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Scargill House, mindfulness, hospitality and the renewal of Christian communities

I have just spent a few days leading a retreat on mindfulness of God at Scargill House. Based in the Yorkshire Dales it is a Christian community that leads holidays, conferences and retreats with hospitality at its heart.

It reminds me at a spiritual level of the Bishop’s Garden in Wells Cathedral where springs bubble up, a metaphor for the welling up of the Holy Spirit. The wells here are community, creation, hospitality, silence and solitude.

It has been a joy working with the community on the retreat as they lead worship, provide a rhythm of prayer, a pastoral care and prayer team as well as a hospitality team. They also offer walks, and workshops and conversation as well as of course lots of food!

There are gardens to sit in, including a beautiful walled garden and 90 acres of estates. As you sit in a lounge area you overlook the dales.

And pheasants, and woodpeckers come to the bird feeders in front of the window, along with many other birds.

At communion in the chapel on the last night there were deer outside feeding as we took the bread and the wine. The estate is run with a deep ecological understanding and desire to care for creation. The community is all ages, different nationalities and with many young people.

Community and contemplation is at the heart of the gospel and the kingdom and the leading edge of mission if only we had the courage to grasp it. My prayer is that many other intentional communities will spring up.

Of course community is not easy. At the Warden’s suggestion I have been reading some Jean Vanier, a famous founder of communities. I was particularly struck with a phrase of his: ‘Many want community and a feeling of being together, but they refuse the demands of community life.’ This is true in the local church as well.

I was also struck by another simple truth of Vanier’s: ‘People enter community to be happy. They stay when they find happiness comes in making others happy.’

My prayer is that there will be a renewal of Christian community life in the UK, for I believe it is the right (kairos) moment for it.

Do check out the Scargill website:

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The streams of awareness in us becoming living water – a meditation @LeeAbbeyDevon

I walked down to Lee Bay this morning as the sun shone, part of the Lee Abbey Estate where I am running a retreat on mindfulness of God. To be mindful of God I need to inhabit my body, my emotions, my mind and my soul.

As you get closer to the beach you pick up a little but strong stream that runs alongside you. I stopped and paid attention to it. 

The stream became symbolic for me, and I thought about the streams of awareness in us, in me, our senses. Not just the traditional five, wonderful though they are but also the sense of our own body, sensing our thoughts and feelings, other people’s feelings (see Daniel Siegel, an interpersonal neurobiologist for his 8 senses). But also the ability to sense the presence of God with all our senses.

I then thought what if I allow these streams of awareness in me to become living water, inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit – able to see and sense through God’s eyes.

Coming here to Lee Abbey gives me a taste of what that might be like and also the desire to seek it first above my other desires.

Retreat at Lee Abbey 29th October to 2nd November 2018 on Mindfulness of God & Our Relationships

I am leading a retreat at Lee Abbey on Mindfulness of God & Our Relationships 29th October to 2nd November 2018. Below is a copy of an article I wrote for their magazine a while back.

Sri Lanka, contemplative awareness & rock pools #mindful

One of our delights growing up as children in Kenya was to take the long trek to the coast. We would spend hours gazing into rock pools, for fish, crabs, and once a little octopus.

We are spending our last day in Sri Lanka in a beach house, which has a strip of living coral outside acting as a barrier to the large waves. As the tide has receded the coral and its rock pools have been exposed.

The trick to seeing something is to be as still as the pool, to get close to the sand and. not cast a shadow. This too has a lesson for us in contemplative awareness. We too have pools inside our mind that are still, mindful states of calm and open awareness.  Too often we are just caught up in the surf of stress.

Standing barefoot in the sand, or contemplating the pools, listening to the sound of the waves we can find these mindful states of mind naturally. It is much harder in the busyness of ordinary life. It is much harder because in our Western culture we are often living in our heads, living virtually. Our ruminative patterns of mental time travel stir up the pools in our head until we are spun one way and then another.

The knack of finding the still pool within is by coming back to our embodied senses. As we enter these streams of awareness we can find the meta-awareness that contains our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.

As we learn to do this, mindful states of mind emerge. With practice we can create a new tide within that has wide open mindful spaces that contain and calm the surf.FullSizeRender