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)

 

 

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)

 

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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The Colander of My Life

 

Perhaps this will feel like an upside-down image for you, but please stay with me and see if it works!

We are God’s children, lovely, delightful, complex creatures, dearly loved by The Divine One. God pours out an abundance of generous grace and love towards us each day, even each moment of each day. That is the Nature of Love – abundant and freely given.

For many years I couldn’t receive the Love that was there for me. It was as if my life was a colander, a large bowl made to receive, but filled with holes. The holes in my life were things like fear, doubt, anxiety, envy, judgement and insecurity. Or words such as ‘not good enough’, ‘you can’t’, ‘that’s not true’, ‘how could you?’. Each time Love was poured into my life, it would escape through one of the holes and I’d not experience it. Instead of a large full round colander, it was as if I held up a tiny thimble to God. I could only receive the tiniest bit of Love.

I was so thirsty for Love. I went to God again and again, asking to be filled. Slowly over the years through hours of reflective prayer and personal work, I began to experience those holes being filled. I discovered  an internal sense of peace, joy and love that wasn’t dependent on my circumstances. I began to recognize the untrustworthy voices and feelings within me that had drilled the holes into my colander.

God’s Grace is always pouring Love towards us, but will we receive it? I needed to slow down, open myself to the healing work that I needed, acknowledge it and engage in it. Then I was ready to begin to receive the constant flow of God’s Love into my life. Yes, there is God’s Grace, but I have an active part in receiving it.

Once the holes in our colander begin to be healed, we can receive and relish the delights of Love. Then our colanders, our lives can fill, fill to overflowing and God’s Healing Love can reach others through us. But we need to do our own work first. I’m persuaded that I won’t love you, anymore than I honestly love myself, and I don’t begin to deeply love myself till I acknowledge my holes and enter into the healing work. Then I will be of service to others. That’s the human journey.

I know part of this image doesn’t work for a colander without holes becomes a bowl…. but there is something in it that speaks to me, something about those holes in my life that lets goodness seep away. I hope there is something to help some of you as well.

How are you on receiving and retaining Love? What are the holes in your colander? What kind of internal work are you being invited to participate in?

Love and Prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder (Canada) of Contemplative Fire

www.contemplativefire.ca

 

A Question One Morning

 

Ask yourself this question: “Have I ever tried to do anything that nobody else has ever done?”

In my devotional readings this morning, that was a question that jumped right off the page and into my lap!

I’m the youngest of three daughters. As a young person, even into my early twenties, I often felt that I couldn’t do anything my older sisters hadn’t already done. I went to the same primary school, high school and university. I attended the same summer camp and the went on the same family holidays. I felt defined by those objective events and blind to the uniqueness of ‘Anne’.

When I juggled that question around in my lap, I began to find many things that I had done that nobody else had done in the world. I began to savour anew my uniqueness. Some of the unique things I found were on the showy side, the upfront side, the side that can be noticed in the world. Other things were quieter, small everyday expressions of creativity. I appreciate that I was given the privilege of bringing Contemplative Fire into Canada – that’s on the upfront side of life. It touched my creative side and has been a real joy to me. I appreciate too that I was gifted with being able to birth four amazing young women. They are like no one else in the world. But creativity is in everyday things too. I moved from Stibbard Avenue in Toronto to Oceanview Road in Lions Bay. I don’t think anyone else, besides my husband has done that! Let’s get into even smaller everyday things looking for creativity. A dear one taught me how to open my closet and create an outfit to wear each day that will give me joy! No one else in the world will have that particular outfit on, on that particular day!

The devotional writer was stirring our creative energy. He was teaching us how we are within our spirit united to God’s Spirit. We are to relax and follow our intuition. It will lead us into a creative expression in the world, one that only we can make. I know deeply the presence of God within each one of us. Will we listen. Will we be awake spiritually, attentive to the movements within us? And listening, will we respond and move within the creative flow, saying ‘YES!’?

Ask yourself this question: “Have I ever tried to do anything that nobody else has ever done?”

Celebrate the goodness that is YOU.

 

Love and Prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder (Canada) of Contemplative Fire

www.contemplativefire.ca

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It Happened One Night

The night was magical. There was a clear sky overhead.  Slowly the sun sank, and an evening blue sky began to cover us. We were tucked beside wild and extravagant flower boxes on various levels of our host’s patio. Thirty or so of the village had gathered to re-live a ‘El Camino Experience’. One of our members, an author, was to read an award-winning article she had written about her pilgrimage. First, she gave us an overview of the history and current happenings on the pilgrimage trail, and then took us into her story as she described what became her addiction to walking.  As part of her journey she had experienced a remarkable service in a chapel where one pilgrim had played ‘Ave Maria’ on her flute. So, we had two other village members who were both flutists play for us ‘Ave Maria’ and many more tunes as well. Our evening was completed with a feast of tapas and lingering conversations. One more time I left a village gathering amazed and delighted. And this is the place I’m able to call home!

On reflection I knew that once again the creative community was rubbing away at my reluctance to express myself. Last night I spoke with at least two authors and their presence massages my soul. I love being with them. Looking back over my life I see so clearly the draw of words on me. I love the sound of them, their history, the images they create, the feelings they evoke. I found my writing voice in high school, and again in university as my courses were driven by essays. I actually enjoyed banging them out on a typewriter and learning how to footnote! Twenty-five years later when I returned to university and found I could still write, a bit of my heart jumped with joy. My years in ministry were rich with sermon writing, reflections for Contemplative Fire and then blogging.

My writing has often been a way I think through ideas or sometimes it has been a way to encircle and embrace a wonderful moment.  In one parish I was given the delight of taking one day a week as a ‘writing day’.  It was set out to be a day for sermon prep, but I delighted in the whole idea of openly acknowledging that what I love to do and need to do, is write.

I think I will do that again. I had been waiting for a book or an idea to emerge from within me, but I think I will hone my craft as I wait.  Although I usually do write each day either in my journal or in Morning Pages, I am giving myself one day a week to write. I think it will be Fridays. There I’ve done it. I’ll put it in my calendar! I will try this till the end of the year. Pray for me,,,,,

Our village is a magical place. Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, away from the hum of the city, it sings its own song.  It’s full of creative souls, caught on the edge of somewhere. I can feel the creative energy around me. And oh… have I said this already…. I really appreciate living here.

Much love to you, who ere you be, Gentle Reader

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder (Canada) of Contemplative Fire

www.contemplativefire.ca

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Open Heart, Open Mind

Have you ever experienced a shift within yourself? It might be around what I’d call your heart space, or it could be within your mind.

I think I first became aware of it within my mind. I grew up with a clear sense of right and wrong. Then as a young Christian I was in a very strong doctrinal community where absolute truths were taught so I developed a clear sense of correct beliefs. If I heard a ‘new’ idea, I quickly, both intuitively and intellectually, ran it through my grid of acceptable beliefs. If it didn’t fit, and many didn’t, out it went. I couldn’t tolerate anything internally that would unsettle me.

Over the years my heart space has become much larger and much deeper. I spent years growing a contemplative pattern into my life. As I did that, I encountered the Love (with a capital ‘l’) of God. I became aware of how present God is around me and within me. My sense of myself,  not only at peace with God, but as Jesus describes in John’s Gospel, one with God, became deeply real to me. As that happened, the roots of my heart space went deep into the Love of Christ. I became more secure within God’s Love and then more secure hearing many different ideas.

Now I’m often aware of internal movements – my heart opens, my heart closes. My mind opens, my mind closes.

I’ve watched how I’ve changed in my reaction to ideas. I can see how I can be open to new ideas or closed to them. The voice within me used to be very strong. “NO – that’s not what I think.” I would pull away, not even able to entertain that thought. It was outside my comfort zone. It’s beyond what I’d been taught as ‘true’ or ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘honest.” But now my response is more “That’s interesting. Does it bring peace, joy, kindness, compassion, forgiveness into me, into the world?”

I began to be able to have open ears and to listen to different ideas. The filter that I ran them through changed dramatically. I was no longer needing every idea to fit into a prescribed article of faith/belief. I could reflect on them and gather the impact of the idea on me and others around me. If I walk this way, will I come closer to others? If I encompass this belief will I be more gracious to other human beings? Slowly, my mind began to become open. Now I embrace living with an open mind. As the old song says, ‘Don’t Fence Me In’!

For me, to begin to cultivate an open mind, I had to have an open heart. To develop an open heart, I had to allow my roots to go deeply, experiencially, into the Love of Christ.  I spent time in prayer, study, and spiritual conversations. It is why I love to offer people the contemplative pathway – learn to slow down, discover you’re Loved by God, and then live out of what you hear.

Open heart, open mind.

When do you experience your mind opening, closing, your heart opening, closing?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

FYI – I’ve written a few blogs for Red Hat Outfitters. If you’re curious, or seeking a special holiday, it’s a  different sort of blog describing some of my travel experiences:  redhatoutfitters.com

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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