AUNTIE Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr is an elder of the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region in the Northern Territory.
Her people use the term “Dadirri” to speak about inner deep listening and quiet, still awareness.
When you meet Miriam-Rose you are immediately touched by her serenity, her deep peace.
One of the great gifts of our Catholic faith tradition is our history of contemplation.
From the early desert fathers, to the fathers of monasticism, the great mystics – Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, Catherine of Siena, Anthony de Mello, Hildegard of Bingen, Ignatius of Loyola, Thomas Merton, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Henri Nouwen, John O’Donoghue, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Thomas a Kempis and so many others all point to the importance of silence as central to the inner life; the spiritual life.
But this silence is not an end in itself – though – in some ways it is.
As we create a space of nothingness – we create the space to hear with the ears of the heart what the Divine is whispering to our spirit.
Our world is full of so much noise. We rush our lives, cluttered with trivia, tinsel and arguments of “I am right and you are wrong!”
All of this leads invariably to a great loneliness of spirit – a great emptiness.
Recently I read a quote from Dr Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
To understand the other we must first take off our shoes.
We must choose to come as a guest to the other and to their worldview and story.
Then we need to quieten our incessant ego noise and with gentle respect – listen, deeply listen (Dadirri) – to the other with free ears, free heart, holding their view lightly as we allow it to dance with what our inner Spirit is whispering to us.
All of this points to the contemplation that our world so desperately needs.
When we grow the contemplative heart – we grow the ears that will hear the cry of the poor, the cry of the planet, and the cry of the lonely heart.
When we grow the contemplative heart – we grow the eyes that will see the dignity of all, the beauty in the simplest of things and will respond with the soft gaze of acceptance and love.
Silence and contemplation have an umbilical cord to the pain of the world.
I once had the privilege of spending some time inside the Carmel at Ormiston making a film on the religious life.
I was in awe of the awareness and deep empathy the enclosed Carmelite Sisters had for the pain and issues of our world.
It is from our silence and contemplation that we go forth – each in their own way – to be Christ’s hands, eyes, feet, ears and heart for our world.
The fruits of silence and contemplation are appreciation, gratitude, awareness, wisdom and heart perspective in a world longing for all of these.
Our times of silence, in nature, before the Blessed Sacrament, in the arms of a loved one – in whatever form your spirit calls you – will lead us naturally to the other.
If our silence is inward-looking as an end in itself, almost like a spiritual trip that leads us to float off in some ecstasy then our God weeps.
Time and again in Luke’s Gospel the Jesus who “goes off to a lonely place to be by himself” – is found the following morning surrounded by life’s pain; the crippled, the lost, the lonely and the rejected ones.
This is the silence and contemplation we are called to – one that goes inward and then calls us outward.
But the outward is not a hectic, busy, ego-centred outward but a discerning, listening, presence that invites the other into true dialogue, the sharing of story, the sharing of wisdom and thus the growth of the Kingdom of God.
By Br Damien Price