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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.

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…

In praise of the slow making of the Lindisfarne gospels and inner arks #makingthings

One of the lessons of the Lindisfarne Gospels was their slow, contemplative making. We can apply this practice to our children, marriages, work, relationship to the book of nature, peace. These things need a slow, contemplative making.

Michelle P. Brown’s book The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality and the Scribe would be one of my top three Christmas buys this year. In talking about the meaning of this book she says something deeply profound.

‘Jennifer O’Reilly has drawn attention to the patristic concept of the ‘inner library’ and the necessity for each believer to make him or herself a library of the divine Word, a sacred responsibility which Cummian referred to as ‘entering the Sanctuary of God’ by studying and transmitting Scripture. Books are the vessels from which the believer’s ark, or inner library is filled.’ (pp.398-399)

This says something about the meaning of our own lives, that there is to be a guiding inner ark. This ark carries not just our little self, but other things of the world, as the first ark carried breeding animals to save them. In our inner ark we are also to carry the presence of God.

What struck me was that this is a real carrying of what is there in the world. I might want to save the gerenuk, or Lindisfarne otters, and as I slowly contemplate them and grow in knowing about them, I begin to carry them with me in a way that might save them – because I bring this knowing to others.

Michelle P. Brown’s book was I believe a slow, contemplative making – and I write in praise of slow making. Inner arks, like books, are a product of slow making as well.

You could also read Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow.

#ash trees, coracles and #otters in their sleep-knots

the otter sleeps in the coracle of the ash-tree roots

‘The wild otter I saw would no doubt be out of the water and making tracks to its own musky holt, to curl belly upward, in a home of roots, peat and rocks. I imagine him enfolded in his fur, dreaming of water; a tight sleep-knot, enjoying the deep sleep of one who exists totally in the moment.’ ( Miriam Darlington, Otter Country, pp.40-41)

‘Up and down the banks are the complex root systems of ash trees, which otters particularly love to use as holts as they provide hidden shelter and easy access to water.’ (Otter Country, p.175)

As I read these words I imagined the roots of the ash tree making a coracle, floating the otter to sleep in its hidden shelter. So I drew this as a coracle sleep-knot.

The ash tree root


      for the otter

fragile oracle

       of the wild

not going meek and mild.

Rare Sharing OtteR tracked to British Library #ecology

Rare sharing OtteR tracked to British Library. Read about how OtteRs share their country with us in Miriam Darlington’s Otter Country and how we can share their country with them. For OtteRs swim where they will.

Sharing OtteR found at British Library

‘The Quiet Girl’ by Peter Hoeg, one of best books ever written? #goodbooks

Peter Hoeg the Danish author has a new book out called The Elephant Keepers’ Children. I am about to buy it, but I was surprised to read in the Telegraph’s Review section (Saturday October 6) that his novel The Quiet Girl  published in 2006 had been poorly received.

I think The Quiet Girl is the most satisfying novel I have read as an adult (best nature book ‘Otter Country by Miriam Darlington). A contemplative approach apparently informs his working practices, and that would suggest to me that The Quiet Girl was ahead of its time. With Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury stressing the centrality of contemplation as a key to renewed humanity and a new way of seeing in recent weeks, The Quiet Girl deserves another look.

One of the things I like about the book is the way the author sees and hears the world. The book is impossible to classify in terms of genre. It is like a riddle, and like all good riddles I am not going to try and explain it.

The main character, Kasper, like the author, is deeply attentive to the world. There is a razor sharp discerning, balanced with an open awareness to the things our culture offers us, both low and high. Kasper knows things. He knows the mystics, the clowns, the philosophers, the composers alongside knowing alcohol inside out, the holes in our souls, and the shadows that accompany us.

It is a spiritual book as well as being deeply focused on material reality in all its mysteriousness. It is both aware of icons and orthodoxy, and also for some it will seem iconoclastic and unafraid of heresies. The Quiet Girl has one of the best opening lines I have read. ‘SHE ALMIGHTY HAD tuned each person into a musical key, and Kasper could hear it.’ Everything flows out of this opening key.

Peter Hoeg knows music, and makes the reader want to know music in the same way, to indwell it as  Kasper does. He recognizes an ‘icon of sounds’ when he hears it. There are throwaway lines on prayer, the ego and being special, on philosophy and music that are worth the price of the book alone as meditations.

But I come back to the seeing. This is a book written by a contemplative human, and it is the most satisfyingly complex and deeply human book I have read as an adult. In 2006 it may have fallen quietly to the ground. But today? Today I think it will begin to resonate. As for the heroine, the quiet girl herself, I will give nothing away. Read it and see for yourself. Find the silence.

The earliest example of mindfulness?

The earliest example of mindfulness?

On the Granta website is an essay by Casper Henderson called ‘Barely Imagined Beings’ (Book of same name just out). In it he shows An image from the Chauvet cave paintings, which are over 30,000 years old.

 It is a scene of lions about to attack. Casper quotes from David Quammen’s book (Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind), who writes that the scene has been painted not with fear but ‘a skilled hand, a calm heart,and an attentive, reverential eye.’

 Is this the earliest evidence for the universal human capacity for mindfulness, through mindful art?

Otter Country – mindful of nature

Miriam Darlington, a poet, has written a beautiful book called ‘Otter Country – in search of the wild otter’, published just recently by Granta. It is a book to be read slowly, with a chocolate-covered cappucino and lemon tart. Perhaps only a chapter a day as a treat to be savoured and tasted.

I have read just the first three chapters so far but I am captivated. Like all good poets, through awareness, attention, and observation she has got under the skin of the otter. Miriam, along with all poets and nature writers is mindful of nature, and demonstrates that mindfulness is a universal human capacity. Within our mindful brain we all have the capacity for wise present-moment awareness that sees far and true.

Her words melt the padlocks of your mind and suddenly you are free to slip into the book as the otter slips into the river or the sea. Read it and see again.