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

Advertisements

Returning

During one of our cottage summers we had two dogs with us, Timmy, a five year old Golden Retriever and Major, an eight month old Labrador Retriever. The dogs had the best summer ever! Running in the forest, digging at the beach, swimming endlessly, catching frogs, and playing with the children – it simply doesn’t get any better for a retriever! The first week home, they lay in the middle of the kitchen and looked at me with mopey, sad eyes. What – back here again? Returning.

Last week I returned to Toronto from my month on Cortes. I felt a bit like Timmy and Major. Really? Back again to concrete and asphalt, to close tiny lots, to the relentless strum of the city, to the human energy of city density? Really? There were a few people I thought I’d be in touch with on my return and I simply wasn’t able to do it. I needed some time being a retriever ‘lying on my kitchen floor with mopey eyes’.

It is so easy for me to move from the roar of Toronto to Cortes. It’s virtually instantaneous. I feel it happening on ferry #2 as we cross from Quadra to Cortes and the slowing down continues with each day I’m there. It’s much tougher for me to return to bustle. Something in me resists re-entering the relentless roar.

Whenever we have a wonderful experience, one we want to treasure, how do we re-enter our ‘normal’ life while retaining the goodness we’ve experienced? It could be returning from a holiday, a retreat, a concert, an engaging conversation or an engrossing book –  any number of soul touching experiences. How do we do it well?

Two Returning Principles: First, for me I recognize I’m doing it slowly, respecting my interior life while also respecting the world I’m in. I value living in the present moment so that entails not dwelling on the past, or worrying of the future, but being open to now. I’m open to the concrete and roar with a soul that has been formed by spaciousness and beauty for the past month. Second, I continue to live with the awareness that my life is more than my own. I’m responsible for it AND I have said ‘yes’ to Jesus directing my life. Once again John 21.6 and the fishing command has spoken into my life. I don’t want to live from my own driven needs (got to go fishing), but under the direction of God’s Spirit. So, I cope with returning slowly and gently, continuing to honor some core values from it.

How are your returning times? Bumpy? Irritable? Sacrificial? In what way do you lose the goodness you experienced? What helps you retain the goodness?

I leave on Sunday for the last of my silent retreat weeks. I’ve chosen to do something a bit different on this one. Although still silent, it will be in a community with a particular focus. I hope to deepen the flow of God’s loving and compassionate presence through me. Again, you remain in my prayers and I appreciate yours as I travel and immerse myself in a week of prayer. Both weeks in March and April were strong, deep and a lot of work. I wonder what this one will bring.

Love and prayers on the journey

Anne

Mystic in Motion

 

Sabbath Leave Perspective

For April, while I’m on Cortes, I’ve been praying with ‘Earth Gospel’ by Sam Hamilton-Poore. One day he offered a quote from Wayne Muller which described so clearly what has underpinned my Sabbath leave that I want to share it with you. I’m also very grateful to a colleague/friend who asked me if I was taking a Sabbatical or a Sabbath leave. A very helpful question for me. Without hesitation I said, “Sabbath!” I think Wayne describes why. I hope you enjoy and slowly ponder his thoughts.

In the trance of overwork, we take everything for granted. We consume things, people and information. We do not have time to savor this life, nor to care deeply and gently for ourselves, our loved ones, or our world; rather, with increasingly dizzying haste, we use them up, and throw them away….

Sabbath time can be a revolutionary challenge to the violence of overwork, mindless accumulation, and the endless multiplication of desires, responsibilities, and accomplishments. Sabbath is a way of being in time where we remember who we are, remember what we know, and taste the gifts of spirit and eternity.  ~ Wayne Muller

Love and prayers on the journey
Anne
Mystic in Motion

Leaving the Yurt

Life in a circle
Darkness surrounds
Seals barking before dawn
Daybreak emerges
Whispering winds
Waterfall of rain
Four Dancing Cedars
Surprised by a brook
Slow growing trees
Aroma of earth giving birth
Sunset glazing the green forest
Darkness before the next dawn returns
Embraced
Life in a circle

Just leaving after ten delightful days in a very special yurt tucked in the north end of Cortes. Seven of the days were spent in solitude and silence communing with creation and her Creator. A deep and wonderful encounter with God who cares so deeply for us. I’m humbled and grateful for my time here. I know I’ll never be the same. Must I leave?

May you find some time to behold God in the natural beauty around you.

Love and prayers
Anne
Mystic in Motion…. (hmmm a bit less motion now!)

Off to the Yurt!

Tomorrow I leave the Lagoon and move to the north end of the island for ten days in a yurt. There’s no electricity or running water and certainly no internet so I’ll check back in when I emerge. But the yurt looks very attractive and they promise lots of forest, ocean and stillness. After Easter, I’ll enter another week of solitude and silence, from April 17-23. Please pray for me. Although I love the solitude and silence, it can still be very challenging.

What else has been happening? ……

My city genes kicked in today. It was amazing, and a bit scary, to watch. I was driving and stopped at the end of my lane, getting ready to go on the main road. I saw a car coming but there was ‘space’ for me so I zipped out. As soon as I’d done it I realized I was city driving! There were no other cars on the road. I didn’t need to rush into a space! Wow. City driving is in my genes. I told my daughter and her roommate the story and they both laughed right away – yes, that was city driving!

On the 2nd Sunday of the month a priest comes from Campbell River to offer a service. I attended last Sunday and agreed to offer an Easter celebration if anyone was interested. One person was most eager so it might be the two of us. She plays flute and harp so will provide some special music for us. I hear word spreading around the island that something is happening, so maybe a few others will join us. One person said they’d bring flowers and someone else said, “Will there be food?” Sounds like Easter is happening this year.

But it is so different from being in a city. For Holy Week, there are no services, no meditation times, no special music, nothing for Good Friday. We’ll jump from Palm Sunday to Easter. How can we do that? But I realize that for many people who attend Easter all over the world, they come just for that one day and it’s the norm, but it’s not what I’m used to.  For Holy Week, it’s Jesus and me. We’re going through the week together. We’ve cleaned the temple, taught those who would listen, wept over the people, smelled the oil and received the anointing, felt the resistance of many and the receptivity of some. It’s just the two of us. And maybe that’s okay. Keep my eyes on him, not the dressing that we, as church, put on the week. It’s difficult, the pull to the familiar rituals and prayers is there, in my genes like city driving! But there are other ways to live, slower, more spacious ways and just being with Jesus is okay.

Take care… see you the other side Easter

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Caught In A Moment In Time

From the time I first met this island six years ago, it has been special to me. I’m convinced there is a healing presence on the island. Time seems to slow down. Is it just the removal of traffic lights, the intermittent Wi-Fi, or the custom of waving to any car that passes you on the road? Maybe, but I think it’s the dominance of the trees. They gang up on us humans and call us to live at their pace!

Yesterday as I sat at the edge of lagoon in front of my cabin, I was aware of all the different time measurements around me. The past was in front of me. The original family that homesteaded this inlet in the 1940’s had left the remnants of a long unused dock in shallows. The future was fifty yards away as I could hear the two little children Emma, four years old and Anna, a year old playing in the garden. The antiquity of our earth was before me in the ocean waters, rocks and forests. Eternity was overhead in a clear sky reaching into the galaxies of our universe. And I was there in that very moment, breathing, grateful to be a part of it all. Past, future, eternal and present.

Nothing quite like it. Don’t let the time slip away! May you drive in the slow lane today.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

A New Perspective on Living Water

I’m living beside living water. At low tide, I can walk across the lagoon in about 20 minutes. Imagine a small lake with two small islands in the centre and you’d have the general image. Oh, and did I mention the three stunning cedars outside my door, the strong rock cliffs on either side of our inlet and of course the surrounding host of delightful trees, each one perfect in being ‘tree’…..

Last night I arrived at low tide. This morning I woke just at dawn, able to welcome the day and see high tide. The water before me rises and falls daily, monthly. It is alive. It’s given me a new sense to the phrase ‘living water’. This living water is connected to the source of water on our earth, the ocean. I’m in Desolation Sound, part of the flow of water around Vancouver Island and connected to the Pacific Ocean. (How strange it seems for ‘us’ to have ‘named’ the bodies of water and bits of land on our earth. If we name them, surely, we need to care for them. We are responsible for them as we’d be for an animal we name and take into our homes. – but that’s another thought!).

My living water rises and falls according to the inner rhythm of the ocean and moon. Jesus calls himself Living Water and says that we too have a fountain of living water within us. Yes we do! His Spirit, the Spirit of God is within me, within each one of us and I can know the movement of his living water. Sometimes it rises up high and I feel the flow of the warm embrace, the awareness of each moment, the connectedness with all. Other times it seems to flow out and I can feel the receding, the need to pull back a bit, to move even more slowly. But whether the tide of my life rises or falls I know I’m always connected to the source of all, to the Pacific Ocean of my life, to the Ocean of All.

Living Water. Drink deeply of the living water and you’ll never be thirsty again. Where are you now? Rising tide or falling tide? May you know your Ocean Connection!

Drink Deeply

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Off to The Hermitage

Day 1

I’m sitting in the driveway, wondering why am I doing this? Why am I leaving my comfortable home, my husband, my gentle life and heading off to a cabin in the woods without heat or light and me with a cold? Why?… I know I’ve done this for 20+ years, but this year it just was so difficult. Why? Why difficult? Why am I doing it?!

Teachers have taught me over the years, when in desolation or doubt, don’t make a decision, stay as you were in good times, clear times. I know the lesson, so okay I will follow it. When life was flowing clearly for me, when all was well, I made the decision to take this week of solitude at The Hermitage. It made perfect sense then so I will go. I am…reluctant but going.

When I arrive, I check in at the centre and then head out to the cabin. I plan to drive out, unload my gear, drive back and then walk out to begin my retreat. The road takes me out over a dirt track and farmer fields. Halfway there, my car gets stuck in a mudhole, really stuck. There is no way I can get out. Is this a sign? Am I simply not meant to bury myself away this year? …. But I’ve been taught…. So I call CAA and a helpful fellow arrives to pull me out, unload my belongings into his truck, drive me near the cabin, drive me back to my car so I can drive back to the centre and walk in.

I do all that. I arrive back at my pile of absolutely necessary items I’ve decided I can’t be without, lug them up to the cabin, open the door and see the cabin with new eyes. It is even smaller than I remember! It really is tiny and doesn’t look like anyone has been here all winter.

But I’m here now. I’m still wondering why, but I’m here. How long the next seven days look to me. Endless. Absolutely endless.

Obviously I don’t have internet, so you won’t get my musing for a while.

Day 2

A gift of a spring-like day. I can mix my prayer times with gentle walks in the forest and fields, returning to many spots that are friends to me. I especially enjoy the river and its steady flow.

Yes I settle into prayer rhythms and yes, the day still seems incredibly long. A bit of me is still wondering why????

Night 2.

I wake in the night smelling marshmallows. How could that be? I tuck back under my sleeping bag but I’m restless. It’s smoke. The cabin has smoke in the air. Something is wrong. It is a very snug cabin with a woodstove. Somehow the vent on the stove had shifted so it wasn’t drawing. I know I’ll smell like a campfire when I leave here let along wonder about my lungs. Opening the door to air the cabin a cold blast of air hits me. It’s cold outside. ….and why am I here?

Day 3

Oh… yes. I am here. The ‘shift’ has happened that happens when I go on retreat. I’m slowing down. I’m like, as they say, ‘molasses in January’ on my inside. That is what I said I wanted isn’t it – to slow down, listen to God and then live from what I hear. That was so easy to say in the rapid flow of life, but I experienced such internal resistance to actually coming. Perhaps this week apart is simply that, a practice of slowing down, being more mindful moment by moment of my day. I imagine there will be more, there always is, but that mindful reality is beginning to feel like a gift.

And it’s cold today. And windy.

That evening as I slowly savour my vegetable curry supper I asked myself if I wanted to go home. I’m free to leave any time I want to. There was no question. I’m here now. It seems like a huge task to uproot me and rejoin the racing world right now. I know I will in a few days, but that is days away. Right now, I’m learning slow, slow, SLOW.

Night 3

As I tuck into bed and look back over my so slow day I realize a lot happened to me during this long, slow day. I recalled all sorts of insights, new ways of seeing things, lines from scripture, moments in prayer to savour. It had been a very full day.

Day 4

So its -9 C outside my cabin this morning. A fire to start the day and then I gently slip into a retreat rhythm of being very still. I simply do what seems the next thing to do. Woven into the day’s meditation, prayer times, and scripture reading are some household chores with fire, washing, and wood gathering.

My last day at work I’d been preaching on Jesus being led into the wilderness by the Spirit to tempt and test him. That was the assigned reading. It seemed the perfect one for me as I left to go into what feels like a wilderness time for me. I leave all sorts of people and tasks that I thoroughly enjoy and go away. It was suggested that I use the wilderness scriptures as a base for my prayer. I added to that some scripture study on wilderness times and find myself enthralled by reading Exodus and Numbers. Tomorrow… Deuteronomy! I’ve spent time wandering with Israelites in the wilderness, listening to them complain repeatedly about food and comforts. Then I invite Jesus to join me in the wilderness in prayer times. He’s very good company!

I’m learning about what it is like to be in the wilderness.

Day 5

A busy day. I had to organize myself to get back to the retreat centre to have a Skype check-in with my Spiritual Director. I’ve asked to her to accompany me during my Sabbath Leave. I want someone to share with me my soul journey and to keep an eye me so I don’t stray. I’m experienced enough with retreat life and myself to know there are mudholes out there and more than my car can get trapped in them!

I shared with her that this retreat was markedly different for me. I was very resistant to it. I realized that usually retreats have a recovery aspect for me. I come in tired from life and need a bit of an overhaul. Not this year. I’m not tired or exhausted by life. I’ve had two gentle weeks unwinding from work. This retreat is not about recovery but discovery. I’m coming away to be close to God, and to do that through knowing Jesus in a new way. I knew I wanted to spend time with him as my entry point into prayer. In this new season of my life I need to discover what our relationship is like. As in a marriage when the kids leave home and the parents look at each other again and say so what now…..?! I have that same sense with Jesus….when I pull away from the speed and fullness of life in Sabbath rest, life is quieter now…so who are we together?

Recovery or discovery? What about you? what do you need?

Day 6

A long and lushes day in solitude, silence and stillness.

I’ve been in the wilderness with the Israelites in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Again and again they are told to remember their spiritual story and warned that they will forget and wander from what they know. In the wilderness they forget and complain regularly about the menu and how God is not giving them the life they expected. Moses warns them too about all the temptations that lie ahead for them in the Promised Land.

I spend time remembering my spiritual story. It is so good to recall some of the ways I’ve known God present in my life. And then I saw how I forgot God as well. Oh yes. I’m no different than complaining Israel. I’ve been really blessed in this retreat with times of remembering and seeing times of forgetting. I might explore that more with you sometime. Places of Forgetfulness.

And in it all, as with Israel,  I know I’m a deeply and dearly loved child of God.

How about you? What is your spiritual story? How has God been present to you in your life? Has the Spirit given you any promises, any plans, any gifts? In what way have you been forgetful?

Day 7

A preparatory day. I leave tomorrow and since the fields are still muddy I won’t drive my car near to the cabin. I need to carry some of my belongings back to the centre so there is not much for me to carry as I leave mid morning tomorrow.

I sweep, stack wood, pack what food and items I don’t need into my backpack and hike back to the centre. My load is heavy. I’m a slow poke turtle. The wind is chilly. The fields are barren. Except for the mudholes (!) it doesn’t look like spring here. At my final wall before my car I see the first of spring buds I’ve seen this week. Yes. New life is coming. Yes.

I’m at the centre now to write. There is precious power here. I’ll spend the day making a review of my retreat time finding those moments to savour. It will be a time of discovery, a time of thankfulness. I’ve learned over the years that most of what I experience on retreat is not for general sharing. It’s simply too intimate. It’s like any well married couple who share the fruit of their love in the world not the details of how they get there.

I am grateful to my teachers who taught me to not make a decision when full of turmoil, doubt, confusion, or desolation. Stay with the course you set when all was clear. TRUST. Above all TRUST in God’s presence within you, even or especially, when the storms rage. Remember and don’t forget. Hmmmm as humans we are inclined to forget.

Take care of each other

Love and prayers

Anne

A Mystic in Motion.

 

An Audience of One

As I sit off stage in the Producer’s Office I become aware of what it is like to be ‘on stage’. I recall the other actors around me, what it feels like to be in the play, the pace of the play and the response of the audience.

During my last Sunday in the parish we were in the wilderness with Jesus and thinking about temptations. Since we’d been working our way through the Sermon on the Mount I used those very human frailties as our temptations – anger, worry and vainglory.

Today in the Producer’s Office, I’m most aware of vainglory, of the need to be noticed by others that Jesus warns us about in Matthew 6. I can recall what it feels like to be up-staged by someone, to have someone cut in and take my lines, or toss a cue to someone who misses it, or to be moved by the applause of the crowd. Here in the Producer’s Office I’m reminded that I live for an Audience of One. The applause is not external, but internal, a quiet knowing of God’s pleasure.

Right now, I’m very glad not to be in the rough and tumble of the performance. It is good to step off stage and catch my breath. Actually, I’m not just off stage catching my breath for that would be a regular Sabbath day. I’m in the Producer’s Office quite removed from the main thrust of the drama. Here I’m able to recall what it’s like to be in the drama.

Who are you playing to? Are you responding to the applause of the crowd? Angry at someone up staging you? Or are your eyes on the Audience of One?

Oh we are human! Oh I am human! Temptations abound……

I’m grateful for the time off stage.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Let’s Not Rush

It’s Day One of my Sabbath Leave, I arrive at my yoga class and these are my teacher’s opening words: “Let’s not rush today. Not rush our yoga practice.” They were perfect words for me for I was rushing in a tiny bit late! I’d moved quickly through the church talking to a few people and was going a bit fast and her words settled me right down.

Ahhhh….Let’s not rush.

This is a time in my life when I don’t have to rush. All week long I’ve been able to get places early, choose to book less into my day, and enjoy a slower pace of life. It’s just wonderful. I enjoy the feeling of not having to prepare anything and not having to lead in any way. I’m enjoying stepping back.

Right now, writing feels like the one thing I’d like to continue. I think I will continue to share my reflections through this time of resting and not rushing. Because I’m stepping back from my role as Community Leader during this Sabbath Leave, I’ll only communicate through Mystic in Motion, not through the Contemplative Fire database. If you want to join me on this journey, please subscribe on my blogsite. http://www.mysticinmotion.org.

Let’s not rush. Let’s enjoy this moment, being fully attentive to what it holds. Joy or sorrow.

Love and prayers

Anne

A Mystic in Motion