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

If this is helpful or interesting to you, please pass it along.

 

Breathing Underwater

 

One night in my dreams I found myself swimming in beautiful clear water. It felt wonderful! I realized that I was breathing under water. I wasn’t snorkeling or scuba diving. I had no equipment, just Anne, swimming and breathing in sparkling clear water.

Now all of you who love dream work will have some fun with that dream! I dabble in those explorations too and have had some deeply rewarding insights from dreams, including that one. But today…. Today I want to share with you a special moment from my waking life that reminded me of that dream sensation.

My granddaughter asked me if I’d join her scuba diving. We were on a family holiday at a resort that was offering a free scuba session. She loves the water and wanted to give it a try, but wanted company. Fifteen years ago I took the Padi Open Water Dive Training program and became certified. I let it lapse because I had such awful experiences. I’m a strong swimmer and very comfortable in the water but found myself unable to relax with the scuba gear on. As I looked at the surface of the water far, far above me I felt claustrophobic. I thought I would go home in a mahogany box. One time I thought I was going to vomit! I decided no more diving. But then, a granddaughter asks and of course I’m in.

We dove that afternoon and then, both of us so excited from our experience, signed up to do a longer training the next day. I think two things made the difference; a very competent, enjoyable teacher and how my meditation practice has matured over the last fifteen years.

Our teacher was wonderful. He was warm, engaging, clear, and encouraging. He delighted in my granddaughter and me, so glad to be teaching us to dive. He was one of those people that draws out the best in me.  After we had the gear on and were breathing under water with the regulator he asked us to sit on the bottom of the pool, simply rest there. The last time I tried to do it I couldn’t rest. This time I could feel I was at ease.

The sensation of resting in the water, either sitting on the bottom, or simply floating while deeply submerged, felt just like those moments in meditation when I’m held. Those moments when thoughts cease and the still point that is the ground of my being is all that there is within me. it is a place of deep rest and ease. As I floated in the water, recalling the mediation experience I could breath in the LOVE that sustains me. The dive became an experience of being held in LOVE, in LIFE.

Do you meditate? I think everyone can benefit from learning how to meditate. There are so many different pathways. I follow a Christian path and have learnt a variety of Christian meditation practices. I’ve also learnt secular, Buddhist and yogi meditation practices. There is scientific research now regarding the physical and mental benefits of meditation. There is a meditative practice that would suit you! It is a practice. It calls for persistence when it’s difficult. but oh, it’s worth it.

There is nothing quite like breathing underwater.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Founder (Canada)

 

 

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

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

Transplanted!

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 www.contemplativefire.ca. Sign up on that website to receive them.

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

Decision-Making

I’ve currently got a major decision perking through my life and it led me to reflect on decision making and the implications of our decisions.

I have some basic guidelines I’ve been taught that make sense to me on how to make decisions – discernment principles we call them. It all depends on the size of decision of course, but some basic ones for me, for personal decisions are:

  • Don’t make major changes when in a place of doubt or desolation. Wait for consolation.
  • If I’m living lightly and in an open, loving place with God, a good choice or action will feel like a drop of water on a soft sponge.
  • Be honest and open with my needs and the needs of others around me who are affected by my decision.
  • Share my decision making with a wise Christian who knows me and listen to their perspective.
  • Wait for peace, deep internal peace and the clarity it brings.

These guidelines generally lead me to live thoughtfully, with purpose and clarity. Sometimes my pace is fast, sometimes it is slow, but it tends to be steady. People often describe me as peaceful, yet intense, anchored yet very productive. Such is Anne!

But… another whole intriguing side of decision making to me is the huge ‘what ifs’ that occur or don’t occur. What if I hadn’t said that thing, or written that email or taken that job, or married that person, or lived in that house/apartment….. and on and on and on.

Forty years ago, Hugh and I made a decision in our lives around where to live and raise our family. We decided to not move to Victoria but stay in Toronto. What if we had lived in Victoria? Who would we have met/not met? …… My daughter and her husband made a decision a year ago to raise their family in Paris. What if they’d decided to come to Toronto? How would my life, their neighbourhood, our city, our world be different?

Thomas Merton wrote that each moment in each event of each person’s life plants a seed within their soul. That was one of the life changing bits I received from him. Each decision we make has ripple effects within our own lives, but also the lives around us and the ripples extend out into the universe.

Decision-making ripples.  What choices are you making today? May you unhook your Pinball Brain. May they come from a place of quiet and peace within you. (see Nov 29 and Dec 6)

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

 

The Quiet Centre at the Heart of Me

 

Last week I was ruminating on my Pinball Brain, but this week my focus is on my Quiet Centre. I’m actually writing these two blogs on the same day, just minutes apart. You’ll get them a week apart, but they are deeply connected.

At the same time as I’m living with my Pinball Brain, I also am in touch with a quietness that pervades my inner world. I’m very still inside myself these days. One day I sat at my abandoned art table and got out one of my creative books to see if it would stimulate me. As I read, the author described pictures emerging from within her. I realized that one of the reasons my art table is abandoned, is that there are no pictures emerging within me. When I started about ten years ago to intentionally learn to draw and paint, there were pictures that were emerging within me, but now there are no pictures. It’s not time to create at my table. It’s time to be quiet.

Not only are there no pictures within me, there are no lessons to teach, illustrations to share, sermons to preach, or ideas for groups. That’s a huge change for me. Since my call to ministry in 1990 I’ve regularly had a flow from within for teaching. I’m very quiet in my central core right now. I continue to hold that sense that God has lifted my gifting from me and I’m to be still. It’s unfamiliar, uncomfortable and beautiful at the same time.

No pictures, no lessons and there’s also no leadership initiative within me. I read leadership books and can feel the old stirring, but then it subsides again. I return to the quiet place.

The quiet place at my centre reaches out and touches so many parts of my life. I have no desire to be in groups, workshops, retreats or services. I’m still resting in the depth of what I experienced during my Sabbath Leave.

At my core is quietness and yet I live with a Pinball Brain.

That’s me for now. How are you?

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

Stillness

I’ve been drawn to the experience of stillness in the last while. A few times I’ve been aware of the invitation in prayer to be still after I leave the prayer time. I’m not to get caugstone and sand for stillness and actionht up in the busy conversations, the decisions that seem to need to be made, the city whirl. I’m to learn to be still. It’s partly emerged out of my attraction to the True Self work. I’ve experienced an inner stillness even when around me, it feels like chaos. It results in me feeling like I’m more myself, simpler, deeper, less pretentious, less a lot of things!

But it doesn’t mean I’m physically still. I’m still to be moving, but from a place of stillness. It doesn’t mean I don’t make any decisions, just that they’re to come from a still place.  A recent tag line on my email account was: Be still, be very, very still. And the I added to it: Be still and still moving.

As this was happening within me, one of our Companions inchild image for stillness and action

Contemplative Fire told me about a message he’d received during a Quaker Meeting. Ps 46 is often quoted, “Be still and know that I am God.” The speaker noted that the psalm said to be still, not to be silent. That is so much in alignment with what I’m learning. To be still doesn’t mean to be silent or not taking action. It means to be still within our soul, to be still and listening and knowing and being formed and guided by God’s Spirit.

In Contemplative Fire, part of our Rhythm is ‘Across the Threshold’. That refers to being led by the Spirit of God, perhaps into unfamiliar places. As with all our leaves, that one too is rooted in the central Wordless Space, in the deep stillness of God. We also talk about the Silence of God, about God’s first voice being silence. We become still within, listening to God’s silence and from the still, silent space we are formed and hear our life’s words and actions. How intriguing is that!  Out of stillness and silence come words and action and oh… those words and actions smell, feel so different from the ones that come out of my busyness!

What is your experience of stillness? Physical stillness? Interior stillness? Do you run from it, brush it off, find it impossible, or never consider it! How have you experienced the different sources of your words and actions?

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Contemplative Fire , Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion