Time to go inside


Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you would like a Mother’s Day reflection there are three in the Tarella Spirituality archives:

Mothering Women

In Praise of Women who Mother

A Litany of Mothering

I’m marking the day by returning (unofficially) to my family name. With a book due to be published later this year it seems more appropriate to do so under my own name. So in future I’ll be signing my posts Judith Scully (and not Lynch).

Meanwhile, here in Melbourne, it’s late autumn. After a summer of meals on the veranda, we’ve moved inside, blown the dust out of the window drapes and ducted heating and looked up favourite recipes for winter soups and slow cooked casseroles.

img_1625Michael Leunig, one of our home-grown prophetic voices, describes this season as ‘time to go inside. It is time for reflection and resonance. It is time for contemplation. Let us go inside.’ Each year as winter comes closer I find myself chasing slivers of sunshiny warmth, and just sitting there – doing nothing, or that’s how it seems.

Being warm and cosy inside when outside is just the opposite has its own kind of stillness. It carries with it an invitation to stop for a while, look back over times and places that have been lost or set aside in the outdoor busyness of summer. Even though we commonly call this reflecting, the way it drifts and swirls our heads is more like day-dreaming. Years back when I was attending a weekly theology class, my attention was hugely drawn to things other than theology- such as planning my outfits for the next week or re-designing the layout of the house I was currently living in. That’s day-dreaming!

I was well into the second half of life before I had the time, the energy or the discipline to understand that reflection involved more than a scattering of information about an issue, or responding intuitively to whatever is happening .The mid-life years were a time to accept that finally I was a grownup and issues that involved choice or loss, even religion or politics, were not as simple as I once thought.

It meant that I needed to get beneath the surface of an issue or topic, to look at it from lots of different angles, to recognise too that my emotions always lurked sneakily in the background and had an influence on my responses. I learnt that reflection was not something I could do in a hurry, or in front of the TV. Deep reflection is just that. It keeps working deep inside me while I do all the everyday stuff that fills my days.

Sometimes we need to day-dream and if we are to grow in wisdom then we need to reflect often and deeply, to stop hedging our thoughts with shoulds and leave space for the maybes. That’s creating a contemplative space.

Leunig says that moving inside gives time for contemplation.  It’s a word with religious overtones and theologians in every religion have written millions of words trying to explain what contemplation is. The word itself incorporates the word ‘temple’, originally seen as a place in the sky where deities lived and the buildings humans made to link it with their own yearnings.

The closest I can come to my understanding of what contemplation seems to be, is in the wintery image of an open fire. Some evenings when it is cold enough to justify lighting the lounge room fire, I sit there in a pocket of silence doing no more than being totally present to the flames as they tumble and leap while the colours blend and change over and over again.

Then it seems to me that contemplation is the quiet space we create within ourselves when we let go of unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others and accept our personal reality, where God dwells. Wordlessly we marvel at its simplicity and rightness.

 Judith Scully