I walked down to Lee Bay this morning as the sun shone, part of the Lee Abbey Estate where I am running a retreat on mindfulness of God. To be mindful of God I need to inhabit my body, my emotions, my mind and my soul.
The stream became symbolic for me, and I thought about the streams of awareness in us, in me, our senses. Not just the traditional five, wonderful though they are but also the sense of our own body, sensing our thoughts and feelings, other people’s feelings (see Daniel Siegel, an interpersonal neurobiologist for his 8 senses). But also the ability to sense the presence of God with all our senses.
I then thought what if I allow these streams of awareness in me to become living water, inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit – able to see and sense through God’s eyes.
Coming here to Lee Abbey gives me a taste of what that might be like and also the desire to seek it first above my other desires.
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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.