How to Handle Distractions: The Squeaky Shoes!

The community had gathered. We had heard a sacred reading. The bell was struck. A gentle silence descended on us. Then, on the other side of the wall, in the parking lot a frustrated mother began yelling at her child, “I didn’t drive all this way for you to refuse to go to camp!’. The yelling continued, accompanied by a child’s mournful cry.  Beneath our feet the piano began, joined by happy voices of children singing camp songs. One after another their songs rolled along. The final straw were The Squeaky Shoes, rubber soles on linoleum, that sauntered down the hall outside the chapel. Really! So what was that sacred text???

That particular morning highlighted for me the delight of meditation. We (or is it just me!) have this image of sitting in stillness, all is serene. Maybe a few birds chirp or a gentle waterfall is a soothing white noise. Within a pristine setting perhaps I will settle into a place of inner peace.

But usually as soon as I settle on my cushion, I’m aware of the flopping of my mind, or emotions that get triggered. Again and again, as Fr Keating taught, I get hooked by some ‘boat’ that has entered the river of my thoughts and I’m engaged in sorting out all the stuff on the boat. Whether my physical space is serene or not, my internal space seldom is very orderly.

That morning, with all the yelling, singing and squeaking, gave me time to reflect again on how to deal with distractions when I meditate. They will happen! It might be internal thoughts that engage me or the squeaky shoes outside the room. I know they will come, so how can I let them not trigger an annoyance or sense of failure, but become one of the delights of meditation?

I know as my practice deepens the external sounds move more easily into something ‘out there’ and cease to trigger the cords of annoyance within me. They can still cause me to feel disruption. I look for the day when I’m oblivious to them. I’m not there yet. I’m not able to walk on hot coals! But I can breathe and let them pass. The internal roommate that chatters is more of a distraction to me. But the good part is that I can recognize when I’ve climbed on board and jump overboard one more time.

The real delight of distractions in meditation for me is the growing awareness that those distractions help me bring the quiet centre of my practice into everyday life. When I’m standing in line at the grocery store or caught in traffic I can pause and breathe and return to being open to God’s Spirit right then, right there because I’ve done it in my practice when The Squeaky Shoes walked down the hall. Or when someone gets annoyed at me or I feel irritated towards someone, or jealous of who they are, I can pause and breathe and return to being open to God’s Spirit right then because that’s what I’ve done in my meditation practice when The Squeaky Shoes were the last straw for me. Again, and again, pause, breathe and return my focus to God’s Spirit within me. I am a branch of God’s vine. I carry God’s Life-giving, Ever-Loving, Healing Sap within me. I belong to God. That is who I am.

Distractions! How do you deal with them in life and /or on the cushion???

Love and prayers for the journey

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Founder (Canada)

 

View from the Edge

In a conversation with a soul sister today I found myself describing how I see the church, the world and place of the church within the world. It came out so clearly. Can I capture it again?

I live on the edge of my country which gives me a sense of freedom as I look around. I perceive the institutional church disappearing into irrelevancy. People don’t attend any more. They’ve dismissed it. The church has lost her spiritual authority. It seems to me that the church has lost spiritual authority because she no longer listens intently to the Spirit of God nor lives within the flowing energy of the Spirit.

Today we don’t just live in villages, cities or even countries but are called to live within a global community, an earth community. Yes, we do have the intimate relationships of family and community, but in this new age of human history, we’re aware of the global community and how our actions affect one another as well as our planet.

Any denominational church needs to have that awareness too. The Spirit of God is moving globally. Spiritually we need to be aware of all the spiritual pathways that are within the global community. We need to not only be aware of them, but awake and responsive to them. Within the main spiritual communities there is a meeting place in the mystical world. We all arrive at some point of recognizing the presence of God around and within us. We need to be open to each other and to the wisdom inherent in different pathways.

From my perspective, for too many years the Christian church has separated herself and become closed. She has ceased to reflect the life, energy and power of Jesus. Through history and theology, we have built walls between us and other faiths. It is time to step out from behind those walls and be open. We need to stand together, within the Light of God. God is so much bigger than any one human-constructed faith that has evolved from a divine teacher. I have found my study of other traditions has made Jesus bigger and more alive for me. He is not diminished but expanded and strengthened. We need to listen to what the Spirit of God is saying today.

For our human species to move to the next level of consciousness we need a spiritual rebirth that will bring healing to those who hurt, a deep peace to the planet and healing to our earth. We need to move beyond small worlds into the global, even cosmic world. We need to move beyond a small church into the wide, expanse of spiritual life, the big ‘C’ Church of All Followers Everywhere. That’s when spiritual authority will return to the newly created Spiritual Community.

The people on this planet need a strong, healthy, united spiritual voice. Will we listen? Will we respond?

We’re all in this together. It’s time we lived into that reality.

I think that is the essence of my response to my soul sister. I share it with you as a way of mulling it over myself. How does it strike you? Helpful? Heretical!?

Love and prayers
Anne
Mystic in Motion
Founder, Contemplative Fire Canada
If this is helpful or interesting to you, please pass it along.

 

Why this World is the Way it is….

This week I heard it one more time and something inside me said ‘STOP’! “Silence makes me depressed”. “Silence and solitude….” and then she shuddered. I’ve heard it so many times. People pull away from contemplative practices. Why? Why do they sign up for yoga retreats but not for Contemplative Fire or for contemplative retreats within a Christian tradition? Why will they learn a new language of Sanskrit, chant in words they don’t know but not join a reflective service? Why?

When I was in a contemplative group the other day and a member said how her husband found silence depressing, I found myself stirred inside, some frustration stirred, some deeper anger, some hurt and some sadness. I observed a messy little stew pot of emotions emerge within me! I have found my twenty-five plus years within the contemplative world to be deeply healing. I’ve learnt how to face my negative emotions and move beyond them. Fundamentally I’ve experienced the LOVE of God, the deep, deep love of God that holds and sustains my life. Has it all been easy? No, much of it has been hard work, but it’s been wonderful. It is now my life passion to help other people find their own healing path. I offer the contemplative path and I grieve when it is dismissed as depressive. The door is slammed shut. ‘No thanks. Don’t want any.’ Slam.

As I pondered that perspective and my own response to it, I heard Silence/Solitude/Contemplative Practices being blamed for the person’s depression. I realized it that was a common response I’ve heard over the years. “It’s too difficult. It’s too scary. I don’t know what will come to my mind if I’m still. It makes me nervous.” I’ve heard so many responses like that, but suddenly, this morning I realized that those people are blaming the contemplative practices for their emotional response. It’s like me blaming my husband for my anger. I’m responsible for my angry response not him. if he behaves in a way that provokes my anger, well it’s my feelings and I’m responsible for learning from my reaction and caring for myself.

How come people can blame the contemplative practices for their feelings and get away with it? The practices of silence or solitude or meditation or imaginary prayer or (insert any contemplative practice)… are not the problem. The inability to accept responsibility for our own feelings and reactions is the problem. Too much of our church life is directed by people who aren’t willing to own their own feelings and do their work, do The Work of maturing spiritually, of following Jesus. Too much of our world is also led by people who won’t do their work.

I see the problem more clearly today, but I don’t see the solution. Right now, I hold it in the presence of our Loving, Omnipresent God.  I want to be able to put my foot in the door and not let them slam it shut.

How do you respond?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder, Contemplative Fire Canada

If this is helpful or interesting to you, please pass it along.

 

Public and Personal

 

Today I feel caught between public and personal happenings. I live in Toronto where ten people were killed and fifteen injured yesterday in what appears to be a random crazy attack. Will we ever know what motivated Alek to take so many lives of people who were strangers to him? The inner pain of the man, the anguish, delusion, distortion, separation….

Each one of us, as human beings, experience inner pain. An existential loneliness is a well-documented shared human inheritance. Most of us find ways of living with it. We learn to make friends, hold jobs, whether satisfying or not, that connect us to the bigger whole. We shop, eat, exercise, drink, work, play video games, decorate our homes, travel, study, help others… the list goes on and on of ways that we find to either cover up that existential loneliness, or ease its pain. And within our coping ways, we can even find joy, laughter and purpose.

Somewhere I read….and I’m sorry I can’t source this non-original thought… that this planet and our human lives on it, are a school of suffering. To be a human being is a challenging lifetime for we are here to learn how to suffer with graciousness and compassion. We are to allow our souls to be shaped by suffering. That doesn’t mean we’re doormats, but, the opposite, for we are to be actively and wisely open to suffering while we keep grounded in the deep, deep love of God. We are to touch God’s compassion through our suffering.

On a personal level, we’re selling our home and perhaps hearing offers today. As part of my work around that life transition, I’ve been re-reading Joyce Rupp’s book ‘Praying Our Good-byes’. This morning she took me to Jesus’ life, into his family life, his ministry years, his friendships, his suffering, and the long list of his good-byes before his death. I enjoyed reading of his connection with people and valued being shown, long before his death, his pain and suffering as he experienced human life.

As a human being, he suffered. I suffer. There are things I don’t understand.  Looking at Jesus’ death, I see God entangled in our suffering. So then,  how will I respond?

I spoke with one care-giver who was involved in the aftermath of the attack yesterday. His response was one we often hear. He spoke of the resilience of human beings, the goodness that pours out of people as they try to help victims, the shared sorrow of those nearby. In a moment when we see the worst, the greatest pain of being human, we also see the best, the greatest beauty of being human.

May our personal lives be grounded in the deep, deep love that God has for each one of us. May we respond to suffering, both personal and public, carefully, gently with wisdom, with openness, with compassion. One step at a time. Life is a marathon and we’re not done yet.

If this is interesting to you, please show support by sharing it with a friend. Let’s broaden the contemplative pathway.

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

Lessons from a Hurricane (5) Uncovering Anger

Lessons from a Hurricane (5)

Uncovering Anger

empty ice creamAfter I cleaned up the mess of ice cream containers that surrounded me …… It doesn’t take and Adult Anne long to realize that ice cream simply doesn’t solve any problems or clean up any hurricane-like mess! Under the hurricane mess and under the mess of ice cream I found anger.

I was amazed by the size and depth of the anger that was within me. How could this be? I’ve been a ‘conscious’ Christian for over forty years. I’ve done years of internal work and hours upon hours of reflective healing prayer. How could there possibly be so much anger still within me? At times it felt like there was an underground river of anger that was feeding my soul. It was the ugly, painful, sleep disruptive kind of anger. Do you know that kind?anger

The anger felt like an invader. I did the work that I know to do when I encounter a persistent intrusion like that. I meditated, prayed, journalled, sought a therapist, saw my spiritual director, drew pictures, took lots of deep breaths, found a friend – all the things that I imagine many of you know to do. This anger was persistent. It would disappear some days and I’d think I’d licked it only to have it appear again and again. I was hounded by it for months.

I learnt that I’m loved by God, even with the anger. I learnt to live with anger, not ruled by it but acknowledging it’s presence, not overwhelmed by it but recognizing that because of my history,  because of my temperament, anger is a companion. And, it’s worth repeating, I’m loved by God. I’m loved in my unfinished state. This persistent anger was humbling. It drew me closer to God. My need for God’s presence, my need for tenderness and compassion, deepened. My wonder at God’s willingness to be close to me when I didn’t want to be close to myself quite took my breath away. How spectacular, how stunning is the Holy One.

The hurricane humbled me. At least it humbled me a little bit, enough to know there is more humbling ahead.

Amazing what a wind storm can reveal. Amazing what a wind storm can heal. When has revealing and healing happened in your world?

With love and prayers

Anne

Community Leader (Canada)