Archive | November 2012

One-Minute Icon – the owls in our head #fear

Are the owls in our mind that we hide from real?

Step out of clocktime for one minute. Take a good look at this owl. What does it bring to mind?

This owl is not real. It is a fake owl at a tube station there to scare the pigeons. We too have fake owls in our minds, that we take for real. We might imagine them in our own head, or imagine them out there somewhere waiting to pounce.

Maybe each time we see on our phone that we have an email, we fear it might be a critical one. Whenever the phone rings our first thought is it must be bad news.

We need to notice these owls in our heads, name them for the fears they are, and let them go. Perhaps it is the owl of rejection. What else might they be?

These owls keep us from taking risks, or believing in , or seeing  the good things around us. Just try to identify the main one that keeps you in fearful watching. When you name the owl and its unreal nature, it begins to fade and lose its power.

Stop hiding, and come out into the light.

One-Minute Icon: The sad garden and the happy tree #epiphany

the happy tree can lead us out of the sad garden

I came across these words of Michael Katakis, a photographer who puts words and pictures together.

I thought it to be a sad garden whose only harvest was regret.

Those words made me think of our minds which can become a sad garden, when we become totally identified with our self-preoccupied narratives which are often negative and automatic.  However, things outside of ourselves can spring us out of our minds and into life.

In his book Holiness Donald Nicholl tells the story of how a face saved the life of Olivier Clement, the Orthodox theologian.

Olivier was at the time an atheist, although so unhappy he was considering suicide. As he walked along depressed, ‘his attention was riveted by the face of someone who was passing by. The person’s face was so radiant with meaning, full of such goodness as can only come from years of cultivating a loving heart. In a twinkling Clement’s suicidal thoughts were dispelled and a seed sown in his heart that was eventually to transform him into an ardent believer…’ (p.49)

This photo is of an ordinary humble tree. But whenever I see it it always glows with colour. If I am in the sad garden, this happy tree pulls me out of it. It has been an epiphany.

It doesn’t shout, or clap its hands, but it radiates joy. But in a twinkling it takes me out of myself.

Step out of clocktime for one minute. Look at the tree and notice your feelings. Are you in the sad garden or with the happy tree? What is the theology of your face today? Olivier Clement says there is a ‘theology of faces’.

Maps to mindfulness – brief overview some main treatments #mindfulness


Literature on mindfulness within psychotherapy is increasing dramatically. Germer (2005) lists connections with cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic psychology, humanistic psychology, brain science, ethics, spirituality, health psychology and positive psychology.

Williams and Zylowska in their Mindfulness Bibliography on the website of the Mindful Awareness Research Centre, UCLA Semel Institute, list six main clinical mindfulness treatments: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness Meditation and Training, Psychotherapy Integration (2009). They categorize MBSR and MBCT as mindfulness-based, using “formal mindfulness training (meditation) as a primary treatment modality” (Williams & Zylowska, 2009, p. 54). They categorize ACT and DBT as mindfulness-incorporating treatments (Williams & Zylowska, 2009, p. 31). These two treatments “include mindful awareness as a treatment goal and may or may not include formal mindfulness training” (Williams & Zylowska, 2009, p. 54).

Baer and Krietemeyer, in their overview of mindfulness-based approaches, list Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) as the four main approaches (2006).


Link to Mindful Awareness Research Centre:


#mindful skiing – feeling #flow and #contemplation

mindful skiing, feeling flow

Skiing is a doorway into the present moment and present-moment awareness. When you stand on top of that mountain with the sun in your face, the wind tugging at your jacket, the sound of silence following you, the smell of Alpine clean air, able to see the valley below you, and feeling the snow beneath your skiis, you are taken out of auto-pilot, out of ruminating about the past or the future.

You ski into the present moment, out of thinking and into awareness. It is like a wardrobe into a beautiful new land that has always been there, but we just couldn’t find the door.

There might be no visibility one day and you have to feel your way down the mountain with the soles (souls) of your feet – you are skiing on pure awareness. This is a mindful awareness practice. Your soul can express itself and feel through the soles of your feet.

I was talking about this to a group of skiers who also believe in God, and believe skiing brings them closer to God. Skiing is gloriously reality-focused like most mindful awareness practices (attending to your breath, your walking, what you eat). It enables us to experience what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’, ‘the sense of gratification that we enter when we feel completely engaged in what we are doing.’ (Martin E.P. Seligman, Authentic Happiness, p.113)

Flow as a concept is related to mindfulness. Apparently Mihaly’s surname is pronounced ‘cheeks sent me high.’ Flow involves ‘deep, effortless involvement…our sense of self vanishes…time stops…'(Martin E.P. Seligman, Authentic Happiness, p.116) It sends us naturally high.

Skiing is intensely physical as is truly incarnated Christianity. Both pay attention to the body. Mindfulness also pays attention to the body.

The body is intelligent. The latest thinking is cognitive science of an embodied mind (Andy Clark, Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again, MIT Press). As Christians we would agree with that, we would just want to put Brain, Body, World and God together again.

It was Pope John Paul II who said, ‘The body, in fact, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine…'(quoted in Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners). As we ski in embodied minds in the mountains we begin to see the invisible, the spiritual and divine. We are present to a deeper Presence that has always been there.

One-Minute Icon – Windows of tolerance #mindfulness #compassion

how big are your windows of tolerance?

Take a look at this window which I have made as small as possible. Daniel Siegel in his book ‘The Mindful Therapist’ talks about  ‘a window of tolerance’. We have limits to the things we can tolerate.

I was challenged recently talking to someone whose wife had died. How much of his pain could I tolerate? I was challenged recently by somebody’s book about their experience of depression, which was beyond anything I could imagine. My windows of tolerance were challenged and stretched.

Sometimes it is our own pain that we cannot tolerate.

What comes to mind for you as you look at this window? What comes into your awareness? Who can come and inhabit the tree of your life and who do you exclude? What bird-thoughts and bird-feelings can come to your tree for shelter? Step out of clock-time for one minute and allow whatever is deep within to come into your awareness.

‘In that day each of you will invite his neighbour to sit under his vine and fig-tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 3:1o)

Can we listen to this ancient, open window to our neighbour?

redeeming the ordinary #poetry #mindfulwriter

road sign that inspired a Haiku

Though autumn wind blows/spring lake in me is greening/fear not winter snows

This is a Haiku inspired by a road sign.

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a children’s writer who said this in an article in The Daily Telegraph recently, ‘I believe my job is not to dazzle with new wonders, but to scrub off the patina of familiarity so that my readers can see again how dazzling things already are.’

He is a mindful writer.

The ordinary is dazzling. An ordinary road sign can be seen in a new light. Why don’t you look out for road signs that catch your eye and write a Haiku or some other reflection on it? Our eyes are smeared with the lard of familiarity. Seeing with new eyes requires us to access the streams of awareness in us, moving out of ruminative and automatic thinking.  We often dismiss people in the way we dismiss road signs. Mindfulness is seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.

One-Minute Icon -repairing our relationship with #learning

I know many people who have no confidence in themselves as learners

Take one minute to step out of clock -time and just look at the picture with open awareness.If your mind wanders bring it back to the picture. Allow the picture to move you from thinking to awareness.What comes into your awareness? I know many people who have no confidence in themselves as learners. Who carry around the idea that they cannot learn like a giant ball and chain. One of the damaging simplifications in the world of education is the dominant concept of the fixed nature of ability. Professor Guy Claxton argues that we all have a learning capacity that can be stretched. The future belongs to the learners… Here is a link to an article by Guy Claxton and Sara Meadows,’Brightening Up: How Children learn to be gifted.’ Become like a child again, and relearn your giftedness.

Let’s make some noise about stress #stress

Let’s make some noise about stress #stress

Click on link above to article on Stress I’ve written which is on Christian Today website.

How God changes your brain for the better #brain scans

How God changes your brain for the better #brain scans   (click this link)

A link to an interview of mine with Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist in the USA who is the author of a number of books including ‘How God Changes Your Brain’

One-Minute Icon – Divine scaffolding of #contemplation

Take a minute to step out of clock-time. Do you crave the gaze of being noticed on Facebook or Twitter?Can you face being hidden? Contemplation wraps our transformation in divine scaffolding. It hides us from the unreality of the narcissistic gaze, and places us in the reality of God’s gaze.