The Absent Worshipper

Then there is silent prayer. How can this be? Silence does not ask for anything, nor apparently  make any offering. It is, rather, a waiting upon what is there, outside the self and not constructed by the self. It attempts to resist the human imposition of meaning on what is experienced: to let what is be itself and for the worshipper to be aware without directly influencing the experience of awareness. It may be that this is not fully achievable. But in silent waiting such awareness may endeavor to come.

So, standing on Marazion Marsh, not very far from the coastal path where I had been walking and taking in the views of sea and cliff with others passing by and the restless ocean rushing in towards us, all was now, by contrast, very still. I watched a white egret in the pools, then a grey heron gliding over the reed beds to land farther off. To be still here was the only appropriate response to the place. To be outwardly silent was not difficult, but turning off the inner commentary on what I was experiencing, suppressing the impulse to interpret, to project and to shape what I was seeing into a narrative, was not so easy. But it was necessary.

This place, and the spirits that are here, can only be fully experienced in the stillness of silent worship. So this is what I brought: not so much my presence as my absence, to allow the presence of the place to fill it. The water birds moved through the marsh.  I did not move. At least not while I remained in that condition of silent worship. Time stood still. But it was running out. I caught the movement of some rabbits on the drier ground to one side of me. Some walkers coming along the narrow track from the coastal path on the other side. The prayer ended. Not abruptly or with and real sense of disturbance. It seemed quite naturally to come to its proper end. I moved off quietly, but now contemplating the experience of not contemplating, the human mind active once again. Busy with its busyness of moving on from stillness, of making sense of it, which was not a prayer because the prayer did not try to do that.