Nudged into Contemplation

I love to be nudged into examining issues from new perspectives; to look into matters from unfamiliar points of view. That provocation is almost always at play when I watch BBC Reel videos. Yesterday morning, after my walk up and down my street, I watched and listened to a video entitled, “The Dark Side of Empathy.” Watching the film forced me to think in a different way about an emotion I’ve always considered purely positive. I won’t try to explain it here; I’ll leave that to interested readers who want to learn more. But I will say the comments by some of the psychologists who were interviewed caused me to consider, deeply, the difference between empathy and compassion. Unlike empathy, compassion has no obvious, menacing dark side. Another brief video, which I have yet to watch but is on my list for some future morning after I come to grips with another new day, is entitled, “The Psychology Behind Conspiracy Theories.”


A striking blog post—from another blog, Kelly’s Quest I visit on occasion—gave me pause this morning. As I skim some old, incredibly verbose posts, I feel the statement is aimed squarely at me:

You are too full of gibberish, you know too much. Because of your borrowed knowledge and too many words moving inside you, you cannot see the wordless beauty that can only be experienced in silence.

~ Osho ~


I do not recall the last time I droned on about exploring other places to visit or live. I do not recall, but I am relatively sure it was within the last week. I won’t apologize for feeling the need to do it again, taking on my role of travel agent to the chronically nomadic. Today’s place to visit is Light on the Hill, a retreat venue that accommodates both individuals and groups. Describing itself as “a healing and inspiring space for reflection. deep inner work, and spiritual growth,” it puts itself in a position in which it simply MUST perform. Of course such places understandably turn the tables on their clients and patrons, responding with “it’s your responsibility to do sufficiently deep work that it leads to spiritual growth.” But that’s just supposition.  Located about 35 miles south of Ithaca, in Van Etten, New York, the retreat center presents itself as a refuge from the rest of the world, nestled in a wonderland of forests and lakes and overwhelming tranquility. I’m ready to make the trip!


At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one’s lost self.

~ Brendan Behan ~


Look into a mirror. Search that face for clues about who is hiding behind the façade. The eyes are the best sources. They reveal everything; they really are the windows to the soul. The person looking back at your is not always easy to see. But look deeply. Try to glimpse the timid figure tucked away behind that obscure reflection; that shy child who is still trying to understand that chaotic world beyond the limits of the imagination.

Now, peer furtively but intently into the eyes of a nearby stranger. Pay no heed to her beauty or his frightening countenance—look deeper, to the real person. You will see a timid figure, much like your own, hunched behind a protective shield of emotional armor. Engage with the stranger long enough and the shield will be lowered, slightly. But it will never be dropped or discarded. Because it may be needed at some point. We all must shield our eyes, on occasion, whether with a raised hand or a raised shield. Or a raised sword.


Years ago, I wrote a series of blog posts entitled something like “Doing Without.”  My purpose was to give up, for one month, something I took for granted and in or with which I indulged regularly. One month it was coffee. Another it was red meat. Another it was booze. Etc. The idea was to test my discipline and to do a “rinse and repeat” on my brain. I wanted to clearly identify the effects of various elements of daily living on my life in general and my sanity in particular…though, really, sanity was not top of mind at the time. It was easy to give up things I put in my body; edibles and such. It was not at all easy—impossible, I found by the time I abandoned the exercise—to overcome or abandon the emotional and intellectual controls and whims that swirl around inside my brain. More on that another time. I feel like stopping now.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Nudged into Contemplation

  1. Meg Koziar says:

    I know people who came to HSV for the same tranquil environment purported to be in the NY retreat….

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