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)

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)

 

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

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