I apologise to anyone who may read Another Country for not updating it recently but I’m having difficulty in finding someone willing to type it up. Still, I carry on writing it for myself which is probably good enough!
This week BBC 4 is broadcasting a programme on Mindfulness from Downside Abbey. I happened to find recently what I wrote on 24 February 2005 in one of my diaries:
Downside. I arrived feeling stressed and depressed. All these attacks on MPs have got us down
Then I attended the liturgy in choir and went for a walk. I walked down “The Beautiful Valley” along a wooded stream by a green lane shaded with trees and when I looked at the stream I felt a calming and returning happiness.
Next day, Sunday afternoon, I walked in the opposite direction past the Parish Church down into another deep valley. I stood upon a wooden bridge above a rushing stream. It came to me that I should accept my job just as it is, come what may, enjoy it as best I can and not worry about the future.
By the stream I walked down a long green slope. I had in my hand Dom David Foster’s book published by Continuum, Deep calls unto Deep. I thought how impressively intellectual it was. Continuum have rejected my book The Monastery of the Mind.
This is what I really want to do, write a book which encourages prayer and meditation using the life of a Saint or perhaps an event that can be carried in the picket.
I know I can and want to do it, if I can find the time and will every day to give it a go.
I walked up to a gate and some thought rose up unannounced in my mind to anger me. I realised that if I am angry about something I just have to accept it and then I walked up the stream again and realised hoe much I love solitude. That is how I have to accept it as I am. Three streams, a hill, and a gate, some thoughts, a prayer and thanksgiving.
Eventually St Paul’s Publishing house did publish The Monastery of the Mind after every other religious publisher had rejected it.
I return often to the Monastery. The regular prayerful repetition of the psalms focuses the mind on the beauty of the present rather than any regret about the past or fear for the future.
In recent years Mindfulness has become very popular, but really it is Christian meditation without God. Indeed we have been practising Mindfulness for fifteen hundred years in our monasteries since St Benedict founded his first community.
I prefer to focus, not just on breathing, which is indeed an aid to concentration, but also on the word.
Saturday 2 September
I take the train down to a meeting of the Oblates at Downside. It’s good to be back in the Monastery. There is a seminar on the life of my friend, the charming and wonderful Dom Sebastian Moore and his impenetrable poetry. Well into his late 90s and with great courage he continued to produce a poem every day, which he typed up and handed to anyone he met. He was an enthusiast for Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. We go on to to discuss him in the afternoon, but as usual the lovely atmosphere seeps in. I read a simple life of St Benedict. With a picture on every page it looks like a children’s book but each short passage is profound. It is written by two Spanish nuns. In the evening after Matins which we do on Saturday night, there is a lovely tableau, as I stand behind the monks while they sing the Salve Regina. After everyone leaves I sit alone in the huge darkening abbey church as twilight lengthens. The candle I light is a soft glow, visible from the far end of the abbey by the Choir. There truly is power in this Now.
I always go to bed early and happy at Downside. The peace is persuasive.
Sunday 3 September
I am up early to sit in the choir for Lauds. Being able to sit in Choir and feel part of the proceedings has transformed the Downside experience for me. The sensation of listening to the Monks chanting the Psalms is timeless. As I sit in the choir at the end of Sunday Lauds, I am always sad to be leaving. The school is still on holiday, so I can sit in the front for the 10:00 am Mass for the first time. There is a fine choir. The singing of the Ave Verum Corpus is a true Mindfulness moment.