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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…

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)

One-Minute Icon – the fragile structure of #peace

The fragile structures of peace

The fragile structures of peace

Take a look at this photo. Step out of clocktime for one minute. Try to hold a place of open awareness just allowing whatever comes to mind to come to mind. Notice what it is.

Two people were challenged this morning at church to try and make a structure out of drinking straws and paper clips that would be strong enough to support an egg.

We were talking about peace, and being peace-makers. It struck me that peace is a bit like a fragile egg, and that what we try to structure peace out of is often fragile and easily broken….but it can be done.

Often we are peace-lovers, who avoid conflict. But Jesus calls us to be peace-makers who go into conflict situations to try and build this fragile thing, called peace.

One-Minute Icon – losing our get up and go #timeout

Have you lost your Go sign?

Walking back from the gym the other day I saw this Go sign that had been thrown into a field.

Take a minute out of clock-time and just observe it. If your mind wanders, notice where it goes and bring it back to the picture. Allow whatever comes into your awareness to be noticed, and then come back to the picture. What comes to mind for you? Have you lost your Go sign?

What struck me is that often we lose our Go sign, we simply cannot get up and go. I think that is because often we have first lost our amber ‘Slow down’ sign. Our ‘Stop’ sign is not even in our awareness or consciousness, it is buried deep within.

Advent tells us to slow down. Sometimes it is our bodies that shout ‘stop!’ We need all three signs working well.

When was the last time you consciously slowed down, or simply stopped?

What is this life if full of care

We have no time to stand and stare?

William Henry Davies

For the full poem here is the link:

One-Minute Icon – the owls in our head #fear

Are the owls in our mind that we hide from real?

Step out of clocktime for one minute. Take a good look at this owl. What does it bring to mind?

This owl is not real. It is a fake owl at a tube station there to scare the pigeons. We too have fake owls in our minds, that we take for real. We might imagine them in our own head, or imagine them out there somewhere waiting to pounce.

Maybe each time we see on our phone that we have an email, we fear it might be a critical one. Whenever the phone rings our first thought is it must be bad news.

We need to notice these owls in our heads, name them for the fears they are, and let them go. Perhaps it is the owl of rejection. What else might they be?

These owls keep us from taking risks, or believing in , or seeing  the good things around us. Just try to identify the main one that keeps you in fearful watching. When you name the owl and its unreal nature, it begins to fade and lose its power.

Stop hiding, and come out into the light.

One-Minute Icon: The sad garden and the happy tree #epiphany

the happy tree can lead us out of the sad garden

I came across these words of Michael Katakis, a photographer who puts words and pictures together.

I thought it to be a sad garden whose only harvest was regret.

Those words made me think of our minds which can become a sad garden, when we become totally identified with our self-preoccupied narratives which are often negative and automatic.  However, things outside of ourselves can spring us out of our minds and into life.

In his book Holiness Donald Nicholl tells the story of how a face saved the life of Olivier Clement, the Orthodox theologian.

Olivier was at the time an atheist, although so unhappy he was considering suicide. As he walked along depressed, ‘his attention was riveted by the face of someone who was passing by. The person’s face was so radiant with meaning, full of such goodness as can only come from years of cultivating a loving heart. In a twinkling Clement’s suicidal thoughts were dispelled and a seed sown in his heart that was eventually to transform him into an ardent believer…’ (p.49)

This photo is of an ordinary humble tree. But whenever I see it it always glows with colour. If I am in the sad garden, this happy tree pulls me out of it. It has been an epiphany.

It doesn’t shout, or clap its hands, but it radiates joy. But in a twinkling it takes me out of myself.

Step out of clocktime for one minute. Look at the tree and notice your feelings. Are you in the sad garden or with the happy tree? What is the theology of your face today? Olivier Clement says there is a ‘theology of faces’.

One-Minute Icon – Windows of tolerance #mindfulness #compassion

how big are your windows of tolerance?

Take a look at this window which I have made as small as possible. Daniel Siegel in his book ‘The Mindful Therapist’ talks about  ‘a window of tolerance’. We have limits to the things we can tolerate.

I was challenged recently talking to someone whose wife had died. How much of his pain could I tolerate? I was challenged recently by somebody’s book about their experience of depression, which was beyond anything I could imagine. My windows of tolerance were challenged and stretched.

Sometimes it is our own pain that we cannot tolerate.

What comes to mind for you as you look at this window? What comes into your awareness? Who can come and inhabit the tree of your life and who do you exclude? What bird-thoughts and bird-feelings can come to your tree for shelter? Step out of clock-time for one minute and allow whatever is deep within to come into your awareness.

‘In that day each of you will invite his neighbour to sit under his vine and fig-tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 3:1o)

Can we listen to this ancient, open window to our neighbour?

One-Minute Icon -repairing our relationship with #learning

I know many people who have no confidence in themselves as learners

Take one minute to step out of clock -time and just look at the picture with open awareness.If your mind wanders bring it back to the picture. Allow the picture to move you from thinking to awareness.What comes into your awareness? I know many people who have no confidence in themselves as learners. Who carry around the idea that they cannot learn like a giant ball and chain. One of the damaging simplifications in the world of education is the dominant concept of the fixed nature of ability. Professor Guy Claxton argues that we all have a learning capacity that can be stretched. The future belongs to the learners… Here is a link to an article by Guy Claxton and Sara Meadows,’Brightening Up: How Children learn to be gifted.’ Become like a child again, and relearn your giftedness.