I was away more days than at home during November.Both were rich and welcome times. A personal retreat on the Moray Firth gave me time to delve deeply into my own heart, surrounded by the rich natural world of the Highlands – red kites, otters, dolphins and one red squirrel.
Then later in the month we went on a long planned trip up the West Coast of Norway to the Arctic Circle. And yes we did see the Northern Lights, aswell as having our own personal sightings of sea eagles.
Returning home I was launched immediately into the busyness of life, with the gospel of Thomas group, 2 retreatants, and friends of Stephen coming to stay. Ian, being a Marxist, engendered lively and friendly discussions about Marx’s theory of alienation, and the way of life we each aspire to living. He proposed that a retreat is really a “holiday from alienation”. In a sense that is true, but I also see it as a time to connect with our sense of alienation from ourselves.
One of my favourite quotes is from Thomas Merton: “At the center of our being is a point of … pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, … This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God written in us… It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven.” It is this “center” that we can more easily access in meditation, in solitude and on a retreat.
Despite feeling on the back foot as December began, I committed myself to taking an hour of solitude each day, using a daily reflection on a saying from the gospel of Thomas. It’s amazing what a difference it’s made, quietly working my way through seasonal preparations and for once being able to hold a space that so easily gets filled with pre-Christmas busyness.
Merton goes on to say “It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish.”
As the solstice approaches, we welcome the return of the light to the natural world, and as Christmas approaches we can simply, if nothing else, welcome the light that is within us all.