May 3rd, 2020

speaker, coach, consultant

Quote of the day

Owley Beacon, 2 May 2020
Owley Beacon, 2 May 2020

“Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

speaker, coach, consultant

The silent prayer

Owley Beacon, 2nd May 2020, Julian Summerhayes
Owley Beacon, 2nd May 2020, Julian Summerhayes

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
Soren Kierkegaard

Good morning from a slightly chilly and damp Devon. 

I've not yet stepped outside but it looks to be raining — what we call mizzle in these parts.

The coffee is poured and I'm listening to Quietmusic by Nick Francis.

It's no different to last Sunday or the one before that but it's still a blessing.

Sorry, I know I overuse that word and it's quite tedious but when you've looked into the dark abyss of your own mortality and seen so many dead people (I worked in the funeral business for nearly a decade), I take nothing for granted and that seems even more apposite now than it ever did — what an understatement!

But as the rubric suggests, it now goes much further. 

Even though I can't go to Church — not that I do or have very much during my life — I feel that's where I need to be right now, in prayer to all those things that I feel blessed and humbled to have, enjoy and that sustain my life force. 

Yes, unashamedly, I need to get down of my knees and pray.

Not to cross-examine my theme, but you might argue that my blessings are no more than me being grateful for my lot. Possibly. But to my mind, and not to be too tendentious, expressing gratitude (if we're not careful) can become routinised and we lose sight of the bigger, almost ineffable picture.  

Also, of late (and I'm not ashamed to admit it), I've begun to reflect on the big/bigger/most important existential questions and whilst I'm not ready to share publicly the product of my rich, deep self-enquiry, I do feel that there's something else in play beyond saying (as I might have said in the past), there's just this.

Oh, for goodness sake Ju, just say you now believe in God!

Do I?

I think before I get to that stage, I've got some further work to do on myself. 

I'm happy to say, though, that largely inspired by the work of John Butler and the writings of Ruth Kirk and retracing some of my formative steps, I'm at least more comfortable saying the word God. In fact, in John's case, I like the way he folds it into his meditative practice and unashamedly transcends the hear and now into presence whilst not distancing himself from his deeply Christian roots.

Let me be clear, if God is a deity, then I can find God in silence, in the wide-open space of nature, in death (see the book Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson) and so much more. In other words, s/he/it is universal and not apposite to one thing. 

But what about you?

It's none of your business!

No, I'm serious.

Do you find the need to pray? 

Or what would a prayer look like now?

Who or what would you be saying thank you to? 

Sorry, if this post is a bit cackhanded or even off-hand — I know it's pretty perfunctory — but I wanted to share with you (as I suspect I will in today's monologue) my deep, abiding sense of aliveness that I continue to return to over and over again if only to steady the good ship Summerhayes from falling off the edge of the world.

Much love,


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