Spring is almost here. Already on the lawns of Temenos, the Cape Ash trees are sprouting green, and the roses, after the plentiful rain of the past weeks, are now in full reach for a warmer light. Slowly but surely, the Retreat is edging into new season and into some kind of normality. Once again regular friends and guests are returning to stay and because of this we are able to gradually bring back more of our staff. Although they are still having to share shifts and adhere to many precautions, they are more than relieved to be active again.
This morning, as I took a very early walk around a misty garden, I was overcome by the realisation of how blest this place is and how, because of such grave challenges, we have come to know even more deeply the extent of the loving care and support of our friends. Without their generosity and prayers and heartfelt intentions for us, I doubt whether we would have come through this dark chapter.
On behalf of all of us at Temenos and all the creatures in the garden, and on behalf of all of those who will find peace and healing here in days to come, a huge thank you to those of you who so kindly and warmly held us steady during these past dark months. Because of your kindness we may celebrate spring and the light of new beginnings.
All through these past months I am reminded over and over again how life is a flow between light and dark. Perhaps the most important art of all in life is the art of finding light in darkness. Sometimes it comes out of immense challenge and heartbreak, but it is always there.
One of the surest ways of fine tuning the art is to embrace the practice of mindfulness or contemplation- simply sitting still in silence and gently observing thoughts, allowing them to pass moment by moment without trying to repress or get carried away by them. Initially this discipline may prove challenging but after a little perseverance it can become illuminating – just to see how much of our time is spent literally lost in thoughts, constantly and unconsciously reacting to them. The human mind tends to think in terms of binary opposites, right and wrong, good and bad, dark and light – and the darker side always exerts a powerful pull. But for those who embrace a practice that cultivates inner peace, life gradually begins to spring from the heart rather than a dualistic way of thinking. Thoughts and actions and attitudes bloom with wisdom and bravery rather than panic and fear.
During the last months I have frequently paused to consider other retreat centres around the world, places of stillness and sanctuary that encourage this art of coming to stillness and compassion, be it through contemplative prayer or mindfulness. They too have surely had to face a dark and uncertain passage through this Pandemic. Our thoughts at Temenos go out to them as they do their best to keep sweeping their gardens, lighting candles or sitting on their cushions. May they too sense spring in the air and continue to be places of refuge and peace, where good will and kindness are offered, and where we learn to listen with equanimity to the heart.
For them and for us all, a prayer.
Beloved, we give thanks for places of simplicity and peace. Let us find such a place within ourselves. We give thanks for places of refuge and beauty. Let us find such a place within ourselves. We give thanks for places of nature’s truth and freedom, inspiration and renewal where all creatures may find acceptance and belonging. Let us search for these places: in the world, in ourselves and in others. Let us restore them. Let us strengthen and protect them and let us create them,
May we mend this outer world according to the truth of our inner life, and may our souls be shaped and nourished by nature’s eternal wisdom.
Billy and the Temenos family