Have you had a look at what Halton is like yet? The surrounding area is very beautiful with the Lune Valley (Lunesdale!) and the hills. It is a place that awakens the senses to the appreciation of God’s creation. The way that nature yields to the seasons and weather inspires peace in me. The celtic blessings speak of things like peace of the running wave or peace of the silent stars. There’s nothing like looking at the dark starry night sky to put me in my place in the universe.
I’ve been reading a great book Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden C. Lane, and it mentions that John of the Cross listed different types of places in which people are often touched by God. The first is a beautiful site which charms us, but he sees as a risk that it discourages self-forgetfulness. He prefers the second category where wilderness is stripped of all distractions, such as a desert or a barren mountain.
John of the Cross renewed the monasteries of his time and retreated back to more austere surroundings and life-style. In order to seek the benefits of this style of life to one’s spirituality, modern religious people (who wouldn’t move into a cave in a desert) can still try to create an inner sense of emptiness or desert.
I hope that making time daily for contemplative prayer would help us create some space, a little desert in our lives where we can learn to let go of some of our wants and needs. With some practice we can become more tuned into what’s going on within ourselves. We can learn to listen and be available to God and to our fellow human beings and the needs of the earth. And in my spare time I am ready to be charmed by God!