“Meeting the challenges of being still, allows the inner storm or calm to bubble to the surface, thereby enabling dynamic transformation”. – Giselle Marrinan
As we are now in the Autumn months with the leaves rustling around the doorsteps, it seems appropriate to address our spiritual being. As the days shorten and the weather changes to rainier, more unpredictable fronts, we have more time to reflect.
It is not possible in a blog, which by its very definition is short, to cover in depth a subject as important as our deeper spiritual yearnings. The Celtic mystic John O’Donohue, believed that the visible world was the “first shoreline of the invisible world”. My hope is that my musings will reignite the thought processes around this area of your life. Maybe, to go deeper. Perhaps even to start the conversation.
I read an interview recently with Matthew Fox, in which he reflects about our position on earth as part of a vast universe. Satellite photos from space show earth as a tiny speck indistinguishable from millions of other specks. But we are different, because we are the only speck able to support human life. We are unique. As Matthew says, “The perspective you can get from an iconic image like that has the potential to slow our reptilian brains down a bit and enable us to feel the awe and gratitude our situation really requires…and then, of course, to treat our precious speck—and the other beings we share it with—with the kind of reverence they deserve”. So, you must to ask yourself, why our speck was chosen to be different and what the purpose of our life here is. It is an awesome question to ponder. What is the purpose of our existence? We are part of a population of 7.8 billion people and each of us has a role to play. Have you had time to consider this?
Despite the trappings of the secular world, has something been missing? An inner longing to get closer to something deeper within. At a purely gut level, maybe even an unconscious level, each of us knows that we are more than who we see staring back at us in the mirror. I believe that true peace won’t last by changing the external world but rather, by addressing our inner one.
T.S Eliot in talking about life and what it means to be alive and searching, says; “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Ever feel like you are missing an important part of the jigsaw?
To facilitate your connection at this level, it may be necessary to withdraw from all stimuli from the outside world. Into a truly peaceful place devoid of all the bleeps and notifications from your gadgets, music, news or whatever else occupies your mind. Malidoma Patrice warns us that: ‘The sound of the external world is muting the sound of the internal world’. When I was in primary school, a nun made me write an 8- page essay on silence for chatting in class. I was unaware of how important the cultivation of silence is to the Dominican order. Little did I know then, how important this subject would be for me in my adult life. I would love to have a copy of that 10- year old’s essay now. Would I have had any idea what the benefits to my soul would really have entailed?
Indeed, Pico Iyer refers to this need to retreat from the world whether by taking a walk or going on an actual retreat as ‘A hospital for the soul’. At some point in all our lives, regardless of our religious orientation or lack of it, we all need to ask a fundamental question, ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘Who am I , when you strip away all the possessions, labels , titles and social mores’? The masks we put on every day. When we leave ego at the door.
In my book ‘Another Zero’, I cover my own journey in some depth, so for this blog, I will distil the segments, I think may help you explore this area of your life.
When I went on retreat several years back, I had never been this isolated in my life. I divested myself of all the modern gadgets of communication and entertainment in order to experience real stillness. I went off the grid. I let my mind take a holiday, to wander freely where it may.
Sometimes we need to find a quiet place just to get in touch with the language of the soul, with what our spirit minds are trying to communicate to us. I had reached what the Celts called: ‘The Thin Place’. God’s presence seemed more accessible here. The cycle of life and all around me became more alive: the colours more vivid; sounds more pronounced; all my senses became heightened. It was the first time in my adult life, that I became truly alive and really in touch with myself. It was a turning point in my life. I was beginning to see the things that made me happy and grateful. You’ve guessed it! They weren’t material things.
In the book, ‘Remembering Our Home’, there is a beautiful story about a 5 year- old girl who keeps going into the newly born baby brother’s room to sit with him. The parents got very curious about this and listened in through the intercom in the baby’s room. This is what they heard, “Tell me about heaven, I’m beginning to forget”. I had forgotten with my busy lifestyle but never doubted that there was something missing. The retreat from the world brought me right back to the ‘why’? Regardless of our faith or lack of it, I believe we all have this so called “divine homesickness” that nothing on earth can fill. My sister and myself both shared these memories of homesickness for something we couldn’t define as children. We need to clear the decks at least once a day to give time to touch base with our inner lives and intuit our inner world.
In retreating from our busy world, we become more in touch with this intuition.
The Icelandic people have a word for intuition, ‘Innsaei’ which has multiple meanings. I love the spirit they place behind the word. Let me share with you:
- The sea within
- To see within
- To see from the inside out
Have you ever noticed, that when you are out for a long walk alone or maybe a day’s fishing that after a while, your mind clears? It feels lighter, less cluttered. You begin to see things more clearly, because you have space and peace to listen at a deeper level. If, like me, you have felt this pull of spiritual musing, then it is important to set time aside to pursue this. To tap into this space at home, try the following exercise.
Stilling the Mind
- Find somewhere quiet, where you know you won’t be disturbed (some people have loft space and have quite literally drawn the ladder up, so no one can intrude).
- Make yourself comfortable.
- Set your intent. What do you want to achieve in this time out?
- Make sure the temperature is just right for you- not too hot or cold.
- You may like to have some stilling music, or maybe just complete silence.
- Softly, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing…in and out.
- Notice the difference in the air as it flows in and goes out…
- Allow the muscles in your body to relax from the top of your head to the tips of your toes…
- Notice the feeling of the materials of the clothes you are wearing against your skin. Are they rough or smooth?
- You may soon notice how very comfortable your body is feeling…
- You are completely supported by the chair, so you can let go and relax…
- Let your mind drift away. Don’t try and stop thoughts coming into your mind, just notice them and let them move effortlessly away. Making no judgements.
- Breathing in and out until you are no longer aware of the breathing as it happens, all by itself.
- Allow yourself as long as you like. (If you want, you can set a timer for this.) If you are in bed, then just allow yourself to drift into sleep.
Invest time in yourself, to get in touch with your authentic self. Andrea Matthews speaks to us about the intention of the authentic self, the intention to show itself to us; “It means to give us the peace of congruence. It means to show us who we are so that we can become that in our daily lives. It means to point out our original thoughts, our original beliefs, and our genuine feelings and behaviours. It means to finally bring us home to our own souls”.
The more you practice stilling the mind, the more natural it will seem. You will soon begin to crave this sacred space in your day. I tell people: if they have the luxury of having a spare room in the house, to make this their little sanctuary for relaxation. This is also good, as soon, the room becomes associated / anchored in the mind, as a place of quiet and peace. Indeed, the stillness needed to query your existence.
Ask yourself, ‘what needs to bubble to the surface for me’
Respect the gift of life or indeed the giver of life enough, to allow yourself the time and space to explore this question, ‘Why am I here’?
The more we realise we are not in charge or indeed in control of everything, the more, true transformation can come; creating space (or leaving room) for the unexpected, the inexplicable, the intangible.
In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
 Goodman, L.” Re-Inventing Work: An Interview with Matthew Fox” Dailygood.org. April 18, 2018.
 www. Malidoma.com
 Linn D, Linn S F, Emerson W & Linn M. “Remembering Our Home: Healing Hurts & Receiving Gifts from Conception to Birth”.
Paulist Press. 1999.
 Marrinan, G. “Another Zero”. Book Hub Publishing. 2018
 Matthews, A. “The Authentic Self – With A Capital S” Psychology Today 2018
*Giselle Marrinan is the author of ‘Another Zero’.