A heron and her secrets of contemplation

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Strolling home, instead of worrying about distressing thoughts I admired mountains in the distance while taking in the clear air. Even with some cars passing by the surroundings were still. Mountain is a great pointer to God as it rests peacefully where the valleys are busy attending to all the work that needs to be done. These mountains remind me of the film ‘Into Great Silence’ and just one glance at them can still my soul. I walked into the silence that was spreading inside me and took in all the beauty I could see. As I neared the last part of this short journey, I decided to go near the river, and take more scenic rather than quickest road. Dodder slowly rushed next to me, with its new turns and waves as I walked. It reflected autumn; colours of a few remaining leaves on the nearby trees were giving it a warm shade.

I came to the stony bridge, little hill on my left whispering of brighter days to come. I stood for a while gazing into the slow motion of the river, and there I saw it, a heron standing still. How magnificent! This bird knows secrets of meditation and contemplation as it always is so still. Its feathers composed, while in the shallow waters it stood still, I thought of God watching it. Does He watch at you or me thinking that we too carry a special secret in our posture? I admired it happily for a while until the most unexpected occurrence played itself before my eyes. This ‘holy’ bird moved forward, I thought it would fly, but it tripped and splashed into the water high and wide leaving me in utter surprise. Poor heron composed herself quickly looking quite confused, while on the contrary I was left amused. This ‘holy bird’ that holds secrets of contemplation tripped! Oh don’t we too, no matter what profound secrets we might carry inside we stumble and trip and God still looks at us with love.

I left the scene with a smile, grateful for knowing that even birds stumble at times before flight. The heron tripping looked quite cute, so why do we so often feel we should be perfect in all we do? I walked home over the hill, soft grass being the carpet to my thoughts. We don’t know what tomorrow brings but perhaps let’s try not to worry. God knows all that we are, both profound and frail twists of our character. Even if we trip at times, so be it, it may only ground us to come back to what is essential, and to compose all that is in us to admire God in contemplation, within our soul.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 27th November 2009)
Photo by © Iva B.

 

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Contemplation is already Heaven …

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In the summer 2013 I was visiting family and friends in Croatia. Summer in Croatia is always beautiful, sunny, quite hot, and it uplifts the spirit. One afternoon I went to a friend’s house. She lives is in the woods, on the hills of Zagreb, with a beautiful view. We decided to spend some time in prayer. It seemed like we were on the Lord’s mountain spending the afternoon with Him. I didn’t know what to expect nor how we were going to pray. Prayerfully we decided to ask the Lord for directions and we believe He said: “Be with me, and I will be with you. Let me love you, and my love will heal you”.

We ended up spending most of the time in silence, with occasional sharing and we opened the Scripture together. The intimate communion with the Lord and with each other made me realise that contemplation is already Heaven. And contemplation does not have to happen when we are alone, it can happen in the company of another. That’s why Jesus said that ‘the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand’; God is always very near. In order to ground ourselves in the reality of Heaven already now, we need to return to the practices of contemplation regularly, through which we become aware that God is near. With a contemplative attitude we learn to spend time in His presence, and we allow God’s Presence to sip through the whole of our reality.

That afternoon with my friend Marija was like being on the Mountain of God’s Love and the presence of God was very nourishing. However, we cannot live in those graced experiences all the time. There came a time to go back down to the valley, to the life that is ordinary, filled with struggles and yet at the same time filled with the mystery of God. Our ‘mountain experience‘ is but a reminder that God is just a breath away. When we still ourselves, when we pause for a while and allow ourselves just to ‘be’, we soon realise we are not alone – God is there as well. It is a reminder that Heaven is real already now and that God wants to draw us closer into the intimate relationship with Him. Throughout the days or through life in general we collect not only graced moments but rubble too, experiences and attitudes that can prevent us from living to the full. The practice of contemplation might be an opportunity to prune our inner world and our thoughts, and find grounding in the inner peace that surpasses understanding.

Contemplative life is a practice of Heaven. Contemplative life does not have to fight for its own right, nor prove itself to anyone, it just is. There is so much striving in our world, striving to prove that we are right while someone else is wrong, striving to always be better than we used to be (which is good in itself, if it is done graciously), and that striving is in us all; no matter our background and religious affiliation. In contemplation we slowly learn to let go of that striving, it is OK just to be. Instead we let God do what He does best – we let Him be in control, while we loosen our grip and the need to control everything ourselves. Huge freedom comes when we are able to do this. And yet it seems like we need to learn to do this over and over again. Why? Because the ways of the world, these ‘striving mechanisms’, are ingrained in our veins, that it will take the whole of lifetime to unlearn them and transform our ways, to truly surrender and say “Lord, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”….. “do to me according to Your will”.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 25th September 2013, finished in March 2014)
Photo by © Iva B.