Tag Archive | contemplative

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.

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‘The Quiet Girl’ by Peter Hoeg, one of best books ever written? #goodbooks

Peter Hoeg the Danish author has a new book out called The Elephant Keepers’ Children. I am about to buy it, but I was surprised to read in the Telegraph’s Review section (Saturday October 6) that his novel The Quiet Girl  published in 2006 had been poorly received.

I think The Quiet Girl is the most satisfying novel I have read as an adult (best nature book ‘Otter Country by Miriam Darlington). A contemplative approach apparently informs his working practices, and that would suggest to me that The Quiet Girl was ahead of its time. With Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury stressing the centrality of contemplation as a key to renewed humanity and a new way of seeing in recent weeks, The Quiet Girl deserves another look.

One of the things I like about the book is the way the author sees and hears the world. The book is impossible to classify in terms of genre. It is like a riddle, and like all good riddles I am not going to try and explain it.

The main character, Kasper, like the author, is deeply attentive to the world. There is a razor sharp discerning, balanced with an open awareness to the things our culture offers us, both low and high. Kasper knows things. He knows the mystics, the clowns, the philosophers, the composers alongside knowing alcohol inside out, the holes in our souls, and the shadows that accompany us.

It is a spiritual book as well as being deeply focused on material reality in all its mysteriousness. It is both aware of icons and orthodoxy, and also for some it will seem iconoclastic and unafraid of heresies. The Quiet Girl has one of the best opening lines I have read. ‘SHE ALMIGHTY HAD tuned each person into a musical key, and Kasper could hear it.’ Everything flows out of this opening key.

Peter Hoeg knows music, and makes the reader want to know music in the same way, to indwell it as  Kasper does. He recognizes an ‘icon of sounds’ when he hears it. There are throwaway lines on prayer, the ego and being special, on philosophy and music that are worth the price of the book alone as meditations.

But I come back to the seeing. This is a book written by a contemplative human, and it is the most satisfyingly complex and deeply human book I have read as an adult. In 2006 it may have fallen quietly to the ground. But today? Today I think it will begin to resonate. As for the heroine, the quiet girl herself, I will give nothing away. Read it and see for yourself. Find the silence.