Holy Waiting: In the Presence of Light

As you prepare to read this reflection find a Bible and two candles. Open the Bible to John 1.4-5 and Matthew 5.14. Put a marker in both those readings. Dim the lights around you and sit gently in the quiet light for a few minutes, maybe thirty breaths. Then light the first candle, pausing to take time to enjoy it’s flame and be open to the Presence of Light for another thirty breaths. Let the darkness be around you and the Light be in the centre with you.

The candle, as a light and as a symbol of light, is precious to me. Years ago, I was in a movie theater in France, waiting for the show to start. My attention was drawn to the top most corner of the theater. I saw a glowing light. There was no light fixture, simply, a beautifully, glowing presence. Deep within I knew that Light was at the centre of all Life and that I was heading towards it. And then the glowing light vanished. I’ve held that image for the last forty plus years. I’ve drawn it. I’ve lived into it. Now, all these years later I know that not only is Light at the centre of all Life, but that I’m within The Light, and that all of Life is within The Light. I know too that The Light is within me.

Turn to John 1…  Jesus is the light of the world, a light that no darkness can extinguish. I treasure the awareness that God is not scared of the dark like I might be. No matter what uncomfortable darkness in which we may find ourselves, God is always present. Sometimes we can’t sense the Spirit’s presence, but always, always God IS there, a Light that no darkness can extinguish. Take time to breath in that truth.

Turn to Matthew 5…to that rough, mostly uneducated, often contentious group Jesus said, ‘YOU are the light of the world.’ He said it loud of enough so you and I could hear him. We are the light of the world. We carry within us, his light, a strong, robust light that will not be extinguished no matter what happens to us. You are the light of the world. Light the second candle. Take time to breath in that truth.

To celebrate their 80th birthdays, Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama wrote a delightful book, ‘The Book of Joy’. In the introduction they describe the wonder that each day is our birthday, for each day we begin anew. Yes, we carry our past, but each day we can choose how to carry that past, how we will live today and how we will move forward.

So, Happy Birthday to you…..As we prepare to welcome the Light of the World, may we live within his light and know that we too bear his light today, into the world.

I invite you to close this time of reflection by again sitting with the image of light before you and imagine that light within you. As Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world.’.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way” with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

Holy Waiting: Journey into Darkness

This year I’m going to offer four advent reflections that will move us from darkness into The Light. Prepare yourself to join me on this journey. Today as we begin our journey into Advent, I invite you to find a candle, a match, a timer and a Bible. Open the Bible to Isaiah, Chapter 9, Verse 2 and set it by your side.

First some reflection —- Right now, as I live in the Northern Hemisphere, I’m in the darkest season of the year. From October 21 to December 21 each day, we’re heading into deeper darkness. For years I have resisted the shortness of these days but this year, as several people mentioned this season to me, I found my attention drawn to the many shades of darkness. I’m not resisting it as I have before. I’m more open and accepting of the short days and descending darkness. I realize there are many kinds of darkness.

There’s Fearful Darkness. When I was a child, I was so sure there were ‘bogey men’ out there, or snakes creeping around! Even as an adult, standing in the deepest dark of the night can be disconcerting. What is that sound???? When I can’t see much around me, my imagination can begin to play games so I’m not always comfortable walking up our unlit street at night. And then there are the times of emotional darkness, times uncertainty, unsettledness, unknowing. Sometimes it can feel dark even when the sun shines. Those are times of emotional darkness. And yes, I can still be scared in that dark!

There’s Lonely Darkness. Sometimes darkness can highlight the sense of loneliness. If only there was someone with me, it wouldn’t seem so dark. Their human presence would bring a light to me. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve felt alone and lonely. Sometimes it’s a physical loneliness for there is no other human with me. Other times it’s a mental loneliness when my ideas, beliefs or experiences separate me from others and there is no warm human companion walking with me. Sometimes it’s a spiritual loneliness when God seems so distant. I would name those as ‘dark’ times, difficult times.

There’s Womb Darkness. We all began our earthly lives in the darkness of the womb. That’s warm darkness, heartbeat darkness, nourishing darkness. That’s the darkness that allows seeds to sprout. Jesus began his earthly life in the very same way as you and I did, curled up within Mary’s womb, feeling her heart beat, being nourished by the food she ate, protected and cared for by her. During her pregnancy, I wonder how many times Mary repeated to herself and to God, ‘Not my will but Yours be done.’? Each time she repeated her desire to be open to God, Little Jesus within, heard her. How nourishing that might have been for His Spirit. Darkness can be warm and nourishing. It can bring forth new life.

Now some experience. —- Set the timer for five minutes. Turn off as many lights as you can and begin to sit in darkness. Wait in darkness. Become aware of what it’s like for you to be in darkness, to not know what is around you, what is coming. Experience the uncertainty, even the discomfort, perhaps the fear of the darkness. Be patient with everything unresolved in your life, every unknown aspect, every shadow that flickers. Just be present within the darkness.  If you can, sit for the full five minutes, then light the candle and read Isaiah 9.2.

Allow that verse to be yours: You are a person who has walked in darkness, and now you can see a light.

The Advent Journey requires that we spend some time in darkness, knowing pain and difficulty. Being pregnant isn’t easy! There is no way it could have been all easy for Mary. May we pause long enough to acknowledge that we too, sometimes, wait in darkness, with unresolved ideas, relationships or decisions.

In the midst of our seasonal darkness, let us be patient. More light will come. In time. But we must wait.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way” with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

 

Advent is Coming!

In my church world, the next four weeks are the season of Advent’.  While the world gets busy preparing for Christmas with shopping and feasting, the church turns our attention to God’s presence right here and now. The focus is on preparing for the coming of Jesus and of Christ into the world.

I have often found this season emotionally challenging and have great sympathy for others who do. Now, I quite enjoy minimal shopping and gentle feasting. I have written four specific reflections for Advent and will post them each Sunday morning. I wrote them last year for Contemplative Fire yet found they still spoke to me this year. I wrote them to help slow down and consider thoughtfully some ways to prepare for a warm and meaningful Christmas.

I hope you will enjoy them. Please feel free to share them with anyone else you think might like to pause and breathe during the days of December.

Do let me know how they speak to you.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion, ‘Companion on the Way’ with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire, Canada (Founder)

 

Beauty

I wish I had words to express to you how beautiful it is here.

Today as I look out my cabin window, I can see the Douglas fir that are close to our home, but just beyond them are puffs of clouds. I know if I was driving down the road, I’d see our part of the mountain embraced by cloud.

And then… I look up again and a tiny bit of our mountain cloud has shifted. I can see the tips of the cedars that are lower down the hillside. Tips are showing, but the cedars are still muted by cloud.

How can grey cloud, grey tree trunk, dark green fir and cedar be breathtaking…. but they are, to me. Something deep within me gasps and pauses. Beauty. Natural beauty. I’m surrounded by it.

This week we made a trip to the western side of Vancouver Island. We saw enormous Douglas Fir and red cedar trees. So tall my neck strained to look at their tips. So wide I was tiny within their embrace. We watched the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash upon the rocks or smoothly glide onto the long, wide beaches, both hypnotic. Beauty. Natural Beauty. I’m surrounded by it.

I encountered another kind of beauty this week. We have several published authors in our village. Whenever I sit with one or more of them, something inside me starts to dance! As I told you a while ago, I’ve been pecking away for a couple of years at my spiritual memoirs. Recently I’ve been both drawn to work more intentionally on something and lost as to what I should work on and what approach I should take. I’ve been caught spinning around in a writer’s whirlpool. This week, at a village event, I was chatting with one of our authors and she offered to read my very unfinished draft. I was amazed at the offer. What a gift. Instinctively I feel I can trust her to give me an opinion on whether to write for my family or another audience. I felt such warmth. Since we were leaving town the next day, I sent her the draft that evening. I did it quickly while the warm feeling was still there. Before any inner critic could pull me back with doubts and hesitations. Her offer to read my unfinished work was such a gift to me. Beauty. Natural Beauty. I’m surrounded by it.

I’m grateful for the natural beauty within which I live. I’m grateful for the natural beauty of the people in my village. I’m grateful that more and more I know that I am one with the beauty around me. How I’ve changed. It wasn’t always like that.

How about you? What’s beautiful in your world?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

‘Companion on the Way’ with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

 

 

Lessons from Children

First it was my grand puppy and then the grandchildren. I have found animals and children to be some of my best spiritual teachers. Have you? What lessons have you learnt?

Last week as the grandchildren visited us, I was so aware of their relationship with their father. He is a quiet, thoughtful and attentive man, a primary school teacher by training and a caring father. The children are very secure with him. They can ask him anything and they listen to him, at least most of the time! They know they are loved by him and safe in the world. They are visiting us in a new home, a new location and are content, curious about what is around them, but content.

The same week they were visiting, in my meditation time I was invited to ponder both the phrase and the reality that I am a child of God. Repeatedly I held that phrase, that reality within my mind and my heart. I’m very grateful that I know I’m loved by God. I know that deep down within my soul. It was what makes everything all right for me. Because I feel secure in God’s love, I can move across the country and open myself to a new life. Because I feel secure in God’s love, I was able to say, ‘I think I have a calling to priesthood’, despite the world around me not affirming women in leadership. Because I feel secure in God’s love, I was able to work in environments that weren’t supportive to my perspective. Because I feel secure in God’s love, I can move towards forgiveness when I’m ignored, snubbed or ridiculed.

But it wasn’t always that way. I didn’t grow up in a home where I felt safe and content. I grew up frightened and hiding. I didn’t have a relationship with my father or mother where I could ask questions, where I could explore new ways. My childhood experience was radically different than my grandchildren’s. I’m so grateful that theirs is different!

I know that I’m not alone in my experience. Many of us grow up troubled and then we’re told ‘we’re children of God’. That’s not such a good thing when our childhood memory is troublesome. I’m grateful that I was able to make that transition from a frightened little girl to a mature and secure woman, one who knows she is a Child of God, who knows that her father is generous, compassionate and kind. Being with my grandchildren helped me deepen my child-like trust of God. They really are ‘grand’!

We are Children of God. Everyone of us. Everyone of us. And our Father is good, all the time.

 

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

STILL Listening for the Big Yes!

Thanks so much for your responses to my questions. I enjoyed hearing some of your ‘Big Yes!’ stories. It is so good when we know something deeply and intuitively. It helps me know that I belong and that I’m on track – whatever that track is and wherever it is going.

Responding to my side of the question you welcomed both memoir and devotions (a bit tipped towards devotions) but also said keep up this blog. A few responded with the wisdom ‘You’ll know.’ I know that is true. I am still to keep listening. This season of my life is a time of deepening, a time of exploring, a sifting and sorting time. I can be so action-oriented…but this is a time of waiting, a time of Holy Waiting. I desire to wait on the Holy One to show me the pathway.

I can look back over my life and recall some major times of sorting and shifting: when I slowed down commitments to learn to pray; when I joined Community Bible Study as a Teaching Director; when I left after ten years; when I returned to school; when I sought ordination; when I encountered Contemplative Fire; when I stepped back after ten years; and when I moved to British Columbia. Each time I had a ‘Big Yes’. I knew deep within me it was time to walk that pathway. I wasn’t besieged by doubts or fears. I knew what I wanted. Sometimes there were obstacles in my way. Sometimes it was slower that I thought it would be, but I still kept knowing a ‘Big Yes’.

I believe in the guiding hand of God. I believe we’re not alone. God’s Spirit guides and sends angels to protect and affirm us. The Spirit sends people too. We are to help each other, speak into each other’s lives with affirmation and encouragement.

Anymore ‘Big Yes’ stories out there? Have you had times of knowing God’s guidance?

The world needs us strong and clear in our spiritual life. Let’s strengthen each other through sharing our stories.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Founder (Canada)

Listening for the Big YES!

We have had some friends visiting with us for the last few days. Conversations rambled all over the place, but one day as we were climbing the hill from the beach one friend turned and asked me, “What are you working on Anne? What are you writing?”. It was such a lovely question. He truly was interested in my writing. He’s a songwriter so we connect over words and how evocative they can be, as well as a shared spirituality.

I’ve discovered I really enjoy being ‘a writer’. It feels so comfortable to me, like pulling on an old pair of slippers! Yes, that’s what I’ve always been, yet never acknowledged till this past year. I do acknowledge that now and can talk with him about what I’m working on. Yet I don’t really know yet what I am working on, except my writing craft. Maybe you, Gentle Reader can help me focus.

I replied to him that I’ve started up my blog again ‘Mystic in Motion’, so I write weekly for it. I also usually do Morning Pages, rambling thoughts each day to keep me writing. I’m wondering about a book focus. I’ve started my spiritual memoirs which are not my whole story, but the times when the veil was pulled back and I encountered the presence of God in a significant, life-shaping way. I’ve also wondered about gathering my devotional writing, the reflections I wrote for years for Contemplative Fire and organize them into a devotional reader. They would be little tidbits you can taste. Or is there something else? Over the years I’ve thought of writing about gender issues in the workplace, particularly in ministry. But then I began a Master Writer’s Class and have been focused on sorting through my motivation, audience, ideal reader etc. Don’t I need to decide which project I’ll focus on? Or do I hold several at a time?

I unloaded all that on my friend as we climbed the mountain. It was good to share with a kindred soul, but I didn’t come to any conclusion. All I know, more and more clearly, is that in this next season of life I’ll spend significant time spreading words around a page. I like that thought… a lot.

Help me Gentle reader… memoir or devotions? Or something else? Help me hear the Big Yes, the kind of YES, that makes other things melt away.

When have you heard a ‘Big YES’?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder Contemplative Fire (Canada)

 

The Whispers of Love

 

We live in a rain forest. I’m so delighted to live here. Yes, it rains, seventeen days this past month, but oh the clouds! A few weeks ago, the weather turned from summer to fall. I noticed it, not only because of the drop in temperature and the arrival of rain, but because of the clouds. I discovered last year that during the rainy season the clouds take on a life of their own. They are always moving, twisting, turning, slipping through the trees and across the Sound. Some days they embrace us and other days they are wispy, floating through the forest, rising up, slipping down, melting away only to return again. As I drive our highway, I often watch the clouds dance, for they’re always shifting their shape.

John O’Donohue writes of the importance of love in our lives, yet how easy it is for us to miss it. Last week as we sat before our dinner meal, my husband read to me a few lines from O’Donohue’s book, ‘Anan Cara’. It included a bit of Boris Pasternak: “When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.”

If I’m not slow and attentive, I can miss the beauty of the clouds that move around my forest dwelling. If I’m not slow and attentive, I can miss the whispers of love that tap at my heart. When has my heart jumped? What has drawn my attention? Who has caught my eye and truly looked at me? The Whispers of Love. They are constantly moving, changing shape. I never know when they will come. But oh, I want to be ready, ready to open the door and say ‘Welcome.’

What does Love feel like for you when she knocks on your heart?

Peace in the midst of all.

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder Contemplative Fire (Canada)

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)

 

The Importance of Approaching Sleep Well

Day AND Night

What is your attitude to night time? Do you dismiss it? Do you think that the only things of significance take place during the day?

I have a new mediation teacher in my life right now.  I learnt today that I’d seen night as very different from day. I realize that unconsciously I thought that important things only took place during the day. The daytime hours were when it all happened! Sure as I went to sleep I’d give myself into God’s care for my slumber, but whatever… it was nighttime. I really didn’t prepare for the work or the experience of what my soul was up to during the hours of slumber.

Today I was taught to formally meditate twice a day – sure that’s normal. I was taught to begin my day with meditation, before my mind took off to plan the day or engage in the days work – sure that’s normal. But then he said to make my second meditation time just before bed, sometime between nine and midnight. He told me I was to prepare myself to sleep. As I read that I realized that my ‘day’ has two parts, one where the sun shines (or not!) and one where the moon shines (or not!). There is dawn, high noon, dusk and deep dark. Each phase of a day has it’s own energy.

I love the early morning hours, daybreak that shines pink on the mountains, that holds a stillness and anticipation in the air. Noon is bustling, activities happen, things are accomplished. Dusk is unwinding from the days work, settling down and sometimes gloriously beautiful. The deep dark of night is like a deep exhale, a time of rest. Each part of the cycle is significant, none more than the others. Each precious as part of our life.

So I’m changing my meditation routine. I don’t know how it will work or if I can do it, but I’ll try. Morning meditation continues. My afternoon meditation time will become a study/reflection period. I’ll try to meditate before bed with the intention of preparing myself for the soul work that takes place during the darkness and time of rest.

Practicalities trouble me. Where will I meditate at night? In my cabin? In a room in the house? In our bed? Hmm… I’m just not sure how all this will work.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Founder (Canada)