A special treat this morning, in the form of a meditation workshop with other members of the Rising Phoenix Tai Chi Group in the Albert Road Methodist Church community hall in Penarth, where I used to attend Thursday evening Tai Chi sessions. We did some Chi Gung warm up exercises and then three guided 'sitting' sessions, with a group 'sticking' exercise before the final sitting. It's a good space in which to move about and to be completely still, with just occasional background sounds from the wind and rain outside, and a drama group rehearsal in a basement hall below. Nothing that could distract us from the work of silence in hand. I love group meditation in every shape and form. Next Wednesday, by way of contrast, we will be hosting the Ignatian Meditation group session at home, and that too will be refreshing to the spirit.
After lunch I walked into town along the riverside, more for the exercise than anything else. There was nothing really that I set out to purchase. It was very busy and I soon got bored and headed for home. The sounds of Mozart operatic themes have been in my head a lot recently, and in the evening, I found a full performance of 'The Marriage of Figaro' recorded in the opera house at Florence, on YouTube, and listened to it while I worked on a sermon, and pottered about further with OneNote to see if I could adapt it for my purposes. Then another couple of episodes of the long drawn out crime saga which is 'The Bridge III', bizarre bordering on the bewildering. It mostly seems to be set in semi darkness, and I keep on wondering how many more hard to decode twists and turns must be endured before the baddies are defeated, whoever they are. A 'penny dreadful' type tale doesn't really make our kind of winter darkness any more endurable.
Lately I've been reflecting on the nature of darkness. Winter here means much low cloud and rain. Back in Geneva days the cloud cover could sit a few hundred metres above the lake for months at this time of year. It could feel stifling, but at least it was possible to drive up to a col, and rise above the cloud layer, to see sun, or moon and stars in clear sky above. It doesn't happen here, sad to say. Thinking of the darkness St John of the Cross speaks of, like the mystical 'cloud of unknowing' in English tradition is about adventure within, or above and beyond thought, being taken out of oneself, absorbed in wonder love and praise, just 'being'. That's a liberating idea, in contrast to the many shades of grey and darkness associated with enduring grim weather.
Then I was reminded of nights under a clear sky, summer or winter, whether here or in countries around the Mediterranean by the sea or in the mountains, away from urban lighting. Nights of that kind draw you out of yourself and encourage a kind of 'eyes wide open' meditation or communion with creator and sacramental creation. I try to remember that it can be like that sometimes, but now I have to settle for delving within, until the heavens above are returned to us, like a fresh gift.