My Pace Bunny

 

During my retreat week, I felt it was time for an in-depth re-tuning of my Rhythm of Life, so  I made my way through Contemplative Fire’s ‘The Companion’s Journey’, a series designed to help us be in touch with our rhythm. As I read through the material, one phrase that resonated was the invitation to follow Jesus as he leads me in a contemplative pace……a contemplative pace.

 

A few days before that I’d hiked up the mountain behind our home with my daughter and her partner. They are avid hikers. I’d done this trail before and I knew how steep it was and how much exertion I’d experienced. I warned them I’d need to stop and catch my breath! My daughter responded with ‘Not a problem Mom. We walk ‘slowly-slowly’.’ She actually had a Hindi word for it that sounds like ‘pulley-pulley’. She described how they walk so slowly uphill they don’t ever need to stop to catch their breath. Others may initially run past them, but eventually they usually pass all those who exert themselves.

We started up the mountain and my daughter walked ahead of me. About a half hour into our hike I realized that I hadn’t stopped once to catch my breath. Yes, my heart was pounding, but I was okay. I could keep this pace up. I’m not a runner, but my daughter is, and I’ve cheered her along in a few of her marathons. In those races there are people who wear rabbit ears with a number on them. They are called ‘Pace Bunnies’ and are volunteers who will run at a set pace, some faster, some slower. Racers find a Pace Bunny with their expected time and let the bunny set their pace for the race. My daughter became my Pace Bunny as we climbed the mountain that day. It was wonderful. I let her lead the pace. We’d stop and look at some marvelous trees and then we’d move on. It was all natural and organic.

 

So… I hear the invitation to let Jesus be My Contemplative Pace Bunny. As I follow him, he’ll set the pace for me, sometimes with some pep, sometimes lingering even stopping to gaze, but always moving forward. I can identify him too. Not by rabbit ears with numbers, but I know his aroma, his taste. I can recognize the deep peace of Christ, the sweet ease, the inner spaciousness, and always the practical compassion. His ways are known, not hidden. If I lose sight of him and sometimes I do, I can ask those around me for help to find him again. He won’t go far. He keeps his eye on those walking with him.

My time on retreat has been a slow time, time to linger and gaze, time to re-tune myself, and say ‘yes’ to following my Contemplative Pace Bunny.

Who sets the pace for your life?

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

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It Time to Start Again

I’ve arrived in my new home, but I’m not settled yet.

Gosh, but moving takes a long, long time! Intellectually I know it is highest on the stress scale, even higher than death and divorce, but I hadn’t anticipated the length of it. I thought it was a task of purging/sorting/packing and then unpacking/purging/setting up, and it is, but it is so much more. It’s a process that can’t be hurried. I can not settle in any faster than I am. I’d like to. I’d like to wave my magic wand and have my home in order and a new life established, but I simply can’t do it. All of my organizing competencies can’t make it happen quickly. I’m like a tender shoot that has been transplanted and it takes time to get over the shock, root and grow before blooming.

I’m realizing I’m not in charge. I’m so not in charge.

This morning I was aware that I’m the same person that I was before I got whipped around and dropped on the edge of the country, and although I’ve lost all my old anchors, disciplines and rhythms, I still need them. On some level I understand that they will be different here and I need the freedom to find new anchors, disciplines and rhythms, but I also know they will be similar or familiar.  I still need to eat healthily, but who will inspire me? I still need to exercise, but what form will that take? I will still pray, but what will it look like? I will still study, but what will be it’s focus? I will still live compassionately, but who will that touch?

During the last two years writing ‘Mystic in Motion’ has been another anchor for me. You, Gentle Readers, have been people who have shared my adventure. Writing helps me process what is transpiring. I always feel well as I finish a piece and connect with you. Some of you I know, and some of you I don’t know. I appreciate you all being there and sharing my journey. I remain a ‘mystic’ who is ‘in motion’. This time, much of my motion relates to the upheaval of a move across my country.

I’m back. Writing is part of my life. And you, Gentle Readers as you receive me are part of my life.

On Monday I leave for a week of solitude, silence and stillness. I hope it will be a week where I can be open to God’s Spirit to hear my next steps in this new life. I’ve arrived, and I need to settle. Please pray for me.

(This was one of our sunsets last week.)

Love and Prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Community Leader Canada

I Need Help

 

Most people had left our party, but a small group was lingering, and I invited them to linger longer for an ‘after party’. I often find that time most special and again it was. Our conversation deepened, and we entered into child raising concerns. Hugh and I were clearly the older couple around the table. At one point a friend turned to me and said, ‘Anne, if you could do anything differently, what would it be?’ What a great question! Ah… to turn back the clock and raise our girls again with the wisdom of my sixties…. What would I do differently? I know right away what I’d do. I’d ask for help.

 

Forty years ago, when we were raising our daughters I didn’t know either, that there was help available or how to ask for it. I needed help for my own emotional well-being and also to sort out some of our child raising concerns. One of our daughters, even as an infant and toddler, exhibited extreme behaviour that I found very difficult to understand.

I’m so grateful that society has matured to make available and even mainstream many supports for our mental health and for parents, that weren’t commonplace in our day.

I also know the change that has taken place within me over these forty years. I don’t wear nearly as many coping masks as I wore in those days. I’m able to be more honest with myself and more transparent with others. I know and accept more honestly, my imperfections and limitations. I can say, ‘I don’t know. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I need help. Will you help me? I love you.’. I can live more simply from the ground of knowing that your life, is Your Life and not my business and yet still care for you. I’m comfortable in my own skin.

When I hurt physically, I can go to my chiropractor or doctor. When I’m stuck emotionally and can’t find my way through a tough feeling, I can ask a therapist to help me. I treasure having a soul friend and a spiritual director in my life to share my spiritual journey. I don’t expect my husband or friend to be my doctor, therapist or soul friend. I get to enjoy them, as husband and friend.

Gentle Reader, how about you? How do you ask for help? Or…. What would you do differently?

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

 

 

Making It My Own

 

Have you ever taken something familiar or even very traditional, and made it your own?

One of the spiritual practices that Smith gives in ‘Good and Beautiful God’, is to recite Psalm 23 every night at bedtime for a week. It was probably at least four years ago that I first led a group through this exercise. I found it quite comforting, a bit of tucking myself in to sleep. I didn’t stop at the end of the week. In fact, the habit has continued for many years now, only I found the psalm began to take on its own life. As the spiritual truths of the psalm became more real to me, the words began to change. I began to make it my own. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful freedom as I’ve played with the phrasing. Crazy… but maybe a bit like a jazz singer massaging a standard hit! I’ve had many versions over the years.

In the middle of last night, I found myself once again with Psalm 23 and had the idea that it was time to share it with you.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need.

You take me to the ocean and forests.

You restore my soul.

I walk hand in hand with you, and your goodness flows into the world.

 

Even when I walk through The Valley of The Shadows, I’m not afraid

for you are with me, to guide and comfort me.

When people betray me, desert me,

you are there.

You notice me, nourish and nurture me.

I feel so full of your loving presence. Anointed.

You flow through me.

 

For sure, I will live within your goodness and mercy

every day of my life.

I will rest within your Presence all my days.

******

I began by using the traditional words, again and again. Slowly as the months went by and the truth of the scripture began to sink into my heart, shaping it, the words began to change. Perhaps my current rendition will inspire you to stay with this psalm, and eventually to play with it and make it your own.

Be blessed.

Enjoy.

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

 

 

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

 

Life is Full of Surprises!

Last week I was in the excited flow of being transplanted. We’d bought a new home and we were planning a move. Then the unexpected happened. We discovered some things about the house we hadn’t known and decided to cancel our offer. Our tender, transplanted shoot that looked so promising, suddenly withered. The move will still probably happen, but the timing and certainty are unclear. I didn’t expect that, but then…… do I live with the expectation of ‘Surprise!’ every day?

 

I realized that I don’t live expecting the unexpected every day. In ministry life, it’s always the unexpected happening. I wouldn’t know what the next phone call, visitor, challenge or learning would be. Something is always happening. But in my personal life, especially now I’m in the slow lane, I’m rather ordered, and my days gently unfold. This surprising turn has given me an opportunity to look at how I live.

What surprise will come my way today?

How will I respond to the surprise?

When we got the news about the house, my husband and I both felt stunned. We decided to enter into one of the Ignatian discernment practices we’ve been taught. We lived with both sides of the decision during a set time and then compared our feelings. I also went to some of my mature Christian friends and listened to their wisdom as they heard me. We were looking for that beautiful peace that Jesus breathes on his followers. When we had a shared peace, we made our decision. Since then, although we’ve spoken of it, neither of us have been caught in second-guessing our decision. We are working well together, and it simply feels right.

An unexpected hit came, we absorbed it, and responded with integration and waited for peace. YES!

I realize too. I haven’t in the past responded to surprises as well as this. I’ve been hit and sometimes hit back, other times I’ve been sent reeling into a corner and collapsed, and still other times, I’ve run away.

I still hold the hope of a home where I can wake and see the ocean, where I’m surrounded by trees, but not too far from a local café!

Surprises – Life is full of them!

How have you responded to surprises?

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for listening Gentle Reader. You help me learn and grow.

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

For Lent, I’ll be posting Lenten Reflections through www.contemplativefire.ca. Sign up there to receive them.

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

 

 

A Fallow Time

 

‘Anne, you’re in a fallow time.’  In the last while, a few people have told me that. One person, who is very action oriented, and believes the main purpose of life is to be actively helping others, said that to me. I felt she truly believed it and for the first time I sensed within her an acceptance of rest – at least for me!

I know I am in a fallow time. I entered it March 5 when I began my Sabbath Leave and despite doing some work, especially during the summer, I haven’t left it. I am in fallow time, a time of rest, renewal, regeneration.

Occasionally since March I’ve hit times of chaos such as when I travel or when I returned to my community after my leave, but generally my life has been gentle and very restorative since March. I haven’t sensed the farmer who tends my field, returning to use it again.

I really enjoy these open-ended days. I wake up in the morning when I’m ready to be awake. There is space in my day. It’s not already filled with appointments or responsibilities. I’ve enjoyed reading. I’ve dipped into expansive reading around nature, human rights activism, First Nations issues and their spirituality and ecological concerns. I’ve re-read some of my favourite spiritual teachers such as Rohr, Keating and Bourgeault. I’ve read them slowly, thoughtfully, meditatively allowing them to nourish my soul. I’ve spent time in scripture reflection, poking my way through favourite stories with fresh eyes and a non-teaching focus – just to enjoy. I’ve read novels, especially mysteries, played games and lingered over food. I’m regularly on my yoga mat, at the gym to swim and take long, go-nowhere walks. I’m sorting through my home, releasing things I haven’t used in years, discovering and enjoying other items that still speak to me. And despite that list, I don’t feel any need to justify my days!

I’ve found some definitions of ‘fallow’ that really speak to me which I’ll share in the next blogs, but right now I’m simply enjoying my quiet life.  I hope you’re enjoying your life too.

How are you? A new year begins…. What sort of resolutions do you make or not make? How does activity draw you? Which is more comfortable for you, activity or rest? Do times of rest generate guilt? There are times to work and times to rest….

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

Decision-Making

I’ve currently got a major decision perking through my life and it led me to reflect on decision making and the implications of our decisions.

I have some basic guidelines I’ve been taught that make sense to me on how to make decisions – discernment principles we call them. It all depends on the size of decision of course, but some basic ones for me, for personal decisions are:

  • Don’t make major changes when in a place of doubt or desolation. Wait for consolation.
  • If I’m living lightly and in an open, loving place with God, a good choice or action will feel like a drop of water on a soft sponge.
  • Be honest and open with my needs and the needs of others around me who are affected by my decision.
  • Share my decision making with a wise Christian who knows me and listen to their perspective.
  • Wait for peace, deep internal peace and the clarity it brings.

These guidelines generally lead me to live thoughtfully, with purpose and clarity. Sometimes my pace is fast, sometimes it is slow, but it tends to be steady. People often describe me as peaceful, yet intense, anchored yet very productive. Such is Anne!

But… another whole intriguing side of decision making to me is the huge ‘what ifs’ that occur or don’t occur. What if I hadn’t said that thing, or written that email or taken that job, or married that person, or lived in that house/apartment….. and on and on and on.

Forty years ago, Hugh and I made a decision in our lives around where to live and raise our family. We decided to not move to Victoria but stay in Toronto. What if we had lived in Victoria? Who would we have met/not met? …… My daughter and her husband made a decision a year ago to raise their family in Paris. What if they’d decided to come to Toronto? How would my life, their neighbourhood, our city, our world be different?

Thomas Merton wrote that each moment in each event of each person’s life plants a seed within their soul. That was one of the life changing bits I received from him. Each decision we make has ripple effects within our own lives, but also the lives around us and the ripples extend out into the universe.

Decision-making ripples.  What choices are you making today? May you unhook your Pinball Brain. May they come from a place of quiet and peace within you. (see Nov 29 and Dec 6)

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 My Dog (#257)

The dogs I’ve known love to gnaw on bones. They’ll spend ages licking, chewing, crunching and simply gnawing on their bones. After they’re done, they might hide them to pull out another day. If they dig them up again, or if I give it back to them another day, they’ll start to gnaw all over. Ah yes… a good bone to gnaw on.dog chewing on bone 1

So what’s this got to do with finding a contemplative pathway?? Well, today I was sitting on the bench in the locker room at my gym, and I took a look at what was going on in my head. Have you ever done that, stopped and become aware of the patter that is happening? Today I heard myself going over a conversation that I’ve had before. Actually, I’ve had that same inner dialogue, or variations of it, again and again in my mind. Suddenly I realized I was like my dog as he chews on a bone. I was going over the same old ground again and again. Why? What was I getting out of it?

As I stepped back to ask those questions, I put my bone down. I was able to stop gnawing on it. I was quite purposeful. I know that to replay that conversation in my head will not move the situation forward. What will help is if I’m still, if I’m quiet within myself, and trust the Spirit of God to do her work, within me, within others, throughout the world. Relax and trust in the slow work of God. Replaying, gnawing on an old situation doesn’t help. Trusting does.

I’m happy to give my dog a bone to chew on. There are times when I do need to think carefully through things, but much of the inner chatter, especially when it’s playing the same old tapes again and again – I want to set that aside. I’m not a dog. I don’t need to chew the same old things over and over.

How about you Gentle Reader….are you chewing on an old bone today?

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+

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion

 

Be Still, Be Very, Very Still

I’ve just returned from an eight-day Centering Prayer retreat. Of course we spent hours being still, very, very still! One of the beauties of it for me was our location. We were on Long Beach in New Jersey. As we sit being still, very, very still, the Atlantic Ocean is relentlessly pounding away on the shoreline. I love the picture of God’s relentless love washing onto the shores of our souls, never, ever stopping, and at the same time God’s presence as stillness and silence from the ocean depth. A surging ocean containing a still point. Constant noise and deep silence. All within one.

It was one more wonderful week. Held within our hours of communal prayer, I spent much time walking the beach and pondering my way forward. I’m coming to the end this week of three months of Retreat in Daily Life. I feel like I’ve been gifted with three months on the mountain top. I am aware I will be coming down. Or sort of aware…..

I’ve called myself “Mystic in Motion”, but I feel now there is less motion in me. The different pace of life, the Retreat in Daily Life discipline, the three retreat weeks, and the month on Cortes have slowed me down considerably. I’ve been in search of a sustainable life and I’ve certainly experienced it in these three months. I’ve lived into the core life of Contemplative Fire –prayer/study/action or slow down, listen to God and then live from what you hear. I’ve deepened my practice of slowing down and listening, yet I know there is still much more for me to learn there. And I’ve heard more guidance on living from what I hear. I know there is much more to experience there. I hear the call to have the ‘motion’ be moment to moment led by the surging stillness of God.

How still can you be?  Physically we can try to sit very still, yet perhaps feel the urge to twitch, scratch or shift positions. How about your emotions? Can you be aware of them and see what their energy level is like in this moment? Are they jumpy or deeply flowing? And then of course there is our mind and that torrent of thoughts! For most of us, those thoughts love to rush around, pushing each other out, repeating themselves, a relentless driving noise like the city’s churning. How still can you be? Take a moment and try it!

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion