Today has been an interesting day for lots of reasons: some good discussions with my colleagues, a walk in the wind (quite a lot of wind to walk in too), and I finished a report I've been trying to do all week. Given it was my first week back at work I was relatively pleased with what I got done.
But the best bit came last. I got home from work to discover my order from Amazon.com had arrived. Two books: Benedictine Daily Prayer, and Martin Laird's new book A Sunlit Absence. Martin Laird's first book Into the Silent Land has been a near-constant companion for me since Synod 2010, and the next one promises to be just as good.
I spent some time with the new Laird book tonight: this time, instead of looking at contemplative prayer as a series of doors in how we deal with distractions, he's looking at focused attention and the "opening up" that comes through contemplative practice. He uses the concept of the "prayer word" (usually the Jesus prayer) as a focus for attention: not to overwhelm attention but as somewhere to bring attention back to when it wanders - as it does when one prays (distraction is a given!) He uses the lovely image of the videos that play in our heads - emotional reactions, thoughts, replaying situations over and over, but that these videos aren't really us. They're just our constructs of us. I'm not explaining this very well, but it's a concept at the edge of language, and mine isn't all that good anyway!
The new prayer book is a Benedictine version of the breviary, written by a Benedictine oblate and used by a number of abbeys. It's a simplified version (apparently!) of the opus dei, but what's really lovely about it is that it is aimed at an ecumenical audience. There is also full text for the whole seven liturgical Hours (instead of the two I've been doing for the last few years), with full text for the readings for vigils (which I'll have to find somewhere to do - I may swap this and do it after compline rather than in the morning, as mornings are tricky for me!). The "geography" of it looks a bit more complex than the Morning and Evening Prayer I've been using for the last few years though. However, I suspect that with practice it will come to be as natural as the other. I am very excited about the full-text readings though, as these include readings from Doctors and early church Fathers and Mothers, and for the propers for the saints' days there are extensive readings from writings of those saints. Looks fun!
So I have my challenge for the year: a new breviary, with additional Hours (the day Hours and vigils), and a challenge to more regular contemplation. My spiritual director suggested that I find the time for prayer that doesn't take anything away from anyone else, like when daughter is asleep and hubby is watching tv. So, maybe less Facebook this year? Who knows! Anyway, the adventure begins!