These are some of the geese at Penhurst Retreat Centre in West Sussex, a beautiful and rural part of England. Sometimes when we are on retreat we realise we just need to tuck our head under our wing for a while. And that’s ok.
As we do so we can also find as an act of grace and loving kindness, that the larger wing of God tucks us over with His fearless and loving presence, like a mother hen with a chick.
Suddenly we find we can sleep and rest peacefully. And we wake remarkably refreshed by that encounter with the ‘full reality’ of God.
I have been reading Julian Hoffman’s ‘the small heart of things – being at home in a beckoning world.’ It is a book full of epiphanies, the opening up of time to insight, understanding and a sense of unity.
One such moment occurred reading his description of seeing a pod of dolphins in a chapter entitled ‘An Accumulation of Light’. An accumulation of light is a good description of an epiphany. I don’t want to quote the whole section, because I want you to buy the whole book. But I do want to share two sentences which brings to an ecstatic climax the writer’s epiphany, but which also became an epiphany for me.
As he watches the dolphins he says, ‘I later realised how time had dissolved while we watched the dolphins. Past and future, and all the weight they carry, had folded into one clear, immeasurable moment.’
In the moment that I read this, and the moment still resonates with me, I was aware of the thoughts and feelings I was carrying, rooted in the past and the future, and how heavy those thoughts and feeling were. And then I realised I could let them go. This was an intuitively natural mindful moment.
To become aware how heavy the thoughts and feelings can be that are ruminating or worrying about the past and future is a great gift. Because then we can put them down. The lightness of being is in the present moment.
In poetic terms what Julian writes is what Edward Thomas, the nature poet, would call a ‘thought-moment.’ Edward Thomas was once called an ‘ecstatic walker.’ Julian Hoffman gets his inspiration from ecstatic walking, and in a mysterious process of alchemy, his nature writing becomes ecstatic writing. Ecstatic writing can become ecstatic reading.
Early yesterday as I went outside the car was covered with sticky ice. The sort of ice that takes 10 minutes to scrape off. Often on the school run you can see cars driving along with the driver peering out of a small cleared hole in the windscreen, with the rest of the windscreen and windows still clouded with ice.
It’s a picture of how the windscreen of our mind is much of the time and how we rush around with limited perception. Rowan Williams in his beautiful little book ‘Silence and Honey Cakes – the wisdom of the desert’ talks about this inattention, ‘the failure to see what is truly there in front of us – because our own vision is clouded by self-obsession or self-satisfaction.’ (p.26)
We rush along in the icy morning without clear vision, and we do the same in life. If we pay attention to the ice, truly pay attention to it with a de-icer we can clear the windscreen of our car. If we pay attention mindfully to the sticky cloud of self-obsession or self-satisfaction, or any other ruminative pattern that stops us seeing clearly, this mindfulness de-ices the windscreen of our mind.
Then we begin to see clearly.
The summoner saw the boy through the leaves. She looked at him until the boy looked at him. She summoned the boy over, moving so slowly it was as though time had no hold on her.
The boy’s eyes suddenly saw the summoner. He too slowed down and stepped out of time. The summoner stepped on to his hand. He felt the tight grip on his thumb and fingers.
In the moment the boy saw that the chameleon was made of many little moving words. He watched transfixed as the words moved into a story. A window opened in his soul and a wordseer was born.
The chameleon stepped back onto the branch and disappeared in an instant among the leaves. She was looking for someone else to summon. The boy began to see pictures as words.
(From a tale of mind lore II, how a gift found Hudor…)
A friend of mine Bruce Thompson posted this photo on Facebook. I was immediately taken to a place of wonder as I looked at it.
Alister McGrath in his beautiful book ‘C S Lewis A Life – Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet’ writes:
‘A central theme in the Chronicles of Narnia is that of a door into another world – a threshold that can be crossed, allowing us to enter a wonderful new realm and explore it.’ (p.269)
Each moment of our life is a threshold to different possibilities, including possibilities of wonder. Sometimes we need a photo, a painting, a poem, a story, a face, a beautiful view to remind us of this, to fill us again with hope.
This coming Friday is the 50th anniversary of the death of C S Lewis. Perhaps you could find the thresholds of wonder in your life by re-visiting, or visiting for the first time his stories.
Press Release: New Book 23rd October 2013
‘Flat Earth Unroofed’ – Mindful Fantasy-fiction For All Ages
The Isle of Ge is a post-apocalyptic, post-religious land ruled by the Fowler, a ruthless cult leader who is prepared to sacrifice his own daughter to stay in power. All that stands between her and an agonizing death is her friend Hudor with his mind lore and time craft.
A trained counsellor and psychotherapist, Shaun Lambert has imbued his new children’s and teenage fantasy fiction novel, Flat Earth Unroofed – a tale of mind lore, with his extensive academic knowledge of mindfulness, creating a world where mind lore matters. Inspired by C.S. Lewis’s idea of this everyday world being ‘invaded by the marvellous’, Shaun has woven together the everyday and the strange with humankind’s mysterious capacity for awareness and compassion as well as mindless brutality. Shaun’s heroes are real, soul warriors who display incredible resilience in the face of familiar anxieties, depression and existential doubts.
During his long walks in the ancient woodlands near Bentley Priory, from where the Battle of Britain was directed, Shaun considered the local folklore of tunnels running from there to a military site in nearby Northwood and began to imagine another battle between good and evil happening there. But this was not a battle where mindless oppression would be fought by men with weapons of iron and steel – rather it was one where darkness would be overcome by a teenager through the inner power of attention and awareness.
Is this the first children’s fantasy book to incorporate mindfulness into the very fabric of the story? We don’t know! But we do believe a new sub-genre in fantasy fiction is going to develop.
This is a book for those aged 8 to 80 who enjoy the fantasy genre and are willing to consider that awareness could be part of the very fabric of being.