Quiet reflection can be a life-giving activity, but also a subversive one. Mystics have known this for thousands of years. I have not known it for nearly so long.
(Beach just south of Fingal Headland, New South Wales, Australia. A very good place for reflection.)
I find quiet time can disperse some of the white noise of daily routine; the fog that prevents me distinguishing what is important from what is just pressing. For me, time spent in quiet reflection, away from busyness, clears the bugs; the buzzing, irritating, biting insects that have me swatting and batting at them. Without quiet time, I'm continually distracted by the urgent, and oblivious to underlying reality.
But there is a catch.
Quiet reflection also creates space for awkward questions to surface in me; questions that remain unasked when busyness crowds them out.
Notice I speak for myself?
As tempted as I am to generalise, judge and pontificate on a range of topics, a little thinking helps me realise I do not speak for anybody apart from myself on any topic at all. So, with that admission, I share the following thought:
(Wood pile in fog near Thiersee, Austria. Another place for reflection.)
I have a lot to be thankful for.
I wake up each morning (at least so far). I am not as rich as I would like to be, but I have all that I need and much more. Compared to very many of my fellow human beings I am rich beyond words. I waste more than many people need to survive on. I have only occasionally felt hungry, and never been really hungry, that I can remember. I do not live in continual fear. My children are well cared for, safe, and are thoughtful, kind human beings. I am loved. I do not live in pain. I can walk around. I can speak. I have my memory. I know my own value and am comfortable in my own skin.
Of course I have had my disappointments and suffered injustices; all neatly catalogued in my mind. But in the times I reflect quietly, I remember I have done things now and again of which I am not proud. I know that I have been the agent of hurt and injustice suffered by others. I am reminded that apart from a series of happy coincidences, my life could have been unimaginably less comfortable, more painful, and without any of the blessings I take for granted.
When I take time to reflect quietly, I know that my whole life so far has been a gift that I have not earned.
How fortunate I am. And how subdued I feel when I sit quietly and realise that gratitude is not often the first thought that occurs to me. Gratitude? I would prefer to compare myself with others and whinge at how unfair life is. What a stupid waste of time, when all around me is evidence to the contrary if I choose to see it.
I have a lot to be thankful for. Not in a smug way; in simplicity and in humility.
I realise, on reflection, that taking the time to be grateful doesn't leave me enough time to feel aggrieved or sorry for myself. But it leaves plenty of time to see the distress of others and to respond to it.
That is my challenge. I cannot speak for you.
(Church pews in St Peter's Chapel Perugia, Italy. Made for reflection.)