There’s More to That Story!

 

Sometimes a trip into town can be most surprising. Today was one of those days.

As I headed into town to do a few errands I listened to a podcast from Michael Meade with ‘Living Myth’. I didn’t know anything about him. It simply was the first one that showed on my app and the title was intriguing. Off down the highway I went and soon found myself enjoying his social commentary from a contemplative perspective. He was telling a story about three fish and nestled within that story was another one about a wise bird. Although his main social commentary was coming from these animal stories, he also was describing the role of story, folk stories and myths in human culture. He said the stories exist not for us to believe them, but to learn from them.  They are a means for one generation to teach another. Ah….will I allow myself to move from belief into learning, into transformation, into new ways, into something new being birthed????

During my first few decades within the church being a Christian involved knowing what to believe. I was taught ‘correct’ doctrine through sermons, small groups and independent study of authors who taught ‘correct’ theology. I did hours of Bible study that was shaped by commentaries with a particular perspective. I was taught apologetics, so I’d have a ‘correct’ answer to any question. It was all about belief.

What if we read the Jesus stories not to believe them but to learn from them? I was taught that it was important to believe that each detail of the Gospel stories was true. The belief in historical reality was what was important, not that I ponder and be shaped by the truth within the stories.  Later I learned to pray with the gospel stories using my imagination. Jesus became so real to me. I watched him laugh, sweat and fall asleep. I sat with him as a child and walked with him as a man. He wasn’t a storybook character, nor theological construction, nor a remote divinity. He was a real man, who knew me and cared for me. He wanted to hear my questions, my worries and my discoveries. His love for me began to change me as I allowed him to give me his wisdom.

I’m grateful for my years of scripture study. And I’m grateful too that now I can still learn from those stories, as well as the stories within different traditions. I’m grateful that I’m not constrained by specific beliefs, but allowed to constantly grow and change, held and shaped by a compassionate, loving God who I know through Jesus.

It was a great trip into town. I came home with new plants for the garden, food for tomorrow’s picnic, reaffirmed in my perspective on being a spiritual human and having found a thoughtful person who is doing his bit to bring some help into our groaning, smokey world. Of course all done keeping social distance and mask on!

Where are you at today? Learning or believing?

Love and questions from a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Shalem Society Member

Learning to Climb a Mountain

 

I’m getting stronger as I walk the mountain road behind my home. At first, I needed to catch my breath several times but now I can walk the whole way without pausing. Slowly. Step by step. A gentle pace, but I can do it. I’m learning to climb my mountain.

When I began my Christian journey although I had a delicious outpouring of God’s love, I ended up in a legalistic world of correct behaviour and doctrine. Years later I re-discovered grace and experienced again, in a more integrated way the warm embrace of acceptance. Now into the fifth decade of my journey I’m returning to a world I left behind in 1971. I have a strong base in my Jesus experience which is rooted in both scripture and mysticism, and now from that base camp I’m exploring what other faiths have taught over the thousands of years.

One of the pieces that I hear is that there is room for both action and grace. Knowing God’s grace-filled loving presence and saying ‘yes’ to that, I’m also invited into whole-hearted devotional commitment to God reflected in daily life. There are ways for me to learn and to practice that will lead me deeper into my life with God, within God. I have things to learn about climbing the spiritual mountain. I wonder if I’ve been on autopilot and now am being invited into hands-on flying.

In some of the other traditions I find a strong devotional heart and intentional practice that goes deeper than either the early legalism I encountered or the monastic structures of my later life. I’m invited to be an active co-participant in life. My daily choices make a difference to the whole universe. I’m not to be passive, receiving the gifts and grace of God, but asking with assurance as a child, for them. ‘Reveal yourself to me’. And intentionally structuring my days to live a selfless, devoted life.

Perhaps there is a sense that familiarity breeds contempt. Have I heard these things within the Christian world and not accepted them, or not to the depth I do now? Possibly, yet I smell I different aroma as wander through many traditions. I see the millions of people over the millennium who have searched for answers, hungered for purpose, and found pathways to God. They have worked hard and said ‘Here is a pathway.’ They have sought to learn to climb mountains and walk in deep valleys while engaged in Spirit Life.

I’ve held to a rhythm of life for the last ten years, and now I hear an invitation to a more intentional shape to that rhythm. Time to put on some crampons and head more deeply up the mountainside. So much to learn. So many ways to grow. Sometimes I feel like I’m just beginning.

How’s your climb going? Are you living on autopilot or intentionally? Are you climbing with me?

Love and prayers from a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

New Perspective

 

 

The Sun is warm and embracing, yet a cool breeze dances around me. I’m watching the tide go out on Manson’s Lagoon. There are a handful of tiny people on the other side exploring what’s left in the tide waters. Gulls and a heron are feeding. I’ve walked out to one of the lagoon islands for my morning meditation and watched the trickle of water head back out to the ocean. I could sit here for the day. It’s one of my favourite spots on the earth.

Sitting on the edge of the lagoon, I can see its dry bed, the open waters of the sound, the mountains of Vancouver Island and the sky stretching above me. Dry – Open – Solid – Stretching. My imagination is caught in the flow of the tides, and the sense of being on this planet within the cosmos. I feel on the edge.

When I sense this edge, everything else shifts; the struggles of life both mine and in the world, the uncertainties, the stumbles, the hopes, the possibilities, all these take on a different hue. The Edge Keeper becomes more real to me. I’m not alone on the edge.

This week I read a story, so timely after last weeks ‘Troubled Waters’. The writer was asking an elder how to bring change into the world. The elder after a long pause throws a stone into a pond. “That’s how you bring change into the world, one ripple at a time”. Change comes as I change myself, and then focus on loving those closest to me. I don’t save The World, I bring healing to my tiny portion of it. Can I do that? Can I love those in my most intimate circle? Can I create a space safe enough for their soul to show up? Last night I spoke a harsh word at someone. Guess I still I have much more to learn. At least I heard it. Now I can apologize for it.

Dry – yes sometimes I’m dry even harsh and spiky like oyster shells on the bottom of the lagoon.

Open – yes I will live open to change, to acknowledging my spiky parts, my dry parts.

Solid – yes I know The Edge Keeper who is so solid, so sure, so constant, so loving.

Stretching – yes I will be stretched to let go of old ways and be loved into new ways.

I’m grateful to live on the edge, watching the flow of life, willing to be change in my tiny spot on the earth.

Love and prayers

From a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

 

Troubled Waters

Two rivers coming together often create turbulence. I’ve used that image in marriage counselling so many times! And it’s one I know is true. When two lives join, when two families join it takes awhile to sort out how the new family will live.

The last few weeks I’ve been reading from two different sources. One stream of books takes me deep into our spiritual life, how we flow from the Source of All Life, how we are all interconnected, each person, plant and stone is connected. That stream leads me to joy. The other stream takes me into the social structures that have determined the lives of people within our communities, to the segregation laws, to public attachment to violence and control. That stream shows me fear. What happens when fear and joy come together?

I’ve been reading Huston Smith’s work from the late 1950’s on world religions. I wonder what would have happened in my life if I had found him in my search in 1970’s! He is speaking to the questions that I was asking: what do we want, what is the purpose of life, why are we here? He looks at the major faiths and how people have wrestled with these same questions over thousands of years. I so often felt alone in my questions, but clearly I wasn’t. I was part of a huge stream of people that search out meaning in life and that’s what gives birth to religion as a solid part of human society. As I dip into the expansive spiritual world he describes, I feel at home, and hear so many faith traditions connecting us all. It feels good.

I’ve also been reading Isabel Wilkerson’s latest book ‘Caste’ and it troubles my heart. I realize it’s from an American perspective and to read a Canadian version would be instructive, but I have enough ties to America to know connection to that story and considering their place in the world it’s an important book. I haven’t finished it yet, so I’m still digesting, as much as I can what she documents, but so far she’s begun to outline the social structure that is deeper than racism, that subjugates one human to another in brutal and binding ways. In the last section I read she traces the origins of caste in both India and America to their spiritual roots. Both countries used their holy books to justify the ranking of people and the resulting control of a dominant group. It’s chilling.

How can what I love and that leads me to joy, lead to such brutality? How can humans read the same holy books and some come away ready to enslave and dominate and others ready to serve, even unto death? And the enslavement isn’t ancient history. The last laws were repealed within my adult lifetime and the effect of those laws continues long after they were officially repealed. How can it be?

Troubled waters today. I think sometimes it’s good and necessary to go through troubled waters.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

 

Attuned to Jesus

 

The other day I heard a bell ringing repeatedly. I mentioned it to another person near me and they didn’t hear it at all. It was ringing on a frequency that wasn’t in their range. Any of us who care for dogs will experience that too. Last night on our evening walk, our dogs were so excited, and yet I couldn’t see anything! Often dogs can hear things that we can’t. The sounds are still there, but I don’t have the frequency required to hear them.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus and how I’ve known him over the years. I feel close to him and consider him my friend, my very best spiritual teacher, the one who has made me whole, who connects me to God. I shy away from church language of ‘Savour’ or ‘Son of God’ for I find many of those words to be encased in theology and lacking the intimacy of the one who appeared in bedroom when I was eight or who spoke to me in an art gallery in Venice, or who washed me Joy one night when I was so very dirty. In this season of my life, I prefer to set aside theology and live within my known experience.

That gets me back to frequencies. I want to be attuned to Jesus, to be able to hear his whispers and sense his movements. I want my spirit to be sensitive to Jesus and to all his friends, the ones both alive and who have left us, all who draw us closer to the source of all life, to what we call God.

I know sometimes I don’t hear his sound. Sometimes I’m distracted by the stuff of life or my own internal workings and I can’t hear when his bell rings or when he comes down the driveway at night. But I want to. I want to be attuned to the whisper of Jesus. I think I’ll ask him to help me. He’s really good at helping his friends.

What gets your attention? What or who do you listen to? Who is your friend who will help you?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

The Sun and I

 

Do you ever have a ‘special encounter’ that just makes your day? Yesterday I had one of those with Our Sun.

Most mornings I walk the watershed road behind our home. It twists through the forest for about a kilometre, past a couple of houses, the warning sign about Bears, the trail head that goes deep into the forest, and our local reservoir. The road doesn’t stop, but there is a formidable fence that marks the area that is declared ‘no-go’ for we get our village water supply from the mountain stream that is in the protected area.

I stop my morning walk just before the gate near some beautiful boulders and of course, handsome trees. I admit a particular fondness for one fir, but I’m an equal lover of trees. From my vantage point I can see Mt Harvey behind the trees and one of The Lions straight ahead. There are two mountains the Brit’s named ‘The Lions’ that give our village its name. The indigenous people named them ‘The Sisters’ and tell the story of two sisters who were peacemakers giving their lives so tribes could be united. The tall, commanding mountains are ‘The Sisters’ to remind us of peacemaking and brotherhood. I’m grateful for that story and naming, but the world around calls them ‘The Lions’.

Yesterday morning as I stood before one of ‘The Sisters’, I watched the sun rise over her shoulder. I was there for those few moments when our earth tipped, and our sun appeared to shine upon us. Her light was breath-taking, warm and full.

I spent the day in gentle daily activities that included trail making and seawall walking, reading, chatting with Hugh and cooking. Hugh chose to set our dinner table on the front deck. We are fortunate to live where we have lots of nature around us. I think I’ve written frequently on how much it means to me to live surrounded by forest, with creek flowing below and Howe Sound spread before me. Our front deck gives an open view of Howe Sound, some islands and the mountains of the mainland. Hugh and I settled in to enjoy our meal in the most beautiful ‘dining room’ possible.

As we finished eating and lingered chatting, the sun was streaming across the Sound. It was brilliant, so bright I couldn’t look at it. The sun’s radiance filled the sky and shone off the water, filling the air above it. I realized that the sun was about to disappear. We watched as the earth continued her tipping and said good-bye to the sun with her radiance. In the pause after her descent, we both began to sing the song of our youth, ‘Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh.’

In one day, I had said ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Night’ to our sun. My simple day had been bracketed by Light, Radiant Light. As I transition into a different season of life, a season of stillness and reflection, a season of a small circle, I found my life being held by the sun and its sustaining power, by the universal warmth of the sun. I felt the eternal ‘yes’ on my simple life. It’s not for me to determine my life, yet it is for me to live my life well, fully expressing my heart longings within it.

We  walk on our earth, as it spins its way through the galaxy and turns on its axis around the sun. Tiny upon the earth. Humbly significant within the cosmos. Each day simple. Each day unrepeatable. Each day precious.

May you live today well, honest and grounded in your very best life.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

I Am Part of Something Larger

 

One of my favourite authors used the expression ‘I’m part of something larger’ and a deep chime sounded within me. Yes – me too!

My readings recently have taken me into an exploration of many faith traditions  and how they’ve each answered the basic questions of  human existence; why are we here, what is our purpose, how do we make meaning out of life? As I sip from many different spiritual watering holes, I become more aware of my connection to everyone, past, present and future as well as to Earth. I carry within my physical genes the DNA of my parents, grandparents and their ancestors. As ‘Anne’, I’m not a single individual living in Lions Bay BC, but one whose body DNA is a container of ancient and future life. As ‘Anne’ I’m not a single individual, but one whose soul DNA is part of the cosmos, an eternal and complete being, connected to Earth and Heaven. I am a part of something larger than my own everyday life.

Today someone asked if I’d share with them some ‘coping strategies’ of breathing and meditation. I agreed, but realized that I don’t offer ‘coping strategies’. For me breathing practices and mediation are ways I nourish my soul. Without them my soul would be malnourished. My body needs water to survive and grow. My soul needs prayer and meditation. Without them, my soul withers. Too often I see people not nourishing their souls with meditation, but instead trying other coping strategies to survive or give their life purpose; working, accumulating wealth, focus on relationships, amusement, exercise, food – you could make the list. We have many ‘coping strategies’!

If only we stopped, took a deep breath and began to be present within this moment. If only we meditated regularly, opening our soul to God’s Loving Presence, allowing ourselves to connect with the Source of All Life, to follow the pathway that Jesus, or the Spirit gives, a way of peace, forgiveness, wisdom and joy.

Our life is so much bigger than our daily grind. Each one of us is part of the larger picture. I hope so much that many more of us will stop and be open to who we are as God’s Children, part of the human family on Earth. We are all part of the larger picture and hence, all part of the solution.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Footprints in the Sand

 

After writing about my imperfections last week and how I was STUCK in memoir writing…. This week I was sharing with a Dear One about being stuck when suddenly I became unstuck! What if…. my manuscript was already complete?? What if… I don’t have to write The Best Book Ever???

The longing I originally discerned was to write my spiritual story so my family could have it. They don’t’ really know who I am and I wanted them to know me. Well, I’ve done that. I’ve crafted my story around seven encounters with God, added in my reflections on the meaning of those encounters and given them some contemplative practices that have helped shaped my life. I’ve done what was on my heart to do. If any of them read it, they would both recognize me and know me more deeply.

Sometimes I take what I’m given to do and then EXPLODE it into something more.  I let the simple task I’m given get bigger and bigger and even bigger. I have a tendency to think I have to save the whole world rather than love the person who is closest to me. Do you catch my drift?? Does that ever happen to you? We think we must leave some mega footprints on the beach of life, whereas we’re just to live simply, lightly with small footprints. Some part of my untended ego wants to expand jobs and make them bigger, wants to save the world. I think it just wants to be noticed and hugged, but it feels it will only get attention if its noisy, or BIG, or IMPORTANT.

So, now I’m holding the idea that my first draft is actually my completed manuscript. I can print it out and tuck it away for my family to find someday. If I want to play with it, finding different voices for my different ages, or expressing more emotion through the stories or editing it, I can do that for fun, but I don’t have to. I have completed the task that I was given by the desire of my heart. My footprint can be small. I don’t have to run all over the beach leaving lots of footprints. I can just walk simply to the water’s edge and swim, relaxed and enjoying life.

For me, that’s a vastly different way to live. I’m glad I’m never too old to learn.

I hope you can know and be content with your footprint too.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Living with Imperfections!

I’ve got a perfectionist drive  – just ask those who live with me or have worked with me! I’m a One on the Enneagram. Those are people who have a clear picture of how things might be, a strong drive to get there and usually see their way as the Right Way. A major part of maturing is to be able to grow beyond your core preferences into a broader way to be. For me, growth has included learning to see things from many perspectives, to know that others may have a valid perspective that offers a helpful ‘right way’ and that I don’t have to be perfect, in fact I can be radically imperfect and be happy.

This week was one of those Imperfect Weeks. I have felt stuck in my memoir writing. A friend suggested I needed a clearer focus. She wanted to know who I was writing the memoir for as I was naming several groups. I got that! I cleared up my focus group and hung a photo of most of them on the wall of my cabin. But then, my friend, husband and editor all said that I was writing from a very reserved placed. I needed to be more emotionally connected to my story.

Yikes. Yikes. Oh no. I’ve heard that before. More than one time. Yup. Often. And then a soul sister said to me “Anne, what’s it like for you to cry?”. Yikes…. “Cry, what’s that?”.

For years I have worked to harvest emotions. I’ve done a decent job of it for I am much more emotionally alive now than I was twenty years ago, but there’s more room to grow. Isn’t there always! I’ve felt challenged this week to look at the block within me that’s making it really difficult to tell my story not from a ‘reporting’ place, but from a personal and warm perspective. It’s hard for me to do that. I’ve tried to get acquainted with Little Annie as she tells her first story of seeing a glowing figure  praying for her in the middle of the night in her room. I can report the story, but struggle with feeling as I did when I was a child.

But then, my ‘crying’ friend, after asking her question and hearing my response, went very quiet. She is someone who knows how to listen to the tapping of her heart. After awhile she said, “You know Anne, it’s okay to have a block within you. You’re not to judge yourself.” Sigh. Sigh. Deeply Sighing.

I trust Jesus within me. I know he knows every bit of my being. He knows the block, the dam, the resisting wall within me. And he loves me just as I am. I belong to him. Actually, my inner dam belongs to him too. I have given him permission many times to dismantle it. My way now is to TRUST him. He will dismantle the dam within me, when and if he chooses. My way, my job in this life, is to relax and trust him, so his love, peace and wisdom can flow through me. I’m not the demolition expert. Gosh, I like living this way. Comfortable with my imperfections. 😊

How about you?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

 

Four Words

 

As I walk the mountain I’m humming four words. Each word slows me down so I pay attention to my footsteps. I’m more attentive to my walk, the woods around me, and to being alive, today.

My words grew out some mindfulness meditations from Thich Nhat Hanh. I’ve been doing an online course from him and realized I needed to do it a second time.  (It’s one that Sounds True offers: Body and Mind are One). This time I’ve laid aside my knitting so I can take notes.  My mind wanders less when my hand holds a pen and puts marks on paper!

Each section of the course begins with a guided meditation, a series of repeated phrases that the student is to take into a walking meditation and daily practice. Over the last few months as I’ve listened to them, I found I was creating my own phrases, a tiny bit different and reflective of my life. The phrases fall on the in breath and out breath:

Breathing in: The mountain is solid

Breathing out: I’m solid

Mountain/solid (stay with these words till ready to change)

Breathing in: The creek is flowing

Breathing out: I’m flowing

Creek/flowing

Breathing in: The trees are still

Breathing out: I’m still

Trees/still

Breathing in: The birds are singing

Breathing out: I’m singing

Birds/singing

Breathing in: Solid

Breathing out: Flowing

Breathing in: Still

Breathing out: Singing

Solid/Flowing/Still/Singing  (repeating these four words until it’s time to move on)

During the day I’m carrying those four words around with me. Sometimes I pause, take a breath and lay my words on my breath. Then I know I’m here and present with whomever I am with, wherever I am.

Do you have four words that are yours to ground you? What might they be?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder