What I’m reading: Robert Wright Sub-dean of Westminster, and chaplain to the Speaker of the Commons

30 January 2007

by Allison Ward

Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird is a wonderful introduction to the subject of contemplation. It has a vitality and relevance that are gripping. Contemplative books are often dry, but I found this a page-turner. I am personally called to contemplation within my busy life.

Martin Laird clearly walks closely with God, and this comes across in a fresh way. He quotes from classics such as The Cloud of Unknowing, as well as from Eastern Orthodox sources and modern writers such as R. S. Thomas. But this isn’t an anthology; and his writing reveals that he has experienced what he is describing.

He sets out what contemplation is: a gift from God — not something that we can seek, but something that we must accept.

He describes three doorways in contemplation: sitting still; settling into the rhythm of a particular prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer; and “awareing” — moving from just observing to seeing in a deep way, and encountering God.

He looks at the distractions of our lives, and presents three powerful portraits of people struggling with fear, pain, and compulsion. This book is grounded in real life, and gives us constructive ways of dealing with problems.

As a painter of abstract art, I find in my own spiritual life a link be-tween my painting and contempla-tive prayer. Every painter is trying to direct the viewer towards something. I try to help people to reach the silent land within, which Laird explores in this book. Getting in touch with God requires attention and time, and Laird helps us to see beyond, to a real encounter.’

Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land, Darton, Longman & Todd, £10.95 (£9.85); 978-0-232-52640-0.

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