There are grooves in the driveway at Penhurst Retreat Centre where the gate drags, like a scar.
We are here on retreat to help open the doors, the gateways into awareness, relational, embodied, spiritual. What we often become aware of is that the capacity for attentiveness is there, but that there is resistance, the door, the gateway drags as we begin to open it.
That can stop us opening the gate into our awareness and attention fully. But it is quite normal. We might be trying to avoid difficult thoughts and feelings – we might be trying to escape or bypass reality. But in mindfulness and Christian contemplation we are turning to face reality – and bring that reality into God’s light so that it can be reexamined and reperceived.
And so gently we work on the opening of the gate, the doorway. The contemplative and mindful practices begin to oil the hinges, and straighten the gate posts – and the groove left behind, the scar reminds us of our human vulnerability and that becomes a mark of grace rather than shame. The knowledge that self-awareness, that attentiveness to others costs something – it does not come automatically or easily.
All these mole hills have been dug by one mole! The warden of Penhurst Retreat house, and I am sure I am not exaggerating told me they recently had 82 mole hills in the lawn, and thought they had an infestation of moles…it turned out that it was just one mole!
One afflictive thought can be like that in the nicely manicured lawn of our mind. We bash it down, suppress it, repress it, try and solve it with rational critical thinking but it keeps popping up even more, just like a mole.
Paradoxically when we realise it is just a thought, notice it and name it, it begins to dissolve. We don’t need to get in a mole-thought specialist to deal with it! And suddenly the lawn of our mind is back to normal…until the next afflictive thought pops up…
These are some of the geese at Penhurst Retreat Centre in West Sussex, a beautiful and rural part of England. Sometimes when we are on retreat we realise we just need to tuck our head under our wing for a while. And that’s ok.
As we do so we can also find as an act of grace and loving kindness, that the larger wing of God tucks us over with His fearless and loving presence, like a mother hen with a chick.
Suddenly we find we can sleep and rest peacefully. And we wake remarkably refreshed by that encounter with the ‘full reality’ of God.
The above link is to a review of Putting On The Wakeful One, my new book, by author, minister and broadcaster Richard Littledale…
‘The book is bulging with insights fascinating enough to draw the reader in and stimulating enough to trouble that reader after the covers are closed.’
Take three minutes out of clock time. Perhaps you are stuck indoors behind a desk. This is a three minute video of the sea, waves gently lapping at the beach.
Come to your senses. Let the waves and the sounds come to you. Notice your breathing, is it rhythmic like the waves? Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep like the waves?
Let the colours come to you. Notice when the clouds come over, or when the sun comes breaking through. Can you hear quieter sounds in the background.
If your mind wanders, notice what it wanders too and bring it back to the waves.
Feel the sand beneath your feet and the coolness of the water. Salt drying on your face and the cool wind and warm sun…
Notice any longings to walk on the beach barefoot, to paddle in the sea. To gaze out at the horizon in open awareness, breathing in freedom. Is there a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving for the gift of your senses…
Did you notice the light flooding in at the end? May it be a picture of wellbeing flooding into you.
Let go of whatever is troubling you. Come back to the task in hand refreshed. As the paddle boarder appears at the end, so it is time for you to journey on to your next task.
I am leading a retreat at Penhurst Retreat Centre on Mindfulness of God and Personal Transformation on 12-14 June 2015.
Here are the details below and a link to the retreat centre’s website:
The retreat will be exploring mindfulness of God and mindfulness of health, with the aim of personal transformation. Anyone interested in developing their awareness and attention would benefit from this retreat. There will be silence built into the retreat as this is an important part of the spiritual practice of mindfulness. You will be introduced to the historic spiritual practices of Lectio Divina and the Jesus Prayer, as well as secular mindful awareness practices. We will be looking at mindfulness within Mark’s Gospel, the monastic tradition and psychology. The retreat will be interactive and dialogic with experiential elements.