.
looks groovy.

The way is a who not a what.


Matt said...

Hi Gill - I picked up 'Into the Silent Land' while having a quiet day at Burford too. I heard it read just the once over lunch and said to Stuart - "I need that book"!! It was the natural follow on for me from 'Everything Belongs' by Richard Rohr. Happy Christmas!