Tag Archive | mindful

Book review of P Gregg Blanton’s ‘Mind Over Marriage’ – neuroscience and contemplation

Here is a link to my review of P Gregg Blanton’s book ‘Mind Over Marriage’ which brings together neuroscience and contemplation via The Baptist Times Online http://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/423638/Mind_Over_Marriage.aspx

Watching with our Transforming Lord Retreat at Worth Abbey 9-11 January 2015

Folks have been asking if I am running a retreat at Worth Abbey again next year, and yes I am! The details will be on their website soon but if you want to book in advance then you can email the Open Cloister bookings secretary, Alison Schillinger via TOC@worthabbey.net.

It is the weekend of 9-11 January 2015 and is called ‘Watching with our Transforming Lord.’

This is what they said about it last year:

How do we follow the footsteps of Jesus into our homes, works, and relationships in a way that transforms our lives? In Mark’s gospel, Jesus shows us the way through watchfulness, a lost aspect of the gospel which is cultivated through contemplative practices like Lectio Divina, silence and the Jesus Prayer. The retreat will look at how these practices help us deal with time and work stress. This is an opportunity at the start of a New Year to take time out to take a fresh look at our lives.

preaching with presence

a link to my article at the Baptist Times – preaching with presence

This is a link to my article ‘preaching with presence’ via Baptist Times Online.

The #befriending Ananias Prayer set to music


I outline below, again, the genesis of the befriending, compassionate prayer of blessing I have called the Ananias Prayer. Not only can it be used as a prayer of blessing, but it can now be used as a meditative sung prayer. My friend and worship leader, Glyn Burns, has set it to music. We will also do a recording of it soon so you can hear what it sounds like.

It should be sung in a lovingly repetitive way, like a Taize song. Here it is with the chords:

Ananias Prayer C Major

              C                           G

May the love of Christ take hold of me

              Am                          G6

May the light of Christ shine in my heart

              Em      Bm/E.         F2.        Dm/G         C

May the love of Christ flow through me – like a river


Glyn Burns/Shaun Lambert

 In various mindfulness approaches there are befriending or compassion meditations. These again have their roots in Buddhist tradition of metta or loving kindness meditations. These would include compassion for oneself, a stranger and even someone we find difficult.

 Of course loving-kindness and compassion play a central part in Christianity as well. As I looked at these metta meditations I was struck by their similarity to the prayer of Ananias of Damascus for Saul of Tarsus.

In the Book of Acts in the New Testament in chapter nine Saul has his famous Damascus Road experience. He is on his way to Damascus to arrest followers of The Way (Christians) when he is arrested by the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Temporarily blind Saul is led into Damascus. A man there called Ananias has a vision from God who asks him to go and pray a prayer of blessing on Saul which will restore his sight and fill him with the compassionate presence of God, the Holy Spirit.

Ananias questions the wisdom of praying for a stranger and an enemy, but God encourages him out of the way of fear into the way of love. It is clear that the prayer of Ananias has a significant impact on Saul. When Saul talks about his encounter with Jesus, which includes the prayer of Ananias when scales fell from his eyes, and he is filled with the Holy Spirit, he says he has had three important experiences.

‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.’ (Philippians 3:12)

The word here for ‘took hold’ is literally ‘arrested.’ On the road to Damascus the love of Christ took hold of him.

When the scales fell from his eyes he ‘saw the light’. In 2 Corinthians 4:6 he says, ‘For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’ This reference to light shining out of darkness goes back to Genesis 1:3 where God said ‘Let there be light.’

So Saul was taken hold of by the love of Christ, and the light of the love of God shone in his heart.

He then says in 1 Timothy 1:13-14, ‘Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.’

The compassionate mercy, grace and love of God were poured into Paul like an overwhelming river.

I felt in part these experiences were because of Ananias’ prayer of befriending and compassion. So I have put them in prayer form that we can pray first for ourselves, then a stranger, then an enemy, and finally back for ourselves. In the words of one of Jesus’ most important statements ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39).

These are the prayers:

May the love of Christ take hold of me

May the light of Christ shine in my heart

May the love of Christ flow through me like a river

and then

May the love of Christ take hold of him/her

May the light of Christ shine in his/her heart

May the love of Christ flow through him/her like a river

We pray it for our own self, then a stranger, then an enemy and finally for our own self again. Change is laid down by a succession of fresh experiences of love. In our prayer of blessing and befriending something real happens.

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 – 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.

Coco Open Attentive and Learning

Coco Open Attentive and Learning

Coco asks for bigger photo for his blog

Coco the mindful dog- part two

We thought we would carry out the next brain-scan (no harm to dog) experiment out there in the field so to speak. The sophisticated software and scanning headgear was developed by Top Dog Neuroscience Ltd. Basically it scans the dog’s mind and translates the brain-waves into thoughts.

the big cunning dog he does put me in strange gear what will all my friends think but I do know he has ham in his pocket even though my head is humming I think it will be a day for sniffing today and rolling in things because the big cunning dog that is the master I do know that he has forgotten my ball and all my friends will be there so I have to show them that I am a big cunning dog too and the master I do love him but I do know that I wiill win the chess game and end up on his bed if I keep howling but I do know that he doesn’t know that I play chess….(at this point on the computer the thoughts translated by the software dried up. Coco was sniffing things at this point and we think that his brain had switched to pure awareness. Beautiful patterns appeared instead of thoughts. I am thinking of getting them printed and sold as Coco’s paintings. It might help to pay the vet bills….the sniffing has stopped).

If I sit and look at him now I do know that he will give me some ham which is in his left zipped pocket look in my eyes give me ham….(at this point very powerful brain waves were measured and the experiment was abandoned for the day). I felt it important to give Coco some ham as a reward.

Mindful of nature – Isaac the Syrian

ImageIsaac of Nineveh (The Syrian) of the seventh century was someone who who was mindful of nature. His purified heart, purified through contemplation of Scripture made him mindful of nature.

And what is a compassionate heart?..It is a heart that burns for all creation, for the birds, for the beasts, for the devils, for every creature. When he thinks about them, when he looks at them, his eyes fill with tears. So strong, so violent is his compassion….that his heart breaks when he sees the pain and the suffering of the humblest creature.’ (quoted in Olivier Clement, ‘The Roots of Christian Mysticism’, p. 227).

Christians who rediscover the ancient paths of contemplation will rediscover the possibility of seeing  ‘every common bush afire with God’ (Gerard Manley Hopkins). They will rediscover a heart that burns for all creation.