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


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:

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Good Friday Reflections

good friday 2 date

I like honoring Good Friday. The world seems to keep spinning all around me, the garbage was still collected, and my groceries were delivered, but I like slowing down on Good Friday.

I like the tiny connection to Jesus and suffering that I experience through a service and a spiritual discipline. The service is like a funeral for a very dear friend. Most of the congregation was in black today. I chose to wear black. I realized I could have added my clergy collar for I usually do for funerals. I don’t wear it very often right now, but funerals call it out in me. Today I appreciated how Jesus’ story was simply told and then we good friday 4 crown2prayed for our hurting and suffering world. Instead of a sermon, there was a gentle reflection. No one told me what to believe about his death. The speaker simply led me closer to the experience of it. I appreciated not being ‘taught’ about one of the biggest mysteries of my faith.

And my spiritual discipline today was fasting…. If I attend the service well fed and then go out to lunch it feels so indulgent. I know the most direct route to hardship for me lies in denying myself something I really enjoy – food and eating! So, I have often kept Good Friday as a fast day. I know millions around the world join me in that tradition. Fasting quickly activates the worst in me. Irritation, impatience, cravings and greed show up immediately. I see my shadow side.

good friday 1

So Good Friday is a quiet, thoughtful day for me. It’s as if I’ve been to funeral and I don’t want to do much else, but read, pray, write, gently catch up on correspondence, and let gratitude towards all engulf me.

Its on a day like this that I feel my disconnect with the world around me. the garbage was still picked up, groceries delivered, ferry boats plying the coast, holiday makers lining up. good friday 5 funeralSo often I’ve said to grieving families when it’s a small cluster of us gathered around the graveside, ‘Take care of yourself. You’re heading out into a busy world. They’re not grieving but you are. You know a deep loss, a hole, a wound. You need to take care of yourself. You are living in a different space than they are.’ Today I feel the need of those words for myself. The world around me is whirling, but I’m not. I’m grieving. I’ve looked at death this morning. I grieve what was done to Jesus. I also grieve the lack of spiritual awareness in the world around me. No one seems to care that he died.

What meaning does Good Friday have in your life?

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

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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 Sign up there to receive them.

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion



The farmers out there might be upset with me as I mix things around! As I write about experiencing a fallow time of life, my husband and I have been house hunting and purchased a new home in a new location. We’re being transplanted!

Can you be transplanted in a fallow time? Maybe some of you farmers or gardeners can help me here. Maybe not in the farming world, but in Anne’s world you can.

I’ve discovered a whole new meaning to Mystic in Motion. First, the external motion part of actually moving. I see a lot of work and a lot of doing ahead of me. Can I do it from a place of stillness? I hope I’ll eventually get there.  Second, the internal motion. I found today my thoughts wouldn’t settle down. They were racing around. I was having conversations with all sorts of people. I was watching my inner extrovert hard at work, chatting up a storm. I was so busy! Still a Mystic, but I was in MOTION.

I did breathing exercises. I practiced yoga, read a devotional book and scripture. Yet when I sat to be still, there was simply a lot of motion. Off I went to the gym, and into the pool. The physical exercise helped focus me. I often pray or intentionally focus on a topic for each length of the pool. Ah… somewhat less conversational.

Does this moving show me my inner-extrovert who wants to talk to everyone?

Does this moving stimulate a part of me I don’t really know that well?

Can I keep inner stillness in the midst of the moving? I trust I can and these are murky waters that will settle. I love the old saying: Do you have the patience to let the mud settle so the water can run clear? So…. may I be still, very, very still and still moving.

How do you settle yourself when you’re running rapid?

But I am excited by the thought of my new home! Did I mention I can hear a river from the deck!

I’m a Transplanted Mystic in Motion.

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 Sign up on that website to receive them.

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada


Finding My Way (2) Rhythm of Life

So I’m weeding my path…..this won’t be new to you, my Gentle Readers, yet I know it helps me to name it again and again. I hope you will take the time to name what nourishes and grounds you as well.

I follow a Rhythm of Life: Travelling Light – Dwelling Deep. I live instinctively in the depths of life, so I’m always turning towards the ‘light’, maybe in simplifying life, in doing less or having less or in laughing more, taking myself and what life sends me less seriously.

I live out my Rhythm of Life through intentional prayer/study/action. We have lots of words we use in Contemplative Fire to describe our Rhythm and each is meaningful to me. Here’s a graph:

Being                             Knowing                            Doing

Still Waters                Learning Journey         Across the Threshold

Prayer                           Study                                  Action

Contemplative        Creative                         Compassionate

And then we use a picture:

It’s called a trefoil and each of the words can be placed in one of the leaves. There is a continuous line that threads the leaves and my daily life together. It’s all rooted in the Wordless Space in the centre, that’s the heartbeat of God.

If you’re interested I could speak of what my prayer practice currently is, what I’m studying this fall, and how I get invited to cross thresholds by extending compassion and forgiveness in challenging places!

That’s what grounds me, nourishes me, sustains me as I move through a chaotic world. What grounds you Gentle One?

There is nothing new about Contemplative Fire’s Rhythm. It is an ancient pathway and I delight in encountering it in many traditions, all around the world. But it is ours. It is mine. I’m grateful for it. There is another component to it I’ll describe next time.

If this is helpful to you, please show support by sharing it with a friend. Let’s broaden the contemplative pathway.

Love and prayers


Contemplative Fire Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion

(Written September 25, 2017)


A Great Question

“What do you want?” —– Sometimes Jesus’ simplicity and directness just astounds me. As I re-entered my world after The Hermitage, I joined him as his disciples were joining him. He looked at me and said, with warm and gentle eyes, “What do you want Anne?”

What a great question! How often do we ask it of ourselves or of others? And how are wants and needs all mixed up? I think if I respond from a core place, they are very close.

Coming out of solitude, my wants were clear and simple. I tell him I want to remember all the wonderful embracing parts of my time in retreat. I want to continue to live in all the richness and learning from that week. I want to remember it all. I don’t want to forget anything! I want the next season of my life to be full, flowing with all the love and the positive energy I experienced.

I needed this time off work. I was deeply tired, at one point got cranky with my team, and with low energy for leading or teaching. Here again wants and needs are mixed for me.

Sometimes it’s knowing what I want within myself, but other times it’s knowing what I want from someone else. Here again wants and needs get mixed. Sometimes from another person I want clarity, or an apology, or acknowledgement, or forgiveness or respect or a hug. A bit of me wants Jesus to wave a magic wand and keep me held in the retreat awareness, but I know it doesn’t work like that. I have to do my part in remembering, and that begins with articulating my wants to him with an acceptance and awareness of human forgetfulness.

What do you want? What do you want for yourself? What do you want from someone else?

I’m appreciating this time of quietness in my life to be in touch with my deeper wants. I hope you will take some time too for being aware of your wants, your deep needs.

Love and prayers on the journey


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


A Mystic in Motion.


Following the Prince of Peace Part 2

Do you know those moments when you simply wake up and hear something with fresh ears! Truly OMG moments. I had one a few months ago and it was one of the clear calls that I mentioned last week that I’ve had into a life of following the Prince of Peace. I caught my thought train in action, pressed the pause button, then pressed the rewind and then play buttons. I listened to my own thoughts. It was sobering. I heard myself say negative things to someone I value deeply. I wouldn’t spend any time with someone who talked to me like that. I heard a negative, complaining, controlling voice telling someone else how to live their life. OMG. Am I really like that?

The voice I heard that day was violent. Its weapons were words as if a rapid fire machine gun was taking out another human being. And it was inside me. I was stunned. I don’t want to hold those negative thoughts within me. I don’t want to send off the negative aroma that they carry. I don’t want to take any chance that they come out of my mouth and be a weapon of destruction in someone’s life. I was challenged that day with the reality of violent communication and how I can be hurtful to someone else, even someone I truly value.

I don’t know why I suddenly heard my own thoughts that day, but I will give all my gratitude to our very gracious and patient God. I’m so grateful to the Spirit for being slow enough to hear my thoughts. I wonder if some of it came as a fruit of the years of meditation where I do observe my thoughts and feelings as I open myself to the Holy Spirit.

Right now I’m less interested in the mechanics of how or why, and much more interested in growing in not tolerating the negativity within me. Each time I catch it, acknowledging it and choosing to wish goodness and loving kindness towards the person instead.

Have you ever caught yourself wishing ill of someone? Following the Prince of Peace means to me that I will do my best to not put up with that going on inside me anymore. I’ll lay down my weapons of violence and pick up the ways of loving kindness.

Maybe one of the gifts we can give this Christmas season is to bring peace into our thought life. Will you join me?

Prince of Peace Official Lyric Video

Peace in the midst of all…


Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada

When Sharing a Bed with an Elephant


Some of you will recall with me when the first Prime Minister Trudeau described Canada’s life as ‘a mouse in bed with an elephant’. Last week, that elephant rolled over and made some noise. It certainly made a big, surprising noise, unpleasant to many and made some want to get out bed! It seems it woke people up to what is going on in the hidden underbelly of America – to people the media clearly weren’t polling or talking to or getting honest answers from. Hence the surprise and the smell. Something is wrong. We can’t avoid it any longer.

In our Gospel this week Jesus describes the upset that will come at the end of the age. He tells his followers that no matter what happens, we’re not to be afraid and we’re not to worry. God is always present and that all things will unfold into a good end. Don’t let circumstances overwhelm us, stand firm, trust in God and let the Spirit continue to care, protect and transform us.

In some of my conversations this week we came back to recognition that the sun will still rise and as one of my favorite people put it, “I can still scratch my dog’s tummy.”

Sometimes our world does feel like it is in upheaval. May Americans learn what they need to learn from this surprising turn and listen well to those who feel they have lost their voice along with their jobs and hopes. May there now arise a community will to tend to the deep seated problems within their society. May we in Canada learn what we might learn as well, for we too have the undervalued and disenfranchised within our midst.

At FIREWORKS this week, our presenter Rev. A. Ross Gibson shared a rich introduction to the perspective of being nonviolent in a violent world. I offer you a prayer he left with us. I find it a challenging prayer, and also one that I can see could clear a pathway for me, for us, for all people into a new age. Questions to pray, to ask of the Holy One each morning:

  • What can I do today to promote justice, disarmament, nonviolence and peace?
  • What concrete action can I take to help end violence, war, poverty, racism, sexism, patriarchy, ageism and evil?
  • How can I practice creative non-violence, relieve unjust suffering, and help disarm the world?
  • How can I serve your reign (God’s reign) of justice and peace today?
  • How can I help more people become nonviolent?
  • How can I help build the global grassroots movement of nonviolence?
  • (an adapted daily prayer of Harry Belafonte)

May your trust in God’s presence grow deeper this week.

Love and prayers


Contemplative Fire Community Leader Canada



Finding a Sustainable Life – Part 7: One More Tree Friend

I met this tree before we even began our Pilgrimage to Now/here. We were gathering together getting acquainted when I noticed it in the distance. I saw a dead tree, actually three dead trees and I wondered what they were doing there. Our Pilgrimage was located on the grounds of a well established University and Seminary in our city. The grounds were very well tended. Why were there three dead trees in the midst of the spacious grounds? I wanted them gone!

Our walk took us around the edge of grounds, along the border of the ravine. The Spirit began to pull within me, guiding my steps and whispering to me. The garbage, river and trees began to shape me. Finally, we made our way back to the beginning spot and we passed the Three Dead Trees. They weren’t dead at all. Quite the opposite. Each of the trees certainly appeared dead at the trunk and top, but when you drew close to them, each of them had brand new life bursting out at the bottom four or five feet of the trunk. It wasn’t just a bush growing close, but actual new life coming out of the tree. We called them Resurrection Trees!

New life can come out of areas of my life that appear dormant or done. In God’s hands new life can come anywhere, anytime. Am I open to the new life that the Spirit of God wants to birth? It can be surprising, coming in unexpected places. One of my sacred truths that I pray with each day is to release my agenda and seek God’s will to be done. I want the Spirit to move freely in and through me, and in the part of the garden I’ve been placed, to bring such unexpected new life and new hope. Even in places where once it looked dead to me, God can bring new life. YES! Carrying that hope within me gives me a sustainable life.

Are there any places where all you can see is the end, a dead tree? Will you join me in asking God’s Spirit to work to bring some unexpected new life?

Love and prayers for the journey
Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada