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.
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…
Take 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)
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.
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: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/leisure/
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.
- Speaking at Exeter Cathedral’s Holy Ground 10th June on Christian Mindfulness
- My article on mindful worship via @TheBaptistTimes #nationalmindfulnessday
- Why we need a National Mindfulness Day for Christians via @ChristianToday
- Interview on national mindfulness day for Christians via @BaptistTimes
- The National Mindfulness Day for Christians 12th and 19th May 2018
- RT @willvanderhart: First proof that this 2 year project is actually becoming a reality!! Such a joy to be working with my dear friend @rob… 16 hours ago
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