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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

the mindfully ecstatic state of mind #camino

Yesterday was a day of ecstasy. I wasn’t expecting ecstasy, agony certainly…I was trying to work out why.

It could have been grace

maybe it was flow

maybe it was good stress

It came on while I was walking and stayed all day.

maybe it was the walking

perhaps we are made for walking

perhaps it was the soft Galician countryside, and the small farms I was walking through

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I know we have been given mindful states of mind, and one of those is an ecstatic state of mind. I have also experienced it skiing, the song of ecstasy.

I think it is a gift, part of what means to be fully human, from the Giver of gifts. It is a created gift to experience in creation.

walking and the evaporation of psychological waste mindfully

The tree of our life can be healthy, except we are carrying burdens, and within those burdens is psychological and spiritual waste.

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I came across this tree on my Camino walk, which symbolised those unnecessary burdens. One of the reasons for doing this pilgrimage is to lay down the burdens, to let go of the psychological and spiritual waste within those burdens.

I was inspired to do a longer walk through the daily practice of short mindful walks. On this longer walk I have chosen a hat, socks and shirts that can ‘wick’ moisture – move moisture away from the skin. I have found short mindful walks act like emotional ‘wicking,’ and very important in the day-to-day regulation of emotion. My belief is that the Camino walks can allow the baggage of the last seven years to trail behind me.

As I become emptied of psychological and spiritual waste, I can be filled with hope, love and faith. The evaporation of waste enables the condensation of love.

Using mindfulness in the walk of life to stop it blistering

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I’ve just done the first day of my six day walk along the Camino from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. At 22 kms it is the longest walk I have done since a teenager. In preparing for the walk people advised me to push enough in the training to find the hot spots, the parts of the foot that blister first.

I was then given two tips, one to use special plasters that act like second skin, and the second is to use Vaseline on your feet to stop rubbing. Both worked I’m pleased to say. Although I have found one extra hot spot.

In the stress of life we can have hot spots, certain events that makes us anxious, or sad, or angry. Mindfulness doesn’t take away stress but it acts like a second skin plaster, or like Vaseline to reduce the friction that causes us to react rather than respond to difficulties.

What are your hot spots? And how do you handle them?

 

 

Waking up in a ‘thin’ place…@LeeAbbeyDevon

It was six o’clock in the morning. I could hear the wind whistling outside and rattling against the windows. I got out of bed and pulled back the curtains. There was the moon, but it was the moonlight dancing on the waves of Lee Bay that drew me like a magnet.

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It shook me. I was filled with wonder. I was enchanted. I opened the window and felt the cold wind on my face. I heard the wild owl call. It was a gift. Something inside me stretched and woke up. I felt drunk with the glory of it. The part of me not domesticated by double glazing, street lights and central heating thrilled with the wonder of the transcendent trail of light. I walked on the water with my eyes.

I was on a retreat at Lee Abbey in Devon leading on the Mindful Christian retreat. The Lee Abbey estate is set within Exmoor National Park, designated a Dark Sky Reserve. The only light I could see was the light of the moon, and that light was dancing in the dark.

I was delighted the next day to see what looked like Lee Abbey’s star-gazing bench…

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Mindfulness is a natural capacity we have, a capacity to be fully aware, to completely dwell within our senses, our experiential self. It is there, very often, that we find rapture as we consider the night sky above. It can also help us access the transcendent  and spiritual. Lee Abbey is a ‘thin place’ to the transcendent.

My article in @ACClatest Accord magazine ‘natural’ mindfulness & self-regulation

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Please see the link below to the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) website:

https://www.acc-uk.org/about-us

 

Mindful Relationships, a little video about cultivating them…

I have just uploaded a new video on Mindful Relationships: our relationship with our own self; our relationship with others, creation and God. You can find it on You Tube and here is the link:

Seeing more clearly on retreat @AbbeyRetreat Bath & Wells Diocesan Retreat House

I am in the orchard in the gardens of Glastonbury Abbey, which as a guest at Abbey House Retreat Centre, you are allowed to enter. It is 11.40 a.m. And the scent of the apples is so heavy, it hangs in the air like a mantle. It is overwhelming and intoxicating.

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I feel overwhelmed with wonder and tears, a garden has become Eden, nature has become creation. As I look around I wonder what century I am in, it could be 700 A.D. So timeless and English does the orchard feel.

I am reminded of other times when it feels like I have been clinging to a cliff edge, the edge of a ruin, but stubbornly hanging on, like a little plant blown to the edge of life by the wind.

imageEven there it is possible to blossom in the face of difficulty. The tricky thing is not to cling to the radiant moments or push away the more difficult ones. The key is to experience them as they are.

Afterwards I am often aware that God was there in the difficulties, as He is so abundantly there in the moments of epiphany and wonder.

Going on retreat enables us to see more clearly, and respond with gratitude to life and to the Giver of Life.

Becoming remagnetised to the presence of God mindfully at@AbbeyRetreat

I am sitting in Abbey House, the Diocesan Retreat Centre for Bath & Wells, overlooking the ancient ruins of Glastonbury Abbey,that look like something from Tolkien’s imagination.

This afternoon in the space and time set aside for practising the presence of God, I walked up to Glastonbury Tor, for the panoramic view of Somerset. As I write this someone is walking in the grounds of the Abbey ringing a bell as it is closing time.

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It reminds me why I am here teaching on mindfulness of God. The first time I came across the phrase mindfulness of God in the writings of 5th century Greek Bishop, Diadochus of Photike – the words rang me like a bell. But not a bell to leave but a bell calling me into the exploration of ‘mindfulness of God.’

The presence of God magnetically calls to my senses, to our senses as human beings. As an analogy we can talk about the way we are called magnetically to other people. At the top of Glastonbury Tor, by the tower, there is a helpful little map that points in the direction of different towns.

Twenty two miles in one direction is the city of Bath, where my son is studying at the university.

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Fourteen miles in another direction is Yeovil, near where my parents live. I could feel the magnetic pull in these directions – so close to them and wanting to go and see them, but unable to. I could physically feel the tug on my heart.

Prayer remagnetises us to the pull of God. That’s why I’ve come away. As we become remagnetised to the presence of God, so we  become more attentive to others, to creation, to our own self…we feel the relational pull – the interconnectedness of our lives with all that is around us.  But so often we live in an unaware state. Stress and busyness demagnetise us.

As we are remagnetised we begin to live life in all its fullness. And our senses become once again instruments of grace.

My article in @LeeAbbeyDevon’s Rapport magazine ‘Letting In The Light’

imageDo book on my retreat at Lee Abbey 14-18 November 2016!