Holy Waiting: Journey into Darkness

This year I’m going to offer four advent reflections that will move us from darkness into The Light. Prepare yourself to join me on this journey. Today as we begin our journey into Advent, I invite you to find a candle, a match, a timer and a Bible. Open the Bible to Isaiah, Chapter 9, Verse 2 and set it by your side.

First some reflection —- Right now, as I live in the Northern Hemisphere, I’m in the darkest season of the year. From October 21 to December 21 each day, we’re heading into deeper darkness. For years I have resisted the shortness of these days but this year, as several people mentioned this season to me, I found my attention drawn to the many shades of darkness. I’m not resisting it as I have before. I’m more open and accepting of the short days and descending darkness. I realize there are many kinds of darkness.

There’s Fearful Darkness. When I was a child, I was so sure there were ‘bogey men’ out there, or snakes creeping around! Even as an adult, standing in the deepest dark of the night can be disconcerting. What is that sound???? When I can’t see much around me, my imagination can begin to play games so I’m not always comfortable walking up our unlit street at night. And then there are the times of emotional darkness, times uncertainty, unsettledness, unknowing. Sometimes it can feel dark even when the sun shines. Those are times of emotional darkness. And yes, I can still be scared in that dark!

There’s Lonely Darkness. Sometimes darkness can highlight the sense of loneliness. If only there was someone with me, it wouldn’t seem so dark. Their human presence would bring a light to me. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve felt alone and lonely. Sometimes it’s a physical loneliness for there is no other human with me. Other times it’s a mental loneliness when my ideas, beliefs or experiences separate me from others and there is no warm human companion walking with me. Sometimes it’s a spiritual loneliness when God seems so distant. I would name those as ‘dark’ times, difficult times.

There’s Womb Darkness. We all began our earthly lives in the darkness of the womb. That’s warm darkness, heartbeat darkness, nourishing darkness. That’s the darkness that allows seeds to sprout. Jesus began his earthly life in the very same way as you and I did, curled up within Mary’s womb, feeling her heart beat, being nourished by the food she ate, protected and cared for by her. During her pregnancy, I wonder how many times Mary repeated to herself and to God, ‘Not my will but Yours be done.’? Each time she repeated her desire to be open to God, Little Jesus within, heard her. How nourishing that might have been for His Spirit. Darkness can be warm and nourishing. It can bring forth new life.

Now some experience. —- Set the timer for five minutes. Turn off as many lights as you can and begin to sit in darkness. Wait in darkness. Become aware of what it’s like for you to be in darkness, to not know what is around you, what is coming. Experience the uncertainty, even the discomfort, perhaps the fear of the darkness. Be patient with everything unresolved in your life, every unknown aspect, every shadow that flickers. Just be present within the darkness.  If you can, sit for the full five minutes, then light the candle and read Isaiah 9.2.

Allow that verse to be yours: You are a person who has walked in darkness, and now you can see a light.

The Advent Journey requires that we spend some time in darkness, knowing pain and difficulty. Being pregnant isn’t easy! There is no way it could have been all easy for Mary. May we pause long enough to acknowledge that we too, sometimes, wait in darkness, with unresolved ideas, relationships or decisions.

In the midst of our seasonal darkness, let us be patient. More light will come. In time. But we must wait.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way” with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

 

Just One Letter Different

Vector Single Doodle Sketch Illustration - The Letter LI love the games that our English languages plays, like the way ‘ear’ and ‘hear’ are embedded within ‘heart’. Hmmm so is ‘art’! Today I found a new one. ‘Compete’ and ‘Complete’ are distinguished by just one letter ‘L’.

If only we could stop competing with each other and LOVE each other more, wouldn’t the human journey be more complete?

As I reflect, I can see that I’ve been so competitive in my life. I’m not athletic so it didn’t come out in sports and trophies, but I sure did like accumulating every badge possible at camp! I’m not particularly brilliant so it didn’t come out in academic achievements, but I did manage to acquire a few degrees and physical prizes along the way which somehow still made the cut in The Great Purge when we moved west. They are sitting on my bookshelf as I write.

So yes, I can acknowledge a level of competitiveness, but there is something else, just one letter different 2something deep within. I can sense something embedded within me that competes. I want to be noticed, known and valued. I worked in places that didn’t value me as a woman or as a contemplative. From this safe distance I can feel a competitive spirit driving me to be accepted and valued as both a woman and the offering of a contemplative pathway. Oh yes, I can see that some of my offerings came from a desire to show those active oriented men a thing or too!

What if I focused on loving? What if self-compassion (noticing and valuing myself) and compassion for others was my driving force instead of competition to be noticed? What if I inserted an ‘l’ into compete? Would I feel more complete? I think I would.

just one letter different 4So practically this week how will I do that? I could be more attentive to being in the present moment, to seeing who is around me, hearing what is happening and listening to whoever I am with. I could be more aware of my choices of activities and motivations with a gentle reflection during the day and at the end of the day. I could be attentive to any negative voices that whisper (or shout!) in my mind, anything negative about myself or another, anything that breathes competition and firmly open the escape hatch to let them go. I will not feed those monsters but will set my course to walk gently and bow often, to live from a place of completion not competition.

How about you? ‘Competing’ or ‘Completing’?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

‘Companion on the Way’ of Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

Lessons from My Dog

Lessons from My Dogmy job waiting with hope dog and ball

One more time my dog is my spiritual teacher! If you have one, or have ever had one, you probably know what I mean. Time and again their love and presence have offered me deep spiritual truths. It happened again this week.

We’ve been looking after our ‘grandpuppies’ for the last three weeks. One day Finn started his dinner dance about 4.30 in the afternoon. I’m NOT going to feed him then. lessons from my dog 3Right! I’m NOT. I’m NOT. He locks his eyes on me. I turn my head away, plowing deep into my book. Then the nails start clacking. The dinner dance had begun. He’d moved from the deep concentrated stare to the dance with prancing and jumping added to the deep stare. The final level comes when he adds in a bark or two. Just random barks that I accompany the prance and are always tied to that deep concentrated stare. When he is in full flow, he is one powerful beast!

Wouldn’t you know it, but just this week I’ve been reading in my meditation course about concentration. You know when Jesus says we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? Well my mediation teacher takes those verses and says, ‘Yes! We’re to apply all of our being, our feelings, our thoughts, our whole energy towards God. Everything. Everything. We’re to apply deep concentration in our prayers, in our meditations.’ Just like Finn throws his whole being into convincing me to give him dinner at 4.30, I’m to throw my whole being into an openness towards God within meditation and within life. Just like Finn.

Honestly, over my Christian life, I’ve spent hours in prayer, but really, how much of that lessons from my dog 2time have I done a ‘dinner dance’ with God? How much of that time has been fully concentrated on God, not taking my eyes off, prancing and jumping, evening barking till I get what I’m looking for? How much? Honestly not that much. My mind wanders. A lot. It’s not that I don’t seek God and love God, it’s just that my mind wanders and I’m still much of the time, lost in my mind.

One more time, my dog is my spiritual teacher. I have so much to learn. I am humbled by how much I still have to learn.

What lessons has your dog taught you?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder Contemplative Fire (Canada)

A Question One Morning

 

Ask yourself this question: “Have I ever tried to do anything that nobody else has ever done?”

In my devotional readings this morning, that was a question that jumped right off the page and into my lap!

I’m the youngest of three daughters. As a young person, even into my early twenties, I often felt that I couldn’t do anything my older sisters hadn’t already done. I went to the same primary school, high school and university. I attended the same summer camp and the went on the same family holidays. I felt defined by those objective events and blind to the uniqueness of ‘Anne’.

When I juggled that question around in my lap, I began to find many things that I had done that nobody else had done in the world. I began to savour anew my uniqueness. Some of the unique things I found were on the showy side, the upfront side, the side that can be noticed in the world. Other things were quieter, small everyday expressions of creativity. I appreciate that I was given the privilege of bringing Contemplative Fire into Canada – that’s on the upfront side of life. It touched my creative side and has been a real joy to me. I appreciate too that I was gifted with being able to birth four amazing young women. They are like no one else in the world. But creativity is in everyday things too. I moved from Stibbard Avenue in Toronto to Oceanview Road in Lions Bay. I don’t think anyone else, besides my husband has done that! Let’s get into even smaller everyday things looking for creativity. A dear one taught me how to open my closet and create an outfit to wear each day that will give me joy! No one else in the world will have that particular outfit on, on that particular day!

The devotional writer was stirring our creative energy. He was teaching us how we are within our spirit united to God’s Spirit. We are to relax and follow our intuition. It will lead us into a creative expression in the world, one that only we can make. I know deeply the presence of God within each one of us. Will we listen. Will we be awake spiritually, attentive to the movements within us? And listening, will we respond and move within the creative flow, saying ‘YES!’?

Ask yourself this question: “Have I ever tried to do anything that nobody else has ever done?”

Celebrate the goodness that is YOU.

 

Love and Prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Founder (Canada) of Contemplative Fire

www.contemplativefire.ca

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Easter Reflections: God is Enough, More Than Enough

 

(( I love that Easter, within the church year, lingers for fifty days. I penned these words just after our Easter celebration 2019))

Last week I experienced The Abundance of God. Today I linger in my pjs till noon, a bit exhausted by the abundance! I found one of those waves of the Spirit and rode it all week so today, I’m tossed on the shore to delight in the experience. God is enough, more than enough.

The week was full of activities, with people, with conversations, with experiences and ideas being exchanged, with errands and appointments that make up life, with meals out with family and new friends, with an abundance of worship services and punctuated with a day of fasting and prayer.

In the midst of the flow of Holy Week I heard the voice of The Loving Spirit drawing me closer. As I sat in a contemplative prayer service around the last supper with Jesus and his friends, he called me to trust him. The words were both surprising for they weren’t in the text, but also so familiar and real. Again and again I’ve heard the invitation to trust God’s Spirit, to lean into the presence within me. Surrender. Let the Spirit carry me forward. I am to be open.

On Friday as I held a crucifix in my hands and then later sat in front of a cross, I began to wonder what in me needs to die so I can trust more deeply, so I can live surrendered into loving arms. I realize I’ve prayed that same prayer, perhaps different words, but the same prayer, for over forty-five years. I’ve carried an inner sense that there something in me that blocks the free flow of God into the world through me and I long for that block to be released, for the dam to be broken, so more and more of God’s healing presence might flow through me.

Easter Sunday gifted me with the words of Jesus to Mary in the garden, ‘Don’t hold on to me.’ Ah yes, trust, let go, surrender. Are there old beliefs, labels, perspectives that no longer serve me? I’m in a new life here, finding new ways forward. It’s time to trust even more deeply, trust the goodness, the abundance of God.

God is enough, more than enough.

Today our home is drenched in a cloud. I can see the first few meters of trees, but that is all. The sun will re-appear. I know I can trust that. Resurrection is a part of life. Everyday. Everywhere. The sun is always shining somewhere. There is always new life happening. I trust. It is into that goodness I surrender, letting go of old ways, prescribed ways of being, old doubts and fears.

God is enough, more than enough.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

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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

Anne

Mystic in Motion

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Cocoon

(((I wrote this blog late January, but never posted it)))

I last wrote to you in mid December. Since then I’ve felt silent, very quiet. Although invitations come to be engaged in many activities, and although our social circles in our new BC Village Life are expanding, I’ve found myself stilled deep within. I feel as though I’m wrapped in a cocoon. I’ve entered it as a caterpillar and I’ve no idea what my new form will be when I emerge.

I also don’t know when I will emerge. Will it be this winter, the coming summer, next year, five years, ten years? I simply don’t know. I do know… I’m not in charge. I can’t make the internal change happen. I’m the recipient of the transforming work. Gee I hope I like myself when I flap my wings on the other side! ……I know I will.

I’ve come to value and enjoy myself so much over these last ten or twenty years. I’m so grateful to the contemplative tradition, the Contemplative Fire community, and the individuals who have nurtured my soul over these years. I’ve experienced so much inner healing. In the last thirty years I’ve moved from holding a deep pain within me, to feeling the brightness and warmth of internal sunshine.

Much of my healing journey has related to my contemplative practices. I learnt how to pray with scriptural meditations, then spent hours journaling in the scriptures learning to open my soul to God to hear what the Spirit wanted me to know. I had days and weeks on retreat  where I was cared for by my spiritual directors. My first one back in the 1990’s was very special for me. He was so open, honest and challenging with me. He saw the depths of my hurt and didn’t draw back but stayed present with me and called me out to play with him. In contemplative community life I learned so many ways to pray, each one slightly different, each allowing me to face my shadows and not fear them any longer, each one speaking more of loving acceptance to me. Then within the security of the contemplative world I could engage with emotional therapy and integrate the two worlds of therapy and prayer. I’m so grateful to the many, many people who have walked with me over the last thirty years of my healing journey.

Now I’m in a new place, and I’m sensing a cocoon all around me. I’m to be still and quiet during this season. I’m grateful for the healing I’ve experienced. I can trust now that being still and being transformed into a new life will be okay. I don’t know what my new life will be like, but I do know the one who has wrapped me in this cocoon and is with me within it. I trust. I TRUST. I TRUST LOVE.

love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion (or not!)

Time to Begin Again!

 

I love the way things just happen! As I was reading my morning thoughtful book today something shifted inside me. I found myself ready once again to write some blogs. I’ve been reluctant to write since Christmas. I wrote one in January called ‘Cocoon’ describing how I have been feeling these last few months. I’ll post it soon. But today, something changed.

Is it because I live in a village where I meet authors? Last night we had a Volunteers Appreciation Event. It’s another story about how I ended up there, for we’ve only been in this village for six months, but there I was at a table with two published authors. One of them I know quite well and the other, I’ve read one of her books, but never chatted with her before. Two days earlier I was in one of my village book clubs, chatting with another village author.

In this small village there are so many accomplished people. In six months I’ve met dancers, artists and authors, structural engineers, accountants, lawyers and trauma doctors, designers of water parks, sea captains and airline pilots, nurses, social workers and paramedics, home schoolers, mountaineers, pastry chefs and end-of-life doulas. The list goes on and on and on. Most of all, I’ve met kind, generous and good people. Each one welcoming of newcomers into their village.

So last night, at the Volunteer Appreciation Event, as we sat in a rain forest drizzle at the local beach, sipping wine and eating pizza, something got stirred up in me. I recalled thirty-five years ago when I began writing a Harlequin Romance – yes I did! But… I didn’t finish it.  I’ve started writing my spiritual memoir … but not finished that either. I tired one time to pull my devotional writings together into a book….but  – you guess it, that’s not finished either.

I’m feeling like it’s time to begin again, but probably not the Harlequin Romance!

I’m not ready to commit to a weekly blog like I did before. I am ready to begin writing and I’ll post as I go along. You might never know when you’ll hear from me. I do enjoy hearing from you Gentle Reader, but truthfully, I write for myself. I think things through as I write. I record them. If they are helpful to you – that’s a joy.

Do you have things that you’ve begun and not finished? How do you know when you’re ready to begin again?

Today I have joy in my heart. Not an adrenaline pounding excitement, but a simple warm, deep glow. Writing is a part of who I am. I’m delighted to be able to tap/write again.

I wonder what will emerge. I wonder where it will lead me/us.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Patient Trust

 

 

I first found the reading “Patient Trust’ from Teilhard de Chardin at the end of a book on contemplative leadership by Ruth Haley Barton. (Its at the end of this note if you’re not familiar with it) Instantly I knew I needed to live into the truth that he wrote about. After a time, I put it aside, but it re-appeared about a year and half later when I was on a Centring Prayer retreat. I was in the midst of a major life discernment and again felt convicted that his words were for me. After that I shared it with the Contemplative Fire leadership team and our Board Chair kept bringing it to every meeting we had. For the last sixteen months we’ve read it again and again. On Friday I joined the Contemplative Fire leadership via Skype and we read it again at both of our meetings.

This time I felt us moving through the period of instability and some sense of a future emerging for the community. I also found through those group conversations that personally I was emerging from the darkness and instability. I am beginning to find my feet, to touch ground here. The team helped me see the invitations that I’m receiving as beginning to touch solid land again. I sit back amazed at how many invitations I’ve had in these three, full but short, months. I can see so many doors opening before me. Light coming through those doors. There is a new life for us here.

It doesn’t matter that our pictures aren’t hung, or that there are still piles of things on the floor, or that I keep moving things around or that the workmen just knocked down the stairs leading to the house and found rotten wood! The instability all around me is just the way it is but it doesn’t claim me as it had in the past. My feet are beginning to touch solid ground again. I’m grateful that I know Deep Joy and that I smile in the midst of our mess. It’s such a lovely feeling when I’m swimming in deep water and then feel the bottom with my toes. I trust in the slow work of God, gently drawing me to feel the solid bottom again.

I’m writing Advent Reflections for Contemplative Fire. If you don’t receive them, go to www.contemplativefire.ca or our Facebook page to find them. I think I will focus the next few weeks on Advent and re-appear after Christmas.

Please receive ‘Patient Trust’ as my Christmas gift to you! Enjoy. Let’s be kind to each other. Let’s trust in the slow work of God in our lives, and the lives of those we care about.

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability —

and that it may take a very long time…..

 

And so I think it is with you:

your ideas mature gradually – let them grow.

Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow.

 

Only God could say what this new spirit,

gradually forming within you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accepting the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

 

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Community Leader, Canada

Birthdays

When I was a child, we barely acknowledged birthdays. I recall a party when I was four and another when I was ten, but the other years….. I know my mother bought a cake at Loblaws. I can still see the roses and taste that icing! But I don’t recall much of a fuss let alone a ‘celebration’ of me, or of anyone else on their birthday.

Fast forward twenty years till I had my own four daughters. At some moment it settled in on me that we were supposed to celebrate birthdays! It wasn’t a lightning bolt that told me how to be an attentive mom, but rather the invitations to other family’s parties. Oh… that’s what happens around birthdays! Gradually I learnt, and I have memories of some fun parties: the puppy party when we celebrated a puppy turning one and a daughter who loved him turning seven so all the guests brought a dog and we played dog games; a scavenger hunt party at Black Creek Pioneer Village that got invaded by a re-enactment of the Rebellion of 1837; the sleepover parties with movies and late-night games and discussion; chocolate log cakes and fireworks on cottage beach; costume parties and decorating Smurf cakes. I hope my girls have memories too.

This week I celebrated my birthday in our new home. The family had asked me what I wanted for I was turning 70 and that seemed to be a special year to celebrate, but I couldn’t come up with anything that was a longing within me. I finally acknowledged that I’m in a new place without friends and I’m still absorbed by the move so lets just keep it simple and us.

When the day came, I found myself very touched by the phone calls, emails, and texts. Even a card and a present survived the postal disruption to arrive at my home and somehow fresh flowers  arrived too which may not seem like much to you city dwellers, but here in the country where delivery people laugh when i tell them where I live…..was a treat.  I’m not a Facebook person, but those notes too popped into my inbox. I felt surrounded by people, known and appreciated. I wasn’t alone. Yes, I’m in a new place. I have no ‘friends’ here, but I’m still within a circle of people I care about and who care for me.

During the week, as I prepared the Village meditation group (did I tell you I’m hosting an introductory one in the Village for November?), I found Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama’s book that I really enjoyed last year. They wrote it to celebrate their 80th birthdays, ‘The Book of Joy’. I think it’s a treasure. They describe how each day is our birth-day. Each day we get to celebrate and begin anew. Ahh… each day is a day we bring new life into the world. Each day we can set our intention to be light, to express kindness, to extend compassion. Each day is our birth-day. Hmm… I think that means too that each day we get to laugh a lot, play a game or too and eat Smurf cake!

How do you celebrate birthdays? How might that be part of your everyday-birthday?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! 

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Community Leader, Canada