Lock-away

I had a very interesting walk/stroll this weekend.  On Saturday morning, I walked across a familiar route – from Tower of London crossing Tower Bridge, down to London Bridge, walk through Southwark and then crossing the Millennium Bridge until I reached St. Pauls Cathedral. When I say familiar route, it means very, very familiar like it is my backyard or frontyard. I know what’s new and what has changed. But, last Saturday, the familiar became foreign. I discovered something on those bridges I crossed. I noticed padlocks hanging from the railings. There were only few in the whole stretch of the railings and unless you look closely, a tourist or a local will not notice it.

When I got home, I immediately googled what these padlocks mean. I found one article from New York Daily news that says, “It is a romantic ritual birthed in Italy. The symbolic gesture of everlasting infatuation popped up in Rome about five years ago as locals started copying the lustful characters in Italian author Federico Moccia’s popular novel “Ho Voglia di Te”, or “I Want You” in Italian. The trend then spread to Paris and became noticeable on the Brooklyn border in 2010.” One tourist further said that it means locking your heart away and throwing the key into the river so it can’t be reopened.

Interesting.

A friend recently asked the question of whether there is a guarantee that the deep and intense love one has with someone or something will last forever.  How would I know? How would anybody know? Perhaps if there is really such a thing as locking your heart away, there will be a guarantee. But no, our hearts are not as hard as steel like these padlocks are made of.  The key to our real joy and freedom is not by locking our hearts away but by allowing it to beat freely and let it produce songs that has the lyrics of our souls.

I came up with stories from the padlocks I saw but this one invited me to ponder more…

Prayer

Prayer means many things for different people. Growing up, we’re used to recite prayers we know. As we mature in the relationship between God and ourselves, we become more open and spontaneous. Prayers become conversations.  A series of dialogues – the deeper it gets, the more we gain understanding of ourselves, of who we truly are and of what we truly want.

I just spent days of silent retreat, far away from what is familiar. On my last night, while I was packing my things and preparing myself to go back to the real world, for some random reasons, I was inspired to take photos of the things inside my retreat room which kept me company, in silence, for 10 days.

The armrest of my study chair where my elbow has rested while I was on deep thoughts…

The heater which provided warmth during my sleep…

My  favourite jeans where the texture and fit make me feel comfortable…

The lampshade that provided the right amount of light at night…

My pen, which, in the absence of a laptop and a cellphone, helped me write down my thoughts and reflections…

A phone in the room – which I never used and never rang the entire time I was on retreat…

My creased pillow which nestled my head for 9 nights…

My thermal socks which gave protection and comfort to my feet…

The cushion of the chair where I lay my back as I witness the sunrise each morning from my room…

The hard wood of my study table…

As I look and reflect on these photos, I realised that prayer is also a time for putting attention to the fine details of emotions within us. Recognising the texture and colour of our passions, our desires, our pains, our joys – its softness and hardness, its creases, with its smoothness and roughness, in its rawness, and staring at it closely, in silence, and then presenting it to God, asking for the grace of purification and sanctification.

True North

(image courtesy of http://www.fossil.com)

I once told a friend that she should find her true north. Back then, I thought I understand what it truly means. At that time, I thought I could explain it to anyone. On that conversation, I thought finding one’s true north is a simple process and that one must have a conscious effort to engage with it at every significant stages in one’s life.

Several months later, that same friend told me she couldn’t remember much what I said about finding one’s true north. I also couldn’t remember. Actually, I realised I was only talking rubbish when I told her about it. I really didn’t know or understand what I was talking about that time.

Lately, I have been thinking about it a lot. Now is that time in one’s life to walk the talk. I can always echo the things I read or hear from people I look up to but the real deal is when you get to apply to your own life a cocktail of wisdom and learnings and use it.

I thought finding one’s true north is being naked from all safety blankets that we have attached ourselves with in the past. I thought finding one’s true north is removing all superficial gap-fillers in our lives that we blindly see as the source of our happiness. I thought finding one’s true north is catching that one good wave (that comes randomly) and glide through it with confidence and freedom. I thought finding one’s true north is listening to that subtle voice, which in my life I refer to as ‘His’ will.

I further thought that finding one’s true north is not about stopovers or crossovers, it is about bringing life into full-stop, standing still and looking at the horizon. I thought finding one’s true north is also about choices. Choosing what is more ‘freeing’ to the soul. I thought finding one’s true north is not just about settling but settling down.

I am not a sailor. I don’t know how to sail through rough waters and technically, I don’t know how a compass really work. I can only guess that a good compass is an important piece of equipment for a sailor or any traveler. I thought, in life and in finding one’s true north, we should use not only one compass but multiple compasses – spiritual, moral, emotional, social and intellectual compasses. When and how to use all these compasses is key in finding one’s true north.

And so – as someone traversing the fine line of mid-life, I will not simply have a stop-over or just have a plain cross-over, I will bring myself into full-stop. With all the compasses closely held in my chest, I will search for that true north. I may or may not find it, but at least, I tried. It maybe distant and elusive but it is worth pursuing.