I am often asked ‘what is mindfulness?’ Some people like scientific explanations (our universal capacity for awareness and attention), other people prefer more poetic ones.
Some ideas stay with you. One such idea for me is the greening power of God (viriditas), that Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) put forward in her works. Now when such an idea takes root you can see it in different ways, take it in directions that perhaps that the original author didn’t intend. It’s a phrase that describes mindfulness for me, in terms of what it can do.
What is greening for me? I believe it is something I have experienced in mindfulness. I see that mindfulness practices enable mindfulness as a trait to take root in us. In this way mindfulness is a slow miracle, where we begin to green inside, we experience a new freshness, a new release of creativity, a new wholeness, a new relationship with our senses, a new relationship with our own self, with others, with creation, with God.
I have experienced this through both mindfulness for health that you find in secular psychology, as well as the Christian distinctive of mindfulness of God. After all the Gospel is an embodied Gospel.
In this sense, mindfulness is the slow miracle of greening within us, where we begin to become what Irenaeus called ‘The Glory of God – a human being fully alive.’ When we practice both mindfulness for health and mindfulness of God I think we can become fully alive.
Mirabai Bush talks about contemplative seeing, ‘the mindful study of painting and sculpture as ‘beholding” (which involves appreciation, care, the involvement of our senses). We are able in beholding to ‘hold’ something in our attention until something emerges into our awareness.
I called this painting ‘what the mountain was feeling..’ it came out of beholding this particular mountain range. What then came out was ‘the silent mountain was passionate.’ Of course, contemplative seeing is not limited to painting and sculpture, for me it began with the contemplative seeing of the mountain.
Taking time to behold means that time can open up and we can have a moment of clear seeing, an epiphany.
In Alister McGrath’s luminous book C S Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet McGrath talks about Lewis’s role as a literary midwife (pp.197-200).
He was especially a midwife to Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Tolkien himself said that without Lewis’s ‘sheer encouragement’ he would never have finished his masterpiece. Tolkien said of Lewis ‘He was for long my only audience.’
I remember my history teacher at school coming to every practice of mine to teach me how to bowl left-arm spin in cricket, not just for my private joy but to try and break into the school team. Because he believed in me I believed in myself.
I remember when I worked in a bank and was wondering what to do with unneeded creativity, someone encouraged me to write every day. Really encouraged me. Cried at things I wrote (not in pain but joy).
Who is it that you can be a creative midwife to? Each person only needs an audience of one to begin with. It begins with helping a child to enjoy the process of creativity before the outcome. To simply revel in pens, ink, paper, colours, nature, our nine senses, the orchard of awareness that lies within.
A meditative drawing is an act of discovering our embodiment mindfully.
Kurt Jackson, the painter. He has a way of seeing things at different levels to most people. It includes wilderness, reams, angels, medicine walks and memory.
This his link: http://www.kurtjackson.com/index.html
Let me give you a quote from Miriam Darlington’s blog http://wild-watching.blogspot.co.uk/:
‘I’m standing beside a gate, screened by some sallow and oak branches. A movement on the water. The size of a water vote, but with a wake. Henry Williamson, who wrote “Tarka the Otter” and spent many years down at otter-nose level, called it a ‘ream’. Half way between a ripple, and a beam of light.’
Kurt Jackson is someone who sees ‘reams’. They are there but often invisible to the clothed eye. It is not just in landscapes we find them. There are reams with people, ripples and beams of goodness. In every day there are reams of God, ripples and beams of presence.
Annie Dillard in her book Teaching A Stone To Talk has a chapter in it ‘A Field of Silence.’ At the end she writes, ‘There are angels in those fields, and, I presume, in all fields, and everywhere else. I would go to the lions for this conviction, to witness this fact.’ (p.136)
When I look at Kurt Jackson’s paintings I understand what Annie Dillard is saying. Jackson’s paintings are bathed with the light of angels, but not fluffy, chubby angels but angels that make you write, ‘Holiness is a force, and like the others it can be resisted. It was given, but I didn’t want to see it.’ (Annie Dillard, pp.134-135)
Wilderness psychotherapy sends children and others out on medicine walks. As I look at Jackson’s paintings I end up walking in the landscapes. But it is a medicine walk.
There’s an idea in NewScientist of 6th October in their memory section, that memories are very important in shaping our happiness or sadness, ‘Our memories act as a kind of ballast that holds us steady in times of stress…’ (p.38). ‘Over-general memory’ as it has been called, where people ‘paint their past in broad brush strokes’ (p.39) but don’t remember the details can be linked to depression. As I gazed attentively and openly at Jackson’s paintings I found memories rising to the surface, happy ones. I found awarenesses of oneness, and unity rising to the surface. The paintings became a medicine-walk.
Slow down and look at Kurt Jackson’s paintings today- take a medicine walk amonst the reams of angels.