I was returning from my post operative consultation visit to Royal Melbourne Hospital where, a month previously, I had undergone a two hour procedure to untwist my stomach. Through neglect, my stomach had turned beyond 180 degrees, and 80% of my stomach had been pushed by a hernia, above my diaphragm. This was not where it should have been.
After post-op consultation with my surgeon, I decided to take better care of myself by taking a taxi home to my son’s place in Greensborough.
The driver, a young Pakistani man and I enjoyed our conversation as he shared with me his family, his trip to Australia and his aspirations and hopes. He then asked me what I did.
I greatly surprised myself by saying ‘I pray’. My response startled me for its transparency and vulnerability. The conversation though continued comfortably as if I said something more benign such as, “I care for my grandchildren’ or ‘I read’.
Perhaps Muslims are more comfortable sharing their religious practice.
I am now reflecting on the last 10 months, which has been a quite fascinating and an unexpected journey for me from a teacher and political activist, to what others may call, a recluse.
Carl Jung suggested that the challenge in the second half of life is to develop personality characteristics, the opposite of our natural disposition. Thus for me this journey involves:
- as an extrovert, developing introversion,
- as an intuitive, developing my sensate skills,
- and as a ‘feeling’ type person, developing my ‘thinking’ skills.
At the beginning of the year, through ‘Google magic’ of algorithms, I found myself increasingly being offered material linked to writings of who are often characterized, as mystics.
Examples of Christian mysticism were recorded as early as 150 AD and by the mid fourth century were recognised partly as a response to and in opposition to the ‘Christianization’ of the Roman Empire. Christian mysticism was most commonly reflected in the practices of the early monasteries and convents.
Mysticism, defined by Wikipedia:
‘becoming one with God or the Absolute’, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning’.
As I pursue a journey of contemplative prayer, I discover others on this path. Muslims, Jews, Sufis, Hindus and Zen Buddhists! Each offering their unique insights and experiences on this inner journey.
Right here, right now I am remembering an observation that Thomas Merton, a modern day mystic, offered to his novices. Two of the challenges to the contemplative life are cowardliness and laziness. This is unsettling as I uncomfortably acknowledge these characteristics in me.
More recently I read the words of a Muslim mystic who identified two characteristics of the contemplative or spiritual path.
Transparency and vulnerability.
On reflection, perhaps writing our memoirs for ‘As Time Goes By’, invites us along this same path as we explore, with each other, the uniqueness of our individual journeys.