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

From One to Many

Last week ended up being a week of contrasts. As I described it to my daughter, I realized one of the reasons it felt so full was that I went from solitude to an abundance of people.

I took some time on retreat last week.  I went to a cottage in a retreat centre for some solitude. Three days to pray, reflect, and walk the lake shore, to put away the computer and phone and open my heart. I brought along some friends, Henri (Nouwen), Jean(Vanier) and Jesus (scripture). What beautiful souls to accompany me. Jean’s writing on community life touched me deeply and I could feel layers of my false self peeling away. How good to go on retreat and leave some stuff behind!

From the solitude I returned to full community life with a number of group meetings, individual conversations and one special service. One day was a twelve-hour working day. I haven’t done one of those in over a year, and I know why! There was much joy in the conversations and groups. I wouldn’t have missed one of them!

It had been a long time since I reconnected with my home community of Contemplative Fire. It was good to be with other Companions, offer an introduction to Contemplative Fire in a different part of the city and finish the weekend with our monthly worship. Returning to community life was rich and full.

Amid all the abundance, my husband and I continue our discernment around a move and of course family life happens. A second daughter turned 40. It’s just not possible.

When I write a blog I often write from what has been working most deeply in my life in the last week, but this past week was simply full to overflowing. Where do I turn? What am I to process more deeply? What might I highlight for myself through sharing?

It feels like there is a huge buffet table spread before me. I can go back again and again and taste the goodness that is there. When I was sharing my week with my daughter I suddenly felt the POP of the week. I’d moved from one to many and the crush was like fireworks going off inside. When I push back from the table and consider my meal, there are some things I know.

God is so present, so longing to let us know that we’re held, loved and valued. I hear God’s voice calling to me from so many different places, through so many people. “Come, welcome, be at rest with Me. I am here with you. You are never alone. You have nothing to prove. I have my eye on you.”

How is your week? How do you know God’s watchful, loving presence in your life?

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

 

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

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.