It has been ages, or at lease feels like it, since I introduced this new mode for me to engage in deep contemplation of the elements as I was led to use one for each day of the week. Like everything else over the summer this ground to a halt, but as I have reclaimed myself and my journey this aspect has reasserted itself in its proper place in my spiritual practice. Today is the first day I have claimed back the time and set aside the body/mind/soul space to enter what I knew, as it unfolded for me, would have a profound impact on how I comprehended everything.
The cats are fed, their litter trays sorted, and we’ve had a good old bash of chase the stick and attack the red spot.
Being a Sunday, today’s contemplation is Mystery for which I hold one of my small Iona bowls. It now has an inexpensive white metal spiral in the bottom that surfaced as I was hunting for something in my trim and notion drawer.
Immediately, I am taken to visions of Spirals of all types and sizes: to the swirl of galaxies; the double helix of my DNA; the eddies of water in streams and rivers; whirlpools; hurricanes; tornadoes; spiralling circles in folk dances; whirling dervishes; the unfolding of grape hyacinths and hibiscus flowers; spinning prayer wheels; cats and dogs chasing their tales; the winding steps to the tops of towers; fern fronds and pea tendrils. Each of these images emerged in rapid succession. Everywhere spirals, as everywhere mystery.
It matches the expanse and extent of the pervasiveness of mystery as I contemplate it this morning. Mystery. My-story. Mist–story. All word plays. Mystery, that which is hidden in plain sight before me, around all of us. There is mist/fog/low cloud, call it what you will, settled over the Maize Mothers gathered across the road. There is an ambient and chilly dampness pervading the air and seeping into the bones.
More Spirals. We speak of inflationary spirals in economics. Some know all too well the spiralling descent into depression. When events, behaviours or things go terribly wrong we say they have spiralled out of control. We live our lives on the arm of a spiral galaxy. Our art from earliest times and across divergent cultures use the spiral.
So, the mystery at the heart of today’s contemplation unfolds in me, before me, as I gaze into the bowl cradled in palms of my hands, cupped holding this container of wonder.
The mystery here, for me at least is best stated: How did this come to be? How did this image take such a hold on our collective imagination that is it used in describing so many areas in life?
After all, we use it to describe the pattern of our deepest most intimate reality, that which is at the depth of our very making. The swirling, twirling, spinning we share with so much of the life about us.
Again images emerge. The potters at the wheel, spin and draw up clay to form a pot or wind ropes of clay to do the same. The basket weavers do the same in a different medium. Squirrels chase each other over tree trunks in spirals. Some birds construct nests in a sort of spiral pattern. Yarn is spun twirling fleece or cotton or silk into long, long spiralled strands.
Mystery and spirals merge and part as I continue my contemplation.
Mystery is part of my-story. Wonder. Yes, we know we can explain how certain phenomena occur in nature. But that doesn’t rob from me the elegance of mystery, the mist-shrouded sense of something deeper than what empirical evidenced base science can prove. Intellectually, I can understand much of the language the sciences of meteorology, astrophysics and biology use to describe the mechanisms at work in the certain kinds of spirals; but the spiral that made me and the one I ride on through space/time remain wondrous and awe-filling.
To fall back on Mystery to explain something of faith or what is truly impenetrable is not a copout. I do not feel it is a fudge. For me it is an acknowledgement that there are things, experiences, events and even realities that are cloaked and that Knowing in these instances is a matter of trust, and have nothing to do with empirical knowledge. Mystery is what lies at the heart of wonder; it exists at the limits of human hubris; it is the soft fringe of spirituality and the hard edge of religion.
Now as I ease back from the depth and breadth of this contemplation, and feel the slight weight of the Iona Mystery Bowl in my hands becoming aware I am here, I am aware of how appropriate it is that this bowl is the one for my Sunday Mystery Contemplations. I recall all the journeys I have made to Iona, most at this time of year. Those journeys changed me because the experiences and encounters I had on beguiling, thin and dangerous Iona altered my life, my-story, irrevocably and forever.
How? How did the patterns shape as they did? Why? Why were choices made regarding certain encounters? Why were particular events so charged with significance?
Why? It’s a Mystery.