Friday, 31 July 2015

Vicar's Study - Landmarks by Margaret Silf

Have you ever wished that in life you had been given a manual? Or perhaps, to keep up with the times, an internal Sat Nav! Someone or something to tell you 'Go this way' or 'Stop here'. Someone to tell you when you need to make a shift or when you need to just stay in lane. Wouldn't life be so much easier if we made our arrival into the world with a set of instructions for getting the best out of things!

One of my favourite books, that I always find myself going back to, explores just this idea. Landmarks by Margaret Silf  is like a guide to making your own guide for life, it is a way of digging down into your own personal route map. A way of looking back at where you have been, looking honestly at where you are now and setting a course for the future.
I started reading the book when I will thinking about a gigantic change in my life and hesitating over whether to put myself forward for ordained ministry. More than anything at that time I really need to dig down in to what I was really about as a person, what made me tick, where on earth I was going.
It opens with a depiction of what it means to be a person which made so much sense to me that I find it often pops up again when I am thinking about my life. Here is a little diagram from the book:
What really struck me about this was that we spend so much time trying to change our life by changing the outer 'where' circle. You know the way - 'If only I had this new job then I would be different, feel different' or 'If only I had this new relationship, or got out of this old one, then I would be happy'. So often though, when you move, you find that unfortunately you have followed yourself to this new location and set of circumstances and it feels quickly just the same as the old ones.

That is of course not to say that changing things in life is always meaningless or pointless, I am currently reaping the benefits of a massive lifestyle change that reading Landmarks spurred me on to, but rather that we need to understand that real change occurs at the 'Who' level at the base of who we really are. Only attending to our real selves will make the difference that we crave. Only knowing our deepest desires, and understanding them, will we be able to make the good choices for our lives that really move us on towards having the things in life we crave.

Landmarks is eminently practical. Each chapter ends with ideas for reflection and it is very much take it or leave it as it appeals to you. It is based on a Christian meditative practice, the Ignatian method, but is broad and generous in its approach. It definitely takes as a given that there is a God factor in this whole thing but makes little presumption about how you might understand God so there is plenty of room to explore whether you consider yourself religious or really just not very sure!
Now I am in a new season I find myself going back to Landmarks again. Wondering, exploring and having another look at my own deep desires and internal route map. Even for an activist like me time spent reflecting in this way pays of in spades. If you pick up Landmarks do let me know what you think, and I hope it helps you a little on your way too.

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