Pay Attention

The last few weeks I’ve shared with you some of my Easter Explosions. But life isn’t on the mountain top. It’s not a constant explosion of awareness. Jesus so often spoke of this, taking his disciples to a mountain top and then back down into the valley. Life is in the valleys, the everyday, ordinary moments. I’m grateful for the Easter Explosions. My soul life is strengthened as I share them, but everyday life is full of God too. Everyday life gives me moments to behold The Divine.

Last Sunday in Contemplative Fire we shared a Mary Oliver poem and one of her phrases has been resonating with me all week. Pay Attention. Pay attention to the weeds that sprout between the cracks in a vacant lot. Pay attention. I’m drawn to pay attention to the bark on the douglas fir just beyond my deck, to the choir of birds surrounding me, the sun splashing off the ocean water, the rush of the creek full of snow melt, the ache in my body after cleaning the gutter on the driveway, the relentless pounding of the heart within the body I inhabit….. pay attention to what is happening. In the stillness of the moment, it’s quite beautiful. After a month away from my home, a happy month, surrounded by people dear to me, walking the wide-open beaches lapped by the Atlantic Ocean, exploring the winding streets of Paris, I’m so happy to return to the spaciousness and quietness of village life nestled against a mountainside. The trees call me home. Mary Oliver reminds me to pay attention, for in these moments, God is present.

I don’t need a holiday to find God, anymore than I need Easter Explosions. Every moment of every day is permeated by Divine Presence. I’m grateful for a lifelong journey to lead me to that awareness. Every moment of every day is permeated by Divine Presence. When my husband and I disagree – God is present. When illness strikes close to home – God is present. When my garden plans don’t work – God is present. When someone disrespects me – God is present. Every moment of every day. Now I want to pay attention.

Where are you invited to pay attention?

Love and prayers on the journey

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institue for Contemplative Living

My Easter Story (5): On the Mountain Top

So now I am in the community in Switzerland. I drove all the way, by myself (but I know now I really wasn’t by myself!) from the south of Turkey, through Greece, and Italy to find Aigle and a Christian community nearby. When I asked at the gendarme station in my broken French for a religious community, they told me there were two, both on the same road. At the top was one led by Timothy Leary and further down the mountain was one led by Francis Schaeffer. I’d already done the drug route and didn’t want any more (that’s another Easter story) so I followed the directions to Schaeffer to give him a try.

After ten days in his community, I was totally confused. They fed my body with yummy food, and my soul with respect for they too were Truth Seekers. At last, I had found people who were questing for life’s meaning as I was.  There was ample room to ask questions and I was encouraged to write out my beliefs. I heard their faith stories and perspective on life. Nothing made sense to me. After ten days I was told I’d asked enough questions and it was suggested that I go for a walk in the mountains. I didn’t like been told that but instinctively I agreed. I needed to be on my own away from the community, with space to think and feel. We were high in the mountains, and I set out on a trail to somewhere. I couldn’t walk very far. I couldn’t think. I felt like a piece of flotsam being tossed over Niagara Falls. I could barely hold a thought in my mind. I sat on a rock, staring over the valley when suddenly it was as if I was given a new set of glasses. I saw everything differently. Everything. I knew that God was real, not some figment of my imagination, not a philosophical concept to argue about around a campfire, not a benign presence in outer space, but a warm, loving presence right here. I knew Jesus was real, not a storybook character, but a Spirit-saturated-being, God’s son, who was with me. I knew sin was real, that the Bible described the world truly and that there was an evil presence in the world. Whoosh in one moment I saw all that. I knew I belonged to God. And then to wrap it up, the earth, the whole creation lying before me, suddenly shimmered. It was alive with the Creator’s goodness.

It’s been over fifty years since that deeply transformative event. It was a moment of knowing, a moment where I was changed. Easter Sunday with trumpets blaring. 

Sometimes I wonder why I’ve had such experiences. One friend lovingly called me a ‘2×4’ Christian. I had to be hit over the head with a ‘2×4’. The ‘why’ I don’t know, but I do know that I want to live worthy of the spiritual clobbering I’ve been given. The story of God’s love for me, for each of us continues. I don’t know any story that is more important but I think that’s all I share right now.

Maybe it’s time to recall your defining moments. They won’t be like mine. We are all different, so the moment will be yours. God is real. Jesus shows us, teaches us about God’s heartbeat. How have you experienced that heartbeat of LOVE?

I’ll be returning to my computer shortly. Thank you for listening to my snippets. It helps me to share them with you.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

My Easter Story (4): The Light Shines Again

I spent the next year rambling around Europe, looking in art galleries, walking ancient footpaths, meeting people from around the world, trying different drugs. It was an open-ended kind of life, with me hoping to finally go to India, but not in any rush to get there. My travels might look purposeless to some but in hindsight, I know I was being guided. I encountered God’s presence in people who shared my journey especially one girl who became an instant friend, in words whispered into my heart in a contemporary art gallery in Venice, with a burst of light in a youth hostel in Athens, and in a visitation of snakes in a village in Turkey. I could open any of those stories for you for they all contain Easter power, but I’ll leap ahead to one of the most defining moments. My own literal mountain-top experience.

I’d found my way to a Christian community in Switzerland. Honestly, I was led there. I could not, not go there before I went home. I guess I will tell you what happened first. That burst of light I mentioned in the youth hostel…..I was travelling with that special girlfriend and we’d picked up a guy in a Turkish village. The three of us ended up in the youth hostel in Athens. He came to join us for breakfast and told us about some kids he’d met the night before while he’d been wandering the streets. They had told him about a place in Switzerland where you could stay free of charge for ten days and rap about religion. The people in this community believed the Bible was true. He said that he thought he’d go there and take one last look at the west before going east. He too was part of the Indian pilgrimage. It was 1970! When he said that, I saw a bright light flash across the room and I knew that I had to go to that place as well. I knew it so clearly. I could not, not go there. I didn’t know the name. I only knew it was Christian and near the town of Aigle. That’s all. But I knew I had to go there. Something was happening that was bigger than me. I didn’t understand it, but I did know something was happening.

Did you know the Spirit of God hangs out in youth hostels? In what unexpected place have you found God? Always with us. Always.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

My Easter Story (3): The Light Appears  

Within a year I was in a small movie theatre in France waiting for the new release of ‘Women in Love’ by D. H. Lawrence. The theatre was almost empty, and I was alone, sitting near the back. Suddenly there was a bright light up high, near the ceiling of the theatre. The light was warm, glowing and moving. Some deep part of me recognized the light. I knew it was coming from the centre of the universe and I was on my way into it. I was present to the glow. I was open. In that moment I experienced the assurance that I was on a journey taking me into the heart of all life, taking me into Truth.

Just so you know, it was 1970, and I wasn’t doing any drugs. I wasn’t reading any spiritual books or doing anything overtly spiritual in my life. I was on a trip to explore Europe, filling in time till my best friend’s brother arrived and we would hitch hike to Milano to pick up a car. Life was happening. I had finished university and been given a trip abroad by my father as a gift to complete my education. I was unsure what my next step looked like. I knew I needed to ‘find myself’. I was a Truth seeker, so thought I would explore the world. Maybe I would land in a Buddhist monastery in India. While I was at university, Tibetan Buddhism had helped me make sense of life, but I knew little of it or how to find a monastery. I was on my own, exploring life, waiting for a friend to arrive, ready to enjoy D.H. Lawrence! But in that theatre, I got a whole lot more. That light completely hit me out of left field. Once again, I wasn’t alone. I was known. And I was known in a way that was beyond what I knew I needed.

There is so much more to life than meets our physical eye. I long that people know this spiritual reality that is right here with us, all the time. God is present. Right here, right now, with you.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

My Easter Story (2): My Pathway

By the time I was in my early twenties I’d realized my life plan of politics or the diplomatic core or the investment industry was not going to work. I’d switched out of an honours degree at university to complete a basic degree and try to put my life in order. I felt lost.

One evening sitting at my dressing table, staring into the mirror I had a moment of clarity. I knew I wanted Truth, that’s right, ‘truth’ with a capital ‘T’! I wanted to find out what was really true in this world. Life seemed so difficult to me. I puzzled that most people seemed to be able to go to school, get a job, get married, and raise a family. None of that seemed valid or real to me. Why do it?  I wanted something else out of life. I wanted Truth. What is this world really about? Why does it exist? Why do I exist? Why does anyone exist? What is the reason for it all?

There was no thunderbolt answer, but in hindsight I recognize I was given my life plan that night. I was given guidance towards a journey that I’ve been on ever since. I’m a Truth-seeker. That means I’m home-bound, back to the origins of who I am, who you are, and what this world is all about. Currently I’m delighting in Thomas Merton’s writings. One of his thoughts that I’m playing with is that ‘my highest ambition is to be what I already am’. Merton sought Truth and opened the contemplative door for many of us, releasing the ancient wisdom, to find out who we are and why the world exists. I seek Truth wherever it is found. I’ve learnt that Truth smells of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Ah but I’m getting ahead of my story. Right now I’m in my early twenties, looking at myself in a mirror and realizing that more than anything else, more than a husband, more than a career, I want to find Truth.

What drives you in life? Let there be no judgement, but an awareness of what is most important to you. When your last days come, and you look back on your life, what have you been moving towards?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

My Easter Story (1): The Glowing Figure

(My memoir is currently titled ‘From Darkness to Daisies”. I finished the first draft, summer of 2020 and now it’s sitting in my desk drawer. I took seven Easter moments,  seven of the ‘trumpet-sounding’ experiences in my life, described them and a reflection on what I’ve learned about God from them. I’m sharing snippets of those experiences with you over the Easter season for the next five weeks. Here goes with the warning that they are written, as is my blog, from a ‘telling’ perspective, not a narrative one. That’s one reason my memoir is still in my drawer! ,,,, and as you read these, I’ll be away from my computer. I’ll check your responses when I return late May.)

Despite a privileged upbringing, my childhood was embedded with fear, sadness and loneliness. By the time I reached university I knew a deep darkness that felt like a cancer eating away at me. As a child I was graced with several spiritual experiences which gave me another perspective, giving me hope and the awareness that God doesn’t run from our darkness.  

One night when I was about eight, I woke to see a figure at the end of my bed. I saw a man, kneeling in prayer. The image was small, just a few feet high and it was glowing. Scared, I hid under the covers. I peeked out a few moments later for I wanted to see more, but he was gone. What was left was my memory of someone, from somewhere praying for me. I was raised in our local Anglican church and so I thought it must be Jesus. I continued to feel scared and alone in my daily life, but I began to learn there was more to life. Somewhere, someone was praying for me.

When I was thirteen, I cried myself to sleep one night, devasted as only a thirteen year old can be, by school life drama. I wanted to disappear and not face life any longer. On waking the next morning, I felt completely different. I was at peace with a deep internal contentment. I walked into the school yard comfortable and quietly confident. I said, ‘Hi’ to the other children, and they greeted me. All was well. I knew that my prayer of the night before had been heard and that ‘someone, somewhere’ had changed me on the inside. I understood that God had heard my angst. In response to my plea, I had been changed and so had the world around me. I knew something had happened and that God was involved.

I had a similar event when I was fifteen and on a trip with some friends to Montreal. Devastation, tears at night, followed by sleep and upon waking, a deep peace, seeing myself and world around me with fresh eyes. That time I shared with my friends what had happened. We laughingly called it my ‘revelation’, but I knew there was nothing superficial about it. Once again I had a glimpse of the power behind the scenes. There was someone watching over me. Someone who cared about me.

As a child I began to learn from my own experience that God is present with us all the time. Sometimes the Beloved moves in this world in healing ways, but always we are loved and prayed for. What is your sense of God’s presence today? Can you imagine for a moment, someone praying for you?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Ongoing Easter

For some people Easter celebrations are full of sensual feasting with the smell of lilies, sound of trumpets and Hallelujah’s ringing out loud and clear. The sterility of Lent is banished, and the light pours in. In some liturgical churches, the church is stripped of its finery on Maundy Thursday leaving it empty and deserted for the Good Friday service, with people often leaving that time in silence. Then the quiet of the tomb on Saturday followed by the splash of Easter as you return Sunday morning. Add in some Easter finery, family feasting and the senses explode with life. Another path is if your community slips in an Easter Vigil late Saturday night that starts outside with a single flame and moves through a liturgy into the triumph of resurrection. Any of those paths provide lots of sensory celebrations.

For others, Easter is creeping into a sunrise service on Sunday morning. I used to enjoy hosting a tiny gathering in the cemetery attached to our parish church, an empty shroud on a bench, a head cloth neatly wrapped. Where is he? What have you done with him?

Over the centuries Easter has been celebrated in many different ways. Right now, I value the Everyday Easter celebrations. Where did you catch a glimpse of God today? Where did the new life of Easter show up for you today?

Most of our life isn’t Easter Sunday with trumpets sounding and emotions exploding in “YES!”. Most of our life is quiet spiritually, where we need to be attentive to Presence, seeking to catch a glimpse of God. I’ve had lots of times in my life when I was gifted with a mystical awareness of God’s presence, but the journey of my life is to live in the valley every day, with eyes open, heart open ready to catch a glimpse of God who is always with me, but seldom sounding trumpets.

As we move through the Easter season, I was wondering about sharing with you some of my Easter moments, those trumpet-sounding times, but I hesitate. Maybe I will share some of the Everyday Easters instead.  The Easter moments have shaped my life. They remind me of who I am. The Everyday Easters are the regular meals that feed my soul day in and day out. They nourish me. However, as I sat down to write, it was the Easter moments that flowed from my pen. I guess I will share those in the coming weeks and maybe after that, more of the Everyday Easter moments. Whatever happens seems like it’s an ongoing Easter here with me!

I’d be delighted during these next few weeks to hear some of your Easter moments too. One Easter with Contemplative Fire we gathered to share our discovery of Jesus. It was so encouraging!

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Everyday Easter

This isn’t a feel-good post but a puzzling one…. Read on if you wish!

August 1971 – I was on a mountain top in Switzerland when I first knew that Jesus was more than a storybook figure. I knew in my heart that the scripture stories about him were true and that he was still alive. What happened in August 1971 was literally was a ‘mountain-top’ experience and I’ve never been the same since. A door opened for me, and I entered into the reality that a spiritual world that exists, at times parallel to this universe and at other times entwined within the daily heartbeats. Jesus is real and alive, sometimes given many different names, but the same energy that inhabited the man Jesus, still lives today.

After my mountain-top experience I returned to my home in Toronto and began to attend church. I’d attended as a child but had left in my teens for, as many of us experience, I didn’t find answers for my questions or the room to ask them. I returned now with different eyes and a quivering, yet grounded heart. Years passed, many Sundays, many small groups, many Easters. What I found was that many of the faith communities questioned the reality of Jesus and the reality of his resurrection. Easter was celebrated, but not believed. We attended many evangelical churches yet only a few people I met had actually encountered the Living Jesus. Most had heard about him, often wanted more of him, but had not looked him in the eye, not been humbled by him, not received his loving kindness. Doubts often seemed to plague their faith. They could quote scripture, but something was missing. For many years it puzzled me. It seemed we had made room in our churches for questions – yeah to that, but not room for transformational life.

One of the most joyful Easter celebrations I’ve known was within the Self-Realization Fellowship community, for they accepted the resurrection of Jesus. They knew he was alive, their teacher, friend and advocate. The air wasn’t cluttered with doubts, fears or confusion of beliefs. The air was clear, filled with trust and spiritual knowing. It held the desire for radical change. I was back on the mountain-top.

I’ve wondered during my church years why we spent so much energy going through Lent with study groups, sermon series and special services, yet so little time lingering in the fifty days of Easter. We hold Easter services yet don’t hold study groups for the next fifty days to ground us in the remarkable transformation that is ours as we encounter the Living Christ. And why, after Pentecost do we enter ‘Ordinary’ time in church liturgy? Why isn’t Easter the ‘Ordinary’ time? Why do we return to scraping through life rather than continue the celebration of transformation of everyday life by gracing it with an acknowledgement of ‘Transformation Time’?

I puzzle about this. I think I’ve shared my angst before and been delighted by stories some of you have shared about faith communities that honor the days of Easter. Yet I continue to puzzle about churches with people who don’t know the Living Christ. I puzzle about the spiritual awakening we need on earth. How will it happen? When will it happen? How can I be apart of bringing Easter to everyone, everywhere, everyday. Easter Everyday. Everyday Easter. Oh, to live in Transformation Time.

That’s Anne’s pondering over Easter weekend. What have you been pondering? How do you encounter Easter?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

You Have Heard….

“You have heard my fear-filled pleas

              and enveloped me with Love.”  (Nan Merrill, ‘Praying the Psalms’ Ps 31)

It began as an opening quote for our morning prayer at the Hermitage today but as I stood outside on the edge of the forest it became so much more.

You have heard my worry-filled pleas and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my anxiety-filled pleas and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my confused-filled pleas and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my hungry pleas and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my doubt-filled pleas and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my tears and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my uncertainty and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my attention-seeking pleas and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my grandiosity and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my exhaustion and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my anger and anger-filled pleas and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my joy and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my hopes and encompassed me with love.

You have heard my love and encompassed me with love.

You have heard me.

Always. Always. Always you have heard me.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Rock Solid

Ever hit a wild, whirlwind season of life? One with unanticipated twists and turns?                                                                           

This morning I was musing over the rambunctiousness of my last year, realizing there have been times when I’ve wondered just who I was and where God was hiding, but then I open my Lenten reading and found today’s picture – Ben Johnson’s ‘The Queen’s Room’. I dropped into the stillness held within the image.

Stillness. Spaciousness. Everything settles. I know who I am. And I know God’s Presence within and around me.

Stillness. I shudder at how often I’m swept up in the activity of life and loose sense of the deep stillness within. I desire to live more truly from the inner stillness of Divine Presence, to walk into a room and bring that deep peace and centredness with me as a gift to others. I desire to live open to Spirit’s flow.

Imagine a forest river making its way to the ocean. In the river is a rock, not huge, but sizeable. Sometimes, after a rainfall or in during the snow melt, the water roars and covers of the rock, but it’s still there, solid and sure. Sometimes, the river slows down, the level lowers and the rock is visible, sure and solid. Sometimes debris comes down the river banging against the rock, but it remains sure, solid, unchanging. Oh yes, after the years of water flow it still appears the same, yet even rocks are shaped by the water’s constant flow so it’s edges are softer, but it’s still rock, solid and sure.

‘The Queen’s Room’ spoke to me this morning, calling me out of the chaos of life and back to my Self. I’m a rock. In the midst of a turbulent year I’m a rock. May I live true to my Self, solid and sure, yet shaped with my rough edges softened by flow of life.

How’s your life these days?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living