"I am large. I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Silence and Solitude

"Dear Lord, silence and solitude can be a very scary thing. They can be pretty threatening, but those of us who have experienced them before know that these lead us out of the ever-thickening woods of our lives into that clearing where we can see your light. Those of us who've seen the clearing also understand that if we wish to catch a glimpse of you, that is where we should go. Even now, it's these deserted places in our hearts that you frequent still. That's still where you love to linger.

Lord, help us to seek those open spaces and deserted places in our lives. Grant that we make time for the silence and solitude we need to see you." ~ Fr. Johnny Go, SJ

If I were not a woman of faith - albeit one that struggles and doubts - I would think that today was just another random day.

But it wasn't. It was, however, a day of silence and solitude. Sometimes, you seek it, and yet I find that sometimes, it is silence and solitude that seek you.

Today, it was mutual. We met half way.

I had gone to the 8.15am Children's Mass at St. Ignatius on my own, knowing it would be a day without Piglet who was sleeping all day due to her graveyard shift this week. So I went to Mass and before it even started, I had decided to do something I had not done in years - go to the Singapore Botanic Garden and read a book there, maybe have breakfast.

And just to bring home the point, the Gospel reading had Christ saying "come away to a deserted place and rest awhile." (Hence today's reflection from Fr. Johnny that sports this entry)

So I did. I walked across the length of the Botanic Garden, and trudged on its new sinews and innards. I stopped every once in a while and gazed at trees and touched their swaying leaves in appreciation of their breathtaking beauty. I slowed my pace to almost a crawl, especially where the paths became narrow, where the trees above met one another, as if whispering to each other's ears. I passed through lakes and enjoyed seeing people enjoying the outdoors, families out for a walk, friends enjoying a picnic, dogs getting exercised by their humans. One time, I stopped and sat on a park bench and read a book.

There were times when I'd be distracted. When my whispered conversations with Christ would pause because my mind went elsewhere to places and people. Which was when I would remember what Zippy had reminded me recently about my life: Aslan first. "Yes," I would say aloud to myself. "Aslan first."

I wish I could tell you that that was the end of my wandering mind and my distracting thoughts. It continued on like that for much of the two hours I spent there. But like yoga which asks you to forgive yourself for your wandering thoughts and focus back on your breath, I kept coming back to Christ.

Needless to say, I was hungry and blistered by the time I left the Botanic Gardens (I didn't wear proper shoes because I had not planned this walk when I left my flat). I went to a Japanese resto I frequent, ate at the sushi bar then decided to go to restorative yoga. Then I went home and had a siesta on our new day bed.

It's three minutes past six in the evening as I write this and the day is not yet through, but it's been a good, cathartic day. I like that it was a day when I chose silence and solitude, as opposed to it seemingly thrust upon me. I like that today, it was my choice. That certainly made the difference.

(Photo credit: Purple Man)

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