Thursday, 25 June 2020

Thursday 25 June

It's more than 100 days since we went into a State of Alarm here in Spain. And for the last 3 months, there has been a stillness over the valley that's spread like a carpet below our home. When I’ve been waking in the morning and looking out from my balcony in the clear air, I have been aware of birdsong and peace. When I have walked the dogs in the woodland near our home, it has been still and quiet. The days may have been busy, with various online connections and work-related assignments, but the stillness has felt like a big inhale and exhale, a deep breath at the start and end of each day.

Over the last couple of weeks, Spain has been returning to its usual rhythmic hum. This week, international borders have opened and, although I haven’t been too aware of it yet, soon the valley will fill with the sound of planes landing and taking off at the airport. The roads, for a while so quiet with just the occasional vehicle passing, are back to the normal buzz as people race in and out of Malaga and along the coastal highway.

Now, when I walk the dogs as I did this morning, we hear the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of vehicles passing, one after the other along the road that marks the bottom boundary of the hill we skirt around. The sound disturbs my thoughts and makes it difficult for the dogs to hear me when I call.

Distractions reassert themselves, are you finding that too? It’s all good, this return to work and the ability to move around more freely. Yet it is undeniably true that I miss the quiet, the opportunity to breathe.

Yesterday, I listened to an interview with John Eldredge (by the way, if you haven’t yet tried his ‘One Minute Pause’ app do check it out, it’s great). In the interview he said that we live in a sort of madness. Our western culture, he said, imposes on us a way of life that is crippling in its pace, its level of distraction, and its demands. Our bodies and minds, let alone our emotions and our spirits, were not designed to do well when pushed and pulled in these kinds of ways.

What does this mean for us? Was our 3 months in home confinement time enough to reset? Did it give us sufficient opportunity to consider the way we want to live, and to make choices about how we might put that into practice? Have we been able to adopt any new rhythms or practices that we can confidently take with us into this great ‘return’ to whatever normal is for us now?

It takes time to build a life, to be intentional about how to construct our days. It takes time to bump out of the rut of old patterns and to establish new ways of being in the world. Perhaps, like me, you realise that the new things you have been trying - maybe a little more time reflecting, or a daily walk - still feel a little fragile in the face of the daily grind. It could be that these new habits need a bit more time and effort before they become solid, and that right now you find yourself easily knocked back into the rut of distracted living.

How would it be for us to resist the relentless draw to be busy, the pressure to fill our free time with the stuffing of entertainment, connectivity and consumerism? Is there any residual goodness from home confinement that you want to keep hold of? Perhaps it is not so important to reply to an email as soon as it pings for our attention? Could we leave our phones on charge elsewhere in the house and thus create a margin of peace around waking and bedtime, to allow us to be with ourselves before we have to be with the world? What practice of reflection, or meditation, or creativity might we incorporate into our daily lives as an act of rebellion against the media invasions that foster a sort of madness in our minds?

The environment may be still no longer, but I want to fight for my own inner stillness. How about you?


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