Going Deeper into God

As a young girl I didn’t know why I was alive. I sought meaning, purpose and a sense of belonging. Then I sought Truth with a capital ‘T’. Jesus became alive to me and I immersed myself in a relationship with him – totally smitten. I got to know him better and better through the ups and downs of life. Now in this less active season of life my yearnings for spiritual depth have opened. I want more of God. I want to go deeper into the reality that holds the universe together. Hanging on to Jesus’ hand I ask him to take me with him a bit deeper into the heart of God.

I see more clearly that life is about our experience of God. We get distracted by achievement, accumulation, accomplishment. We get distracted by desires to be seen, known, to belong, desires for fame, wealth, power, affection, security and control. We get distracted by fears, worries, wounds and grudges. In my meditation practice I learn to recognize distractions and return to God. That is one of the strengths of a mediation practice, constantly seeing distractions and consciously choosing to release them and return to rest within God.

Distractions are all around externally and internally, but they’re not the main event. God is the main event. Going deeper into the Spiritual Heart of the universe is the main event. That is why we’re here on earth. First is our relationship with God, our experience of Love, Joy, Peace, Forgiveness. Out of that experience we can hear our mission, see our path and find the courage to walk it.  Out of that experience we can change the world.

But changing the world is not why I’m here. I’m here to open myself to God. It seems to me that people would rather hear about changing the injustices in the world. You can get grant money for that. But I’m saying that the most important part of life is not fighting injustice but opening your heart to more of God. Where or how God sends me is the Spirit’s business. I’m an employee of the Spirit. I’m not CEO or even upper management in the world. Seek the kingdom of God first. And then the world will be changed.

Seek the kingdom of God first. That’s it. I’ve heard it a zillion times. I’m beginning to actually ‘hear’ what Jesus, and all the other spiritual leaders, have been saying. God first. Go deeper into God.

This Mystic in Motion wants to deep dive.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Shalem Society Member with Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living  

A Life Slips Away

Last night, 5.45pm, I was alone driving the Sea to Sky Highway, going to my Tuesday yoga class. With COVID protocols in place we no longer carpool. It was a beautiful evening; the sun was still above the mountains, and the sky clear. I rounded a bend and saw the brake lights come on in the car ahead of me. There was a cluster of people on the left-hand side of the road. Across the barrier in the northbound land was a white car, upside down and torn apart, belongings scattered across the road. People were on their phones calling for help. One person knelt looking into the interior. This was a wreck, the car a write-off and mostly likely a Life slipping away. I decided not to stop. I know my presence can be helpful to people, but in this instance I felt my primary offering was prayer, so I entered more deeply into a place of prayer in my heart.

I continued to drive, but with a heavy heart. I took my exit and on the road below met an ambulance heading towards them. I entered yoga. One other class member had driven by the scene. She too said her response was to begin to pray. During our class we heard a helicopter with air rescue arrive on the scene.

An hour and half later I left my class, still carrying a prayerful heavy heart. The entrance ramp to the highway was strangely empty. In a couple of kilometers I saw the brake lights ahead of me. I too slowed down and soon turned off my engine. I had joined the pack of those in the enlarged circle of pain.

I don’t know the details of the accident. The news only covers the superficial info that traffic in both directions was blocked on the Sea to Sky Highway last night. We sat there, one, two three hours. Sometimes we’d slowly move forward a few yards, but mostly we sat as darkness surrounded us, and stars emerged. Twice emergency vehicles appeared and we maneuvered our cars to the edge of the highway to let them through. Then we turned off our engines again and sat so quietly in the encompassing darkness. No one tried to barge through the passageway we’d created. Once, I got out of my car to stretch and see what was ahead. All I could see was a line of mostly dark cars, waiting. Inside cars lights glowed as people focused on their phones. One child was protesting. A few dogs were out for a walk. Mainly we all sat quietly, silently in our cars. Drawn together by a bad turn, a roll-over no one had anticipated.

I felt a Life slip away. I wondered about that life, or lives. Who was it? Where were they going? What did they hope for? I wondered about the close circle around them and how radically their lives would be changed. I wondered about the hundreds of us stopped in the normal flow of life. Where were we going? Where were we not going to be going? How will these hours change our lives? Did anyone care what was happening to us? What if I’d been in my usual carpool car? I was content to be alone.

I couldn’t see the angels that all praying people in that traffic jam had stirred into action, but I could feel their presence. I felt both locked in and secure. Four hours passed. Four hours of waiting, of praying, of being still, of repeating my current mantra, of listening to some gentle music. I didn’t bring my glasses to yoga so that helped me be still rather than catch up on news, emails or games. At 10.15 an emergency vehicle drove down the other side of highway informing us that the highway would open in forty-five minutes. In the last half hour, I dialed in a movie.

They were true to the timing and shortly after 11.00pm we slowly began to move forward. It was still another thirty minutes to get home. Usually it’s ten minutes door-to-door. Last night it was four hours. But I got home; to a warm home, a husband who stayed up to welcome me, and food in my fridge. My life continues. But I witnessed another Life slip away and felt the impact we have on each other. I’ve watched people die, sat with them as they took their last breath. Sacred moments. In a perverse way I’m grateful for last night. In the darkness, in the creeping cold of the evening, God is present to me. Life comes and life goes. We know not how long we have. How shall we live today?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Shalem Society Member

Lingering Feel of the Wild

I climb the watershed road above our home most mornings now. I began in early February when it was still the rainy season. I decided to try it for a month – some exercise, some stretching as I start my day. I hold distant memories of when I used to get up by 6.00am, toss gym clothes on and head to the gym with a book or friend to let exercise start my day. The mountain behind me is my gym now so back in February I decided to give it a try.

By the end of first month I was hooked. I felt my body respond well to the morning climb. I began huffing and needed to catch my breath by the time I reached the flat space at the barricade at the top of the road where our friends live. Then I had to pause again at the level near the first reservoir, and then at the sharp turn before the climb to second reservoir. Heart pounding, breath short I would pause there too for the final climb. But after a month, my pauses were fewer. Now nine months later, my heart still beats heavily but I don’t need to pause anymore. I’ve gotten stronger physically, but I’ve also learnt my pace for climbing a steep slope. This isn’t a competition. It’s part of my morning meditation.

Somewhere within those first few weeks my morning walk became a delight. No one tells me to do it. I don’t even make myself do it. I want to climb the mountain road. Those trees and rocks call to me. I want to be with them. I want to feel the mountains, so solid, all around me. I want to hear the creek whether it’s a torrent or a trickle. I want to listen to the birds. It was so glorious when they arrived to sing every morning. It’s quiet now. And I so want to be with my rocks and trees. And the smells. And the air around them. And the mists that cover the mountains and dance through the trees.

Something happens up there each morning. I’ve found my comfortable spot to pause and pray, settling more deeply into Life, into Love. Last night as prepared for sleep I read a bit of Richard Wagamese who wrote about his dog walks and feeling the ‘lingering feel of the wild’. I wouldn’t presume to have his connection to nature, yet there is something that calls me into the mountain rainforest. I feel the call of the wild, the call of the free, the call of The Creator.

Coming out of our Thanksgiving Weekend, I’m so grateful to live so close to the wild, and to be able to know my Creator more deeply. As Hafiz says, ‘I have learned so much’ and there is so much more to learn. I’ll keep lingering, listening and learning.

What’s your connection to nature? Where? How do you feel?

Love and prayers from a wandering mystic

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Society Member of Shalem  

I Have a Friend

Around the same time I encountered ‘loneliness’, I also was thinking about ‘friendship’. Remember the old hymn, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’? We’ve talked about having Jesus as a friend, but what if he really was a friend to you? Think about friends and friendship. Maybe allow a good friend to come to your mind and your heart. How do you feel when you’re with them? What do you talk about? What part of your life do you share? What do ask them?

Back in the early days of Christianity there were people who knew Jesus as a friend. They ate with him, talked, laughed, worked, and walked with him. They listened to him, and worried about him. They knew him and trusted him. He was a friend.

After reading ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ a year ago, I began listening to Yoganada’s followers talk about him. He died in 1952 so there are still disciples that knew him or have been trained by those closest to him. They call him ‘Master’ because he is one who has mastered his senses, wasn’t controlled by them but was open to God’s Spirit and they call him ‘Friend’ for they knew him as a friend and feel his presence still with them. They trust him as you would trust your best friend. They know he will help them and that he has their good in his heart. They will say things like, ‘I know Master will help me. I just need to ask him.’ Listening to their devoted trust in their teacher has given new life to me to trust my friend Jesus. I know he is still alive and is attentive to me for I am one of his followers. The old words are taking on a new life, new experience for me.

During my friendship wanderings I once again re-wrote a favourite psalm.

The Lord is my friend. I have all that I need.

You’ve led me to solid mountains, flowing creeks, still trees and singing birds.

You have restored my soul.

The Lord is my friend. I have all that I need.

You’ve shown me some of the many paths that teach me how to live so your goodness can flow through me.

The Lord is my friend. I have all that I need.

Even if I walk through the valley of anger or sadness, or fear, or illness or even death, I know you are with me to guide me and comfort me.  

The Lord is my friend. I have all that I need.

When people around me are hurtful, betray me, misunderstand me, ignore me, I know you are always there. You notice me, nurture and nourish me. I know you place your hand on me for I feel full and overflowing.

The Lord is my friend. I have all that I need.

I am sure that your goodness and mercy follow me every day of my life. No matter where I go, you’ll always be with me. Every where. All the time.  

The Lord is my friend. I have all that I need.

****

How about you? Who is your Spiritual Friend? What does that friendship feel like?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Society Member, Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living.

Loneliness

If you’re hungry, you find something to eat. If you’re thirsty you reach for a drink. If you’re lonely perhaps like many of us you berate yourself, call yourself a loser and feel bad. Sound familiar?

What if loneliness was seen just as another basic human response to an essential human need? We need food so we get hungry. We need water so we get thirsty. We need human connection, so we get lonely.

What if being lonely wasn’t a shameful or bad feeling, but a healthy human indicator that needs a response. It is your psyche saying, time to talk to someone, go outside and smile at someone, look up family or friend, time to pick up a phone. That’s all it’s saying. Let go of the other rubbish.

Last week we watched Renee Fleming interview Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of America on her show ‘Music and the Mind’ regarding his book ‘Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World’. I really enjoyed his presentation. One thing he did was remove the stigma from loneliness and turn it into a healthy human attribute.

What a switch.

I found his whole presentation around how to survive, even thrive as a human so helpful. When we were children no one in my world talked like he did, offering guidance on how to navigate the rapids of human life. How to be genuinely kind and thankful when the world is cruel. How to connect intentionally and authentically with image and prestige are being promoted by others. Perhaps some of you got that as a child. I didn’t. I’ve learnt a lot as I matured, but still have so much to learn. The world is turbulent right now. We need to find compassionate ways to be together, to heal past wounds and create new ways going forward. We are meant to work together. As spiritual beings we are meant to draw on the Spirit source within us, everyday, not on special days or occasions but everyday, all day.  

Got a couple of good books on the go, but then I’m ordering ‘Together’!

I’ve got something else on loneliness and friendship for you next week, but in the meantime…. Wishing you all a warm and connecting week where you draw from the Source within.  

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Society Member, Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living.

Choices

I make choices. We all make them everyday.  This week I felt the cloak of judgement settle on me. Someone named an aroma of pride in me and I felt the judgement settle around me. Yes, I could smell the pride too, so I own the pride, but wrestle with the sense of judgement. I wonder if it comes from choices I make.

I was at the Blood Donor Clinic answering their long questionnaire. There is a little delight that creeps through me as I continue to check the ‘no’ boxes on the medical form. I’m 71 and I don’t take any meds. I have no underlying conditions. And yes, I can feel a bit of pride in being able to check those boxes, so when someone hinted that my pride was connected to self-righteousness I had to pause and consider.

What’s this pride about my health? What’s responsible for my health? Am I in control of it? Hardly, for partly I have my Dad’s genes and he had nothing to do with doctors till his very last years, dying at home from a heart attack at 89.  Partly I have my mom’s genes that weren’t so healthy but something inside me decided years ago that I didn’t want to follow her route, so I make food and exercise choices. Partly I suppose it’s the gift of this body for this life and in that I’m grateful. I appreciate a body that works well even as it ages. Partly I’m healthy because of genes I inherited but also because of choices I’ve made.

I think here the feeling of judgement creeps in. Some of my health comes from the emotional work I’ve done. I don’t carry a lot of emotional baggage anymore. I’m very content with my imperfections including my need to be perfect! That work reduces my stress level enormously which I’m sure leads to good body health. When something gets triggered in me, which it does, like this need to process pride, I try to clean my emotional house. I don’t like internal clutter, junk of the past that I trip over. My current lifestyle is also my choice and contributes to my health. It’s gentle, I’m open to doing more, but careful what I let in. I don’t want to overextend as I’ve done in the past. Been there done that, don’t need to do it again, but am willing to serve however I’m called. Right now, it’s that small circle I’ve written about. And I’m certainly healthy through my spiritual practices, ways of being that nourish my inner sense of Self, of connection with God’s Love, Joy, Peace and Wisdom.

I do choose to engage in spiritual practices just like I choose what to eat, but I don’t make those choices out of duty, or to look good or to belong to a group. I make those choices out of a wonderful, warm embrace of God. I feel close to something that I name as God. I know there is so much more I might experience, but I value what I have known and want more and more and more.

Possibly the core of my health is that yearning for more of God in my life, more Love, more Joy, more Peace, more Wisdom, more Gentleness, more Kindness, more Forgiveness…. I hope you know what I mean. I simply want More of MORE God. And I’ve discovered that not everyone does. For years I thought everyone needs to discover what I’ve peeked at, but I’ve come to realize that not everyone wants to peek down the pathways that I want to run down. Is that why I feel the label of judgement? I’m sort of okay now with people who don’t want to join me on spiritual cleansing paths, but maybe not completely and maybe they feel an inner judgement from me. It’s hard for me to understand why people are so caught up in the things of this life when there is so much MORE and that MORE makes this life much more wonderful. But then, I’ve only my life to live, not theirs. I need to let them live their life, walk their path and me grow in loving them just as they are. There’s room for me to grow there.

I know I feel warmth and affection toward the one that rightly named my health pride. I’m glad they did. Yet I’m also happy to make the choices that I do make about how to live my life. I wish they knew that my choices come from Love, from being loved and I kinda think they don’t know that LOVE yet as a daily life-giving fountain. That’s my basic life choice; I choose Love, more Love.

Rambling Thoughts from a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Society Member of Shalem Institute

 

 

The Big Beyond

I walked The Creek Path after a neighbour had done some more work on it and gasped. He had cleared off some of the forest rubble tossing it further down the cliffside, leaving me with a clear view of path. It looked more like a garden walkway than a trail through the forest.

When I started this project in March I was scraping away at the forest, the rubble on the ground, the rocks, trees, ferns, stumps and watching for the critters that live there. First Rebecca and Jas joined me as Great Quarantine Project took shape and then when John our neighbour and Master Trail Builder joined the project it literally took off. John brought his expertise to create switchbacks, his chainsaw for the trees, four-foot crowbar to move rocks and his delight in playing in the forest. Trudi and Rose have helped too with rakes and willing hands to move stones and clear the forest.

It’s not finished but there is now a clear path down the hillside from our home to the creek. What was in February rough forest is now a hillside, natural garden. The path is edged with rocks or tree limbs, with stairs at some of the steep points and even stairs that sweep gracefully around a tree trunk. It has been thoughtfully and lovingly created. I’m grateful.

As I study the different faith traditions, I see centuries of Master Trail Builders at work. My longing for a creek path is mirrored in my longing to discover the source of life, to know why we are all here on this planet, to know the purpose of life. I’ve asked those questions since I was a young girl. Smith’s book makes me feel so normal. For thousands of years humans have asked those same questions. I used to think I was odd for asking them for no one else in my home and few in my friendship circles were driven by them. He takes those questions and shows how faith traditions have approached them. My desire for spiritual knowledge is as old as humankind.

In the common desire to reach the creek, the source of life, people have discovered answers and created many pathways. Although there is diversity there is also so much similarity in the practices. Doesn’t it show a common source? I think many of the differences are cultural and historical. When I comb through the practices, I can see a path, one that allows for differences in temperaments, callings and stages of faith development. But the path is there. It’s for us to clear off the rubble so we can see it and then walk it. Some of the rubble I needed to clear away are my own theological limitations, my own western dominance worldview. Long before the western world developed, people in valleys and villages of Asia were asking the same questions I asked as a young girl in Toronto. Can I not listen to their answers and learn from them?

I needed help to reach the creek. I need help to live into the spiritual reality that I know exists. I am willing to learn from the Master Trail Builders of faith traditions, people who have been sent to us to teach us the way into The Big Beyond. There is a way to live that will align us with the spiritual reality that is bigger than our everyday existence. There is a path. I can see it. Can you? What does your path look like? Where does it take you?

Love and prayers from a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

There’s More to That Story!

 

Sometimes a trip into town can be most surprising. Today was one of those days.

As I headed into town to do a few errands I listened to a podcast from Michael Meade with ‘Living Myth’. I didn’t know anything about him. It simply was the first one that showed on my app and the title was intriguing. Off down the highway I went and soon found myself enjoying his social commentary from a contemplative perspective. He was telling a story about three fish and nestled within that story was another one about a wise bird. Although his main social commentary was coming from these animal stories, he also was describing the role of story, folk stories and myths in human culture. He said the stories exist not for us to believe them, but to learn from them.  They are a means for one generation to teach another. Ah….will I allow myself to move from belief into learning, into transformation, into new ways, into something new being birthed????

During my first few decades within the church being a Christian involved knowing what to believe. I was taught ‘correct’ doctrine through sermons, small groups and independent study of authors who taught ‘correct’ theology. I did hours of Bible study that was shaped by commentaries with a particular perspective. I was taught apologetics, so I’d have a ‘correct’ answer to any question. It was all about belief.

What if we read the Jesus stories not to believe them but to learn from them? I was taught that it was important to believe that each detail of the Gospel stories was true. The belief in historical reality was what was important, not that I ponder and be shaped by the truth within the stories.  Later I learned to pray with the gospel stories using my imagination. Jesus became so real to me. I watched him laugh, sweat and fall asleep. I sat with him as a child and walked with him as a man. He wasn’t a storybook character, nor theological construction, nor a remote divinity. He was a real man, who knew me and cared for me. He wanted to hear my questions, my worries and my discoveries. His love for me began to change me as I allowed him to give me his wisdom.

I’m grateful for my years of scripture study. And I’m grateful too that now I can still learn from those stories, as well as the stories within different traditions. I’m grateful that I’m not constrained by specific beliefs, but allowed to constantly grow and change, held and shaped by a compassionate, loving God who I know through Jesus.

It was a great trip into town. I came home with new plants for the garden, food for tomorrow’s picnic, reaffirmed in my perspective on being a spiritual human and having found a thoughtful person who is doing his bit to bring some help into our groaning, smokey world. Of course all done keeping social distance and mask on!

Where are you at today? Learning or believing?

Love and questions from a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Shalem Society Member

Learning to Climb a Mountain

 

I’m getting stronger as I walk the mountain road behind my home. At first, I needed to catch my breath several times but now I can walk the whole way without pausing. Slowly. Step by step. A gentle pace, but I can do it. I’m learning to climb my mountain.

When I began my Christian journey although I had a delicious outpouring of God’s love, I ended up in a legalistic world of correct behaviour and doctrine. Years later I re-discovered grace and experienced again, in a more integrated way the warm embrace of acceptance. Now into the fifth decade of my journey I’m returning to a world I left behind in 1971. I have a strong base in my Jesus experience which is rooted in both scripture and mysticism, and now from that base camp I’m exploring what other faiths have taught over the thousands of years.

One of the pieces that I hear is that there is room for both action and grace. Knowing God’s grace-filled loving presence and saying ‘yes’ to that, I’m also invited into whole-hearted devotional commitment to God reflected in daily life. There are ways for me to learn and to practice that will lead me deeper into my life with God, within God. I have things to learn about climbing the spiritual mountain. I wonder if I’ve been on autopilot and now am being invited into hands-on flying.

In some of the other traditions I find a strong devotional heart and intentional practice that goes deeper than either the early legalism I encountered or the monastic structures of my later life. I’m invited to be an active co-participant in life. My daily choices make a difference to the whole universe. I’m not to be passive, receiving the gifts and grace of God, but asking with assurance as a child, for them. ‘Reveal yourself to me’. And intentionally structuring my days to live a selfless, devoted life.

Perhaps there is a sense that familiarity breeds contempt. Have I heard these things within the Christian world and not accepted them, or not to the depth I do now? Possibly, yet I smell I different aroma as wander through many traditions. I see the millions of people over the millennium who have searched for answers, hungered for purpose, and found pathways to God. They have worked hard and said ‘Here is a pathway.’ They have sought to learn to climb mountains and walk in deep valleys while engaged in Spirit Life.

I’ve held to a rhythm of life for the last ten years, and now I hear an invitation to a more intentional shape to that rhythm. Time to put on some crampons and head more deeply up the mountainside. So much to learn. So many ways to grow. Sometimes I feel like I’m just beginning.

How’s your climb going? Are you living on autopilot or intentionally? Are you climbing with me?

Love and prayers from a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

New Perspective

 

 

The Sun is warm and embracing, yet a cool breeze dances around me. I’m watching the tide go out on Manson’s Lagoon. There are a handful of tiny people on the other side exploring what’s left in the tide waters. Gulls and a heron are feeding. I’ve walked out to one of the lagoon islands for my morning meditation and watched the trickle of water head back out to the ocean. I could sit here for the day. It’s one of my favourite spots on the earth.

Sitting on the edge of the lagoon, I can see its dry bed, the open waters of the sound, the mountains of Vancouver Island and the sky stretching above me. Dry – Open – Solid – Stretching. My imagination is caught in the flow of the tides, and the sense of being on this planet within the cosmos. I feel on the edge.

When I sense this edge, everything else shifts; the struggles of life both mine and in the world, the uncertainties, the stumbles, the hopes, the possibilities, all these take on a different hue. The Edge Keeper becomes more real to me. I’m not alone on the edge.

This week I read a story, so timely after last weeks ‘Troubled Waters’. The writer was asking an elder how to bring change into the world. The elder after a long pause throws a stone into a pond. “That’s how you bring change into the world, one ripple at a time”. Change comes as I change myself, and then focus on loving those closest to me. I don’t save The World, I bring healing to my tiny portion of it. Can I do that? Can I love those in my most intimate circle? Can I create a space safe enough for their soul to show up? Last night I spoke a harsh word at someone. Guess I still I have much more to learn. At least I heard it. Now I can apologize for it.

Dry – yes sometimes I’m dry even harsh and spiky like oyster shells on the bottom of the lagoon.

Open – yes I will live open to change, to acknowledging my spiky parts, my dry parts.

Solid – yes I know The Edge Keeper who is so solid, so sure, so constant, so loving.

Stretching – yes I will be stretched to let go of old ways and be loved into new ways.

I’m grateful to live on the edge, watching the flow of life, willing to be change in my tiny spot on the earth.

Love and prayers

From a Mystic in Motion

Anne

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder