Archive | December 2012

Teaching Tree

Leaf And Twig

Reshaped by time and weather
my mentor on the mountain
asks me to look deeper and see through.

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‘He’ was unreservedly receptive #windows of tolerance

Hope never dies

Hope never dies

Cathy Wield home website
depression and the church Baptist Times online article by Cathy Wield

The Baptist Times Online has recently run an article by Cathy Wield, about the church and depression. The link is above, as is the link to her own website. Out of her experience of depression she has written a book called A Thorn in My Mind, Mental Illness, Stigma and the Church, published by Instant Apostle.

I have met Cathy and read the book in one sitting. It is an extraordinary book which left me full of hope, but also stretched my windows of tolerance for dealing with other people’s pain. I came across these words this morning by theologian Boros, ‘He (Christ) created within himself a place for every encounter. He was unreservedly receptive.’ (‘Encountering Reality’ by Bishop George Appleton & Debbie Davies, published by Amate Press, Oxford, p. 13).

I know that I don’t have a place within that is able to be unreservedly attentive to every encounter. But that is an aspiration. That is what it means to be mindFull within the Christian perspective.

A #mindful experiment with a #poem – Columba by Kenneth C Steven

Columba poem by Kenneth C Steven, the poet reads… (click on this link)

In Josephine Hart’s book Words That Burn – How to read Poetry and why, she begins her introduction with these words.

‘How do you possess a poem? Well, ‘same as for love’. Pay attention to it. Listen to it. It will speak to you on the page. Silently. Or you may wish, as the critic Harold Bloom advises, to speak it out loud to yourself…’ (p.1).

You can also (best of all) hear it read out, live with the poet, or a recording of it. As Josephine Hart goes on to say, ‘The poetry sounds out and I ‘trip..into the boundless’, as Frost described it.’ (p.1)I think the oral performance is the most primal form.

This is a poem by Kenneth C Steven called Columba. Click on the link and you can hear the poem sound out…and you may trip into the boundless. A perceptive person introduced me to his poetry.

The mindful experiment is becoming aware of where the poem takes you…

One-Minute Icon – Guitar of the seas #conservation

Guitar of the seas

Guitar of the seas

Step out of clock time for one minute. Gaze at the painting. What do you see? Art like poetry helps move us from doing to being, from freighted thinking to open awareness, gets behind our defences…allows hidden things to surface in our minds.

What do you see? What came into your mind?

I spent the afternoon with some friends at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium which does a huge amount for marine conservation. It was amazing to see all the unbelievable creatures…but I was also shocked at story after story of how we are threatening their ecological future, from sea horses to turtles.

When I looked at the stingrays I saw guitars of the seas.

One-Minute Icon: inner #sanctuary

Finding Sanctuary book

Inner sanctuary

Inner sanctuary

Paintings like poetry can shift our mental gears from doing to being, from thinking to awareness, from autopilot to mindfulness, from self-preoccupation to contemplation of God, which becomes love for others and the creation around us.

Step out of clock-time for one minute and focus your attention on the painting. As your mind wanders allow yourself to become aware of the noise in your head, the afflictive thoughts, the self-preoccupied narratives. Allow the volume on those thoughts and feelings to be turned up. Become aware of the silence in the painting. You can click on the picture to make it bigger.

As I was praying this morning I came across this painting I had done in France a while back. As the rain beat down outside, and it looked like we wouldn’t see the sun today I suddenly wanted to be in this bright summer place in France. But then I also thought: this is a picture of what my inner sanctuary could look like. My inner sanctuary doesn’t have to be grey like the external world was this morning.

How do we create this inner sanctuary? If you want a good book to begin, read Father Christopher Jamison’s ‘Finding Sanctuary’ (see attached link). What are some of the building blocks? Virtue…silence…meditation and contemplation…

Three-Minute Icon – #Patience – guest artist Natalie Woodhouse

Natalie’s paintings on Facebook



Hope in fragility through patient waiting

Hope in fragility through patient waiting

In his book The Mindful Brain Daniel Siegel writes, ‘Poetry, like silence, creates a new balance of memory and moment. We see with fresh eyes through the poet’s artistry, which illuminates with words a new landscape that before was hidden beneath the veil of everyday language.’ (p54).

I think this is also true of art, which helps us to move from a clouded thinking to a new awareness, moving from thinking to the streams of awareness in our minds.

So step out of clock-time for 3 minutes and just look at Natalie’s painting. If your mind wanders, notice what it wanders to and bring it back to the painting. Pay attention to what comes into your awareness. Write it down.

This is what Natalie says of this painting:

This painting was based on an image someone had for me of a butterfly emerging form its cocoon too early – when it was not yet ready. God was holding it in his hands, stroking its wings, waiting for them to dry. It had to be patient while God dried its wings – if released too early the butterfly wouldn’t be able to fly. Something big and spectacular will come but you have to wait patiently – it cannot be rushed. Trust in God’s timing, not your own. Be patient while God ‘dries your wings’…

What I love about Natalie’s paintings is their texture, they invite you reaching out and touching them. Have a look at some of her other paintings on the attached Facebook link. Too often art is hidden away behind glass and barriers. I feel if I touched the butterfly I would come away with wingdust on my fingers.

As I gazed at the painting I was reminded that it is alright to be fragile. An experience of when I felt I was falling apart, and someone was able to hold me until my wings dried, came to mind. In the patient waiting of fragility, the painting also gives me hope.

(These is some details about Natalie:
The side of God that I find easiest to relate to is God the creator and artist. When I took a year out in Australia I used to walk along the beach each morning and marvel at how the scenery, colours and texture would change so much from day to day. I would imagine God ‘painting’ the scene – each day a new and exciting canvas – and as I walked I would say to Him “loving your work today God”. It was at these times that I felt closest to Him and most at peace. I try to capture glimpses of the incredible beauty of God’s creation in my paintings – nature being the ultimate inspiration. I work primarily in acrylics on canvas, often adding texture through mixed media. Having completed a degree in Surface Pattern design I also enjoy working with textiles, designing and making clothing, cushions, bedding and wall art, amongst other things.


Maps to #mindfulness – #Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy #MBCT

If you examine the ever growing tree of mindfulness therapies, one of the main branches is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Here is a little map of MBCT to start you on your way.

Another key mindfulness-based approach is Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), based on MBSR (Baer & Krietemeyer, 2006). The aim of the MBCT programme is “to help individuals make a radical shift in their relationship to the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that contribute to depressive relapse, and to do so through changes in understanding at a deep level”(Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002, p. 65). The way to do this is through mindfulness, learning “how to pay attention, on purpose, in each moment, and without judgment” (Segal et al, 2002, p. 87).

Having started off believing that cognitive therapy made improvements in a person’s depressed condition through “changes in the content of depressive thinking” (Segal et al, 2002, p. 38), new research showed that more central was a change in the relationship between the client and their thoughts (Segal et al, 2002), and specifically a decentering or distancing (Segal et al, 2002). Out of an Randomized controlled trial (RCT) carried out by Teasdale and others came an awareness of important differences between the technology of mindfulness, with its emphasis on insight meditation, and other meditative techniques which focus more on concentration which increases access to the relaxation response (Teasdale & Associates, 2000, quoted in Segal et al, 2002). In the wider awareness of insight meditation “the focus of a person’s attention is opened to admit whatever enters experience, while at the same time, a stance of kindly curiosity allows the person to investigate whatever appears, without falling prey to automatic judgments or re-activity” (Segal et al, 2002, pp. 322–323).

MBCT is scientifically and research-based. MBCT was developed for depression, and especially those clients prone to relapse (Segal et al, 2002). Segal et al developed a Randomized controlled trial (RCT) for MBCT (Teasdale & Associates, 2000, quoted in Segal et al, 2002). The question asked in their clinical trial was “Does MBCT reduce rates of relapse and recurrence in patients who have recovered from major depression?” (Segal et al, 2002, p. 315). The most important finding was that “participants with three or more previous episodes of depression (who made up more than 75% of the patients we studied), MBCT almost halved relapse/recurrence rates over the follow-up period compared to treatment as usual” (Segal et al, 2002, p. 318). Coelho, Canter, & Ernst stated that “there has been no critical systematic evaluation of the evidence” for MBCT (2007, p. 1000). MBCT research is still in its early stages and they concluded that further research is warranted (Coelho, Canter, & Ernst, 2007). Williams, Russell, & Russell, in response to the Coelho, Canter, & Ernst report, reanalysed the two main MBCT trials, and argue these analyses “reinforce the original findings” (2008, p. 524). There may well be further research now building on these foundations, do let me know if you have come across it.

If you want to read one book in order to understand MBCT then look at the very clearly written Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, published by Piatkus in 2011.

If you have come across any other good books, or research do let me know. MBCT is recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the Mental Health Foundation.

Baer, R. A., (2006). Mindfulness-based treatment approaches. Burlington: Academic Press.

Baer, R. A., & Krietemeyer, J. (2006). Overview of mindfulness and acceptance-based treatment approaches. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches (pp. 3–27). Burlington: Academic Press.

Brantley, J. (2007). Calming your anxious mind. California: Harbinger Publications Inc.

Chaskalson, (2011). The Mindful Workplace. Wiley-Blackwell.

Coelho, H. F., Canter, P. H., & Ernst, E. (2007). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Evaluating current evidence and informing future research. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75(6), 1000-1005. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from PsycARTICLES database.

Dahl, J., & Lundgren, T. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in the treatment of chronic pain. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches (pp. 285–305). Burlington: Academic Press.

Hayes, S.C. (2005) Get out of your mind and into your life: The new acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland: Harbinger Publications Inc.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2008). Full catastrophe living. London: Piatkus Books.

Lynch, T. R., & Bronner, L. L. (2006). Mindfulness and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT): application with depressed older adults with personality disorders. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches (pp. 217–236). Burlington: Academic Press.

Mental Health Foundation, Mindfulness Report 2010

Roth, B.,& Calle-Messa, L. (2006). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) with Spanish and English-speaking inner-city medical patients. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches (pp. 263–284). Burlington: Academic Press.

Segal, Z., Williams, M., & Teasdale, J., (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. London, The Guilford Press.

Semple, R. J., Lee, J., & Miller, L. F. (2006). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches (pp. 143-166). Burlington: Academic Press.

Speca, M., Carlson, L.E., Mackenzie, M.J., & Angen, M. (2006). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) as an intervention for cancer patients. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches (pp. 239-261). Burlington: Academic Press.

Teasdale, J. D., Moore, R. G., Hayhurst, H., Pope, M., Williams, S., & Segal, Z. V. (2002). Metacognitive awareness and prevention of relapse in depression: Empirical evidence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(2), 275–287. Retrieved April 8, 2010, from PsycARTICLES database.

Williams, M., Russell, I., & Russell, D. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Further issues in current evidence and future research. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(3), 524–529. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from PsycARTICLES database.

Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The mindful way through depression. London, The Guilford Press.

One-minute Icon – #play as important as sleep

snow otter 4Take a minute out of clock-time. Look at the painting. When your mind wanders, note what it is wandering to, and switch your attention back to the painting. Try to find a place of open awareness rather than thinking (which paintings and poetry enable). What came to mind?

I was reading about the importance of play in one of the late Howard Clinebell’s books. Then in Miriam Darlington’s playful Otter Country I read about the ability of otters to take on the colour and texture of the water around them, ‘the water on the fur produces a blur effect, reflecting light and giving a strange soft focus. It’s not just the otter’s colour that keeps it hidden; it also uses the water and light to its advantage.’ (p.248)

I decided to play around with the colours of otters and the water they live in. What about snow otters? You don’t have to be an artist to play around with colours on a piece of paper, it can be a meditative or revealing act. The colours we instinctively chose might tell us something about our mood.

When was the last time you played?

In a book called ecotherapy – healing ourselves, healing the earth, the late Howard Clinebell quotes from a psychiatrist Stuart L. Brown on the ‘playful behaviour of both young and adult wild animals from the Arctic to Africa. He discovered how remarkably playful animals are, including creatures as diverse as polar bears, elephants, wolves, zebras, leopards, dolphins, cranes, and chimpanzees.’ (p.230) I have no doubt this includes otters. He concludes that ‘exciting studies of the brain, evolution, and ethnology or animal behaviour, suggest that play may be as important to life – for us and other animals – as sleeping and dreaming.’ (p.230)

Brown went on to study what happens when human beings are deprived of play….’Brown studied 26 convicted murderers in Texas and found that 90 percent of these men had largely playless childhoods or played only in destructive ways like bullying and cruelty to aniimals.’ (p.230)

ancientdeepwatchingfrees #contemplation

This is a link to which has a longer article on slowing down at Advent and turning away from our anxious, acquisitive, competitive and suspicious watching this Christmas, to a deeper watching modelled by Jesus.


advents not adverts (click on this link)