Thursday, June 7, 2007

The sound of a whisper

Firstly, I’ve just looked on the comments and found one from the lovely Karen and Ian, from the Peace Café! It’s so lovely to see you guys here in cyberspace and can’t wait to catch up again. Karen, can I also say that the memory of you reciting poetry to me in Welsh will undoubtedly remain one of my favourite and most enduring memories! It was great to meet you guys too and well done for tracking me down – the Peace Café really is magic!!

I’ve had a couple of down days since the fabulous weekend of birthday plenty. Admittedly, some of this was pure hangover – or as Rodders put it, “praying to the ceramic god.” But the last couple of days in particular felt like a blue funk after a sunshine haze. Then last night, I think I worked it out, with the help of a three-hour documentary, some Cistercian monks and the difference between discipline and practice.

Last night, I went to the No 6 Cinema, one of our city’s still under-discovered cultural gems - so please make an effort to frequent it, soon and often – with Kate to see the Phillip Groning documentary, Into Great Silence. We were lucky enough to bump into Dean, a friend of the ever-loved Peace Café, in the queue. With a little trepidation, and unsure what exactly to expect from three hours of silence in the cinema, the three of us headed in.

On the website, Groning also writes that it was his intention to shoot a documentary that examined: “The physical world and the turning away from that world.” He uses shots of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery and its lands, weather, fields, and machinery, but also shows extensive scenes of prayer, chanting, services and the faces of the monks themselves. It’s the first film of its kind. As the website states, there is, “No music except the chants in the monastery, no interviews, no commentaries, no extra material.” Groning waited 16 years to make this documentary, the time it took for the Carthusian Monks to prepare to be filmed. The result is a stunning meditation of a film that makes the viewer for once as aware of themselves as they are of what’s happening on screen. The silence – or rather, the human silence; there is sound, but rarely voice – is at times overwhelming, uncomfortable, painful, but made us sharply aware of each image, sound and movement that took place on screen.

But the real power and fascination of the film for me centred on the dedication of the monks themselves, ranging from the very young to the very old, to lives of almost complete austerity and discipline. It reminded me of something I recently read on Peter Clothier’s website, concerning the difference between ‘practice’ and ‘discipline.’

“People sometimes ask me where I get "the discipline" to sit down at the computer and punch out something every single day. Well, almost.

It's just that I don't call it "discipline". I call it "practice".

Practice is not hard. It means quite simply showing up every day and sitting down. It means getting in touch with that part of myself that wants--and needs--to write, and listening quietly for what it has to say.”

When I read this, I realised what the source of my recent down days might be.

I stopped practicing.

Caught up in the joys and excitements that have followed my decision to self accept, open up and say yes more a few weeks ago, over the past week, I’ve been enjoying myself so much that I forgot to keep doing these things. I’m hoping this realization, along with a much-awaited dinner with the Psychic Peace Pixie tonight may well spur me back on track.

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire the sound of a whisper.

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