'Always we begin again', say the spiritual teachers.
It's taken a while for me to 'begin again' my Wednesday retreats this year. Two weeks ago, I spent part of the morning at The Pinnacle on the edge of Weetangera/Hawker, but found it difficult really to sink into the time. I hadn't quite given myself permission.
This week, the possibility of a Wednesday retreat was looking unlikely for various reasons, but then came the opportunity to 'displace' the feast. So this beautiful Tuesday morning, I began at home with meditation and a quiet sit over a cuppa, and then - because the day was already pretty warm - I was drawn to the cool and damp of the Rainforest Gully in the Botanic Gardens.
Something mysterious happens in the gift of this time. I think it might be to do with the deliberateness of it - the intentional opening up of two, three, four hours where nothing is scheduled except to be, to enjoy, to pay attention to what's given.
What happens? I feel myself relax, let go. The time seems luxuriant. I start to notice and pay attention, and the more I look the more I see. This morning, the words of Mary Oliver came to me strongly: 'To pay attention is our endless and proper work'.
I experience such delight, such wonder and thankfulness. To think that this richness is here, around me, all the time - and now, at last, to let myself enjoy it.
This little fellow caught my eye, as I rested on a bench with my thermos of coffee, the sound of parrots, currawongs and sprinklers in the rainforest all around.
And then the leaves, shining in the sun, different shapes, different greens, moving with the wind.
After a while on my bench, I wandered into the garden beyond the rainforest.
Last weekend, I led a retreat and spoke in my final talk about the real source of our lives being the abundant life of God. The gift of contemplative practice is that it keeps re-sourcing us in our awareness of this reality.
In the garden this morning, it struck me how life is being given all the time, all around us, poured out. We are immersed in a vastness we can never be fully present to, never fully receive. And I wonder if the essential work of the spiritual path is about deepening our receptivity ... daring to be open to this overwhelming gift as it dances and shimmers around us.