Great First Meeting

Hi, just a thank you to those to came to the first “Gold In The City” Friday meeting, this evening. It was a great and historic beginning. Thank you for all your contributions. I don’t think I have ever been in such a rich and magnetic “silence” as this. See you all next Tuesday.

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Gold In The City

I am delighted to announce the start of a new initiative in Southampton to support those interested in the contemplative life from a Christian perspective. Every Friday evening at 7.30pm and every Tuesday morning at 7am there will be a meeting at the address below for anyone who would like to develop their contemplative meditation practice. Initially I will teach the Centering Prayer model, but as interest grows I am sure we will explore other methods for exploring the silent, prayer of the heart.

To read more and perhaps catch a glimpse of the reason for the title of this initiative, Gold In The City, please visit the link here. The venue is The Retreat, 148 Athelstan Road, Bitterne Southampton SO19 4DF. The first meeting will happen this coming Friday 3 August 2012.

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Preparation for Pentecost

At a recent meeting at Bridge Christian Fellowship, Southampton, UK, I used the following information. Feel free to download these pdf’s and use in your study/reflections /meditations: 01 Dew Station   02 Oil Station   03 Rain Station   04 Seven Station   05 Fire Station  [Context Explained]   Opening Scripture   James & Gracie (an mp3 recording of my grandchildren aged 6 & 4 years old, who memorised Psalm 24, and were delighted to show me their skills!)

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Log lesson

Earlier this week I went off to the forest for a walk. I was so impressed with the stillness and beauty of the surroundings I decided to spend 20 mins in centering  prayer. As I went inwards, sitting on a log (left in pic), I became conscious that I was sharing the moment with a group of about a dozen flies. Periodically, and for no apparent reason, they just flew into the air and landed back down again in the same place.

The problem was their corporate wing noise was really loud and disturbing my silence. I even found a stick and gentle waved it in their direction, hoping they would move on. But they just ignored me and kept buzzing. As I watched my internal reaction I was gently reminded by the Holy Spirit that I was in danger of acting like the local park bully, who goes across and steals the ball from the little ones. In the silence I became aware of my complete insensitivity to the lovely game these flies were playing. They had been here long before I had arrived! It was their playground. What right had I to turn up and demand they should move on so I could sit in the external silence – how arrogant of me. Having heard God speak to my pride once again, I humbled myself, said thank you to the flies and carried on praying, consenting to the interior silence – in total acceptance of their joyful game.

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Welcome!

This is my first post for over a year now! Apologies for the quietness – some of the reasons will become plain in due course, as I start writing afresh.

To those who may have come here as a result of listening to my interview with Martin today at Bridge CF, Southampton, I extend a very warm welcome to you. If you want a quick follow up on Centering Prayer, please click on Centering Prayer in the Categories column (right side) or go to the resources page and you will find all you need. There are also a lot of useful resources buried deep in the previous posts, so have a good hunt around.

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The News reporting the News [squared]

Living in the moment really does make people happier (or A Wandering Mind Is An Unhappy Mind)

[I was given this article, found in the December 2010 issue of Therapy Today, link, reporting on an article in The Guardian, reporting on an article that appeared in the journal, Science!]

Happiness is found by living in the now, particularly if the now involves having sex, according to a major study into mental wellbeing. But the study also found that people spend nearly half their time (46.7 per cent) thinking about something other than what they are actually doing.

Psychologists at Harvard University collected information on the daily activities, thoughts and feelings of 2,250 volunteers to find out how often they were focused on what they were doing, and what made them most happy. They found that people were happiest when having sex, exercising or in conversation, and least happy when working, resting or using a home computer. And although subjects’ minds were wandering nearly half of the time, this consistently made them less happy. The team conclude that reminiscing, thinking ahead or daydreaming tends to make people more miserable, even when they are thinking about something pleasant.

The authors write in the journal Science: ‘A human mind is a wandering mind and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.‘ (See link)

Asked why people seemed to be particularly focused during sex, Matthew Killingsworth, lead author of the study, observed: ‘Sex is one of the few broad categories of activity that requires and perhaps benefits from our full attention.’

More than 5,000 people have signed up for the happiness study. You can take part in the study at: www.trackyourhappiness.org (The Guardian)

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Crossing Unmarked Snow

Christmas and new year are very sociable times for most of us. We meet up with family and friends with plenty of opportunity for conversation – and, I suggest, a chance to be mindful of the exchange of so many words. In a blend of truth meeting beauty the poet William Stafford writes four rich sentences in a book appropriately named for our current season of whiteness, Crossing Unmarked Snow. He says, ‘The things you do not have to say make you rich. Saying the things you do not have to say weakens your talk. Hearing the things you do not need to hear dulls your hearing. The things you know before you hear them, these are you, and this is the reason you are in the world.’

Poets have a way with words – after all they are wordsmiths! They choose them carefully and thoughtfully to express what they mean and sometimes to allude to meanings beyond the words. I hear Stafford encouraging us all into a greater thoughtfulness about the words we use and hear. And the hope for each of us to discover the reason we are in the world. I recently discovered another poet’s commentary on these words. John O’Donohue, in his book on ‘beauty’, writes ‘Stafford suggests that these things which dwell out of reach, beyond words, are the things that make the soul rich. The inexpressible depth in us is our true treasure. In our endless social chatter and psychological labelling, we frequently cheapen its beauty. We need to learn the art of inner reverence and never force the soul out into the false light of social gratification and expectation. To observe an appropriate silence regarding our interiority means our talk will never be weak. In a culture where there is a morass of second-hand chatter, we need to mind our hearing; otherwise it becomes dull and deaf to the voice of what is real and beautiful. To practise the discipline of reverence which Bill Stafford recommends means that we remain always secretly ready to receive the words that could illuminate our destiny.’

The love and practise of silence gives us a sense of proportion and balance. In a world saturated with weak talk, where hearts are empty because our ears are dull, and where our heads are so busy, going inwards to find our core reality I find brings a sense of contentment with ‘what is’. We can discover the richness of our inner selves, which brings a sense of self love and acceptance. Happy conversations.

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More now

Finding ‘now’ is where we find God. That is were he meets us and the place were we can experience his grace. Jesus taught this early on in his work on earth. He says in Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT): “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Then I love how Eugene Peterson translates v 34: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right NOW, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

We not only find God in the now, but as we do, we find ourselves. I believe our sense of self does not depend on the content of our minds – but can only be fully understood in the context of a [covenant] relationship with God, our father (such as Jesus describes above).

Our minds are helpful for some things, but not for understanding who we are, or why we exist. The sooner we can find the ‘off’ button for the mind, the sooner we will find silence – and there begin to relax into, and enjoy the true meaning and reality of our existence. I encourage us all to share a 20 min silent meditation at the beginning of each day. It is deeply rewarding and the perfect way to sense the ‘now’.

A Conundrum for Christmas: Is living in the ‘now’ the same as ‘waking up’. Can you be in the ‘now’, and still not be awake?

A poem for Christmas and the new year:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

‘God Knows’, Minnie Louise Haskins (1908)

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The Importance of NOW

Most of us have been taught that the mind is supreme; that my identity, my ‘I am-ness’, my very sense of existence, is caught up with that fact that I can think (remember ‘Je pense donc je suis’? Written by some famous French guy!). We live in a culture that prizes reason above all else – isn’t that why we strive to better ourselves at university? We never question this. It is embedded in our consciousness – the power of reason and thinking is assumed. But is it really that important? Could there be an existence beyond thinking? Can I stop thinking? I want to appeal to our rational self for a moment, in the hope that we might see (wake up to) the possibility that we could do without thinking for part of the day! I suggest that breaking free from dependency upon thinking, brings us freedom. Freedom to be in the NOW – for this is all we have. Selah

We only have the present moment to live in. Quite a profound thought. What keeps us from it? Some would say we have forgotten how to live in the NOW; that we used to live in the moment as children … and then we grew up! Could one of the big hindrances be the mind?

For me, getting ‘stuck in a moment’ (see U2 link) is getting stuck in a thought. If I allow my mind to dwell on the past or the future, I’ve immediately stopped living in the moment, in the ‘now’. A growing number of people have understood how to deal with the mind. I urge Christian readers to go ‘off piste’ a little and review Eckhart Tolle’s books The Power of Now or The New Earth. I don’t buy into all of Tolle’s work, but it sure stops us in our tracks of dualist thinking, and helps us re-examine the paradigms we may have unwittingly adopted via our modernist education. Removing these encrusted glasses certainly helped me see my faith a lot clearer and in particular the teachings of Jesus.

Practising ‘watching the thinker’ helps us become more aware of when we get stuck in a thought. To quote Eckhart Tolle, ‘Observe how the mind labels [the present moment] and how this labelling process, this continuous sitting in judgement, creates pain and unhappiness. By watching the mechanics of the mind, you step out of its resistance patterns, and you can then allow the present moment to be. This will give you a taste of the state of inner freedom from external conditions, the state of true inner peace.’

Stopping thinking, I believe, is vital in the contemplative process. We have all experienced by now the intense mind-chatter/noise when we come to the quiet. To find God, to listen to God may involve learning how to stop thinking, and listen with another part of our being.

Quote: Thomas Merton “You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognise the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

Posted in Books, Consciousness, Dualism, Interior Life, Interior Silence, Mind, Now, Seeing, Silence, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Seeing Is Everything

How many times have you said, ‘I just don’t see it!’ Or when the penny suddenly drops and a hidden truth emerges, have you exclaimed, ‘O now I see!’ Seeing is a precious gift, a valuable key in this ‘awakening’ process. However in my experience I have often needed to be taught how to see. Sometimes this is by way of revelation from the Holy Spirit, as did Peter when he suddenly saw, ‘You’re the Christ, the son of the living God’, and Jesus replied, ‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father in heaven’ (Matt 16:16-17); and sometimes through the help of a spiritual teacher.

Jesus spoke much about ‘seeing’. Here are some examples. There are the four parables about things lost or hidden (Matt 13:33 yeast hidden in flour; v44 treasure; Luke 15:8 lost coin, Matt 18:12 lost sheep) implying things hard to see which need looking for. He spoke of the kingdom being ‘seen’ by some but not others – the parable of the sower (Matt 13: 11-17). Jesus encourages us to ‘stay watchful’, (Matt 25:13, Luke 12:37, Mark 13:33-37).

But I’d like to draw your attention to one of the numerous blind people Jesus healed. John 9 is a remarkable account of true blindness, and true seeing. It starts off with him healing a blind man on the Sabbath (you just sense this is going to cause trouble)! And it ends with Jesus claiming that he came into the world to bring everything into the light so that those who had never seen might see, and to point out that there is nothing more dangerous than people who presume they already see (v39-41)!

I believe deep within us we all possess the capacity to be fully alive, and alongside this capacity that of 20/20 spiritual vision. The illumination that Jesus brings creates in me a deep longing to ‘see’ more – to see God, to see my purpose on this planet, to see the Kingdom, to see how much I am loved by God, and so much more.

We all know that physical vision can become impaired with age? But what of spiritual vision? I now suspect, and ironically the wisdom that comes by age has shown me, that some of my previous ‘seeing’ has been through scratched and tainted glasses. These have skewed my vision and therefore my understanding. I’m realising that maybe some of my teachers have only helped me see what they wanted me to see. Time, methinks, to dispense with glasses altogether! Time to trust God that I can ‘see’ clearly in his light.

As I still myself and the silence beckons, I ponder what Jesus might have me see this week.

Posted in Consciousness, Interior Life, Interior Silence, Seeing | 1 Comment