Tag Archive | Worth Abbey

Worth Abbey Retreat on Watchfulness 29 April to 1 May 2016

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The link for booking is below:

http://www.worthabbey.net/Abbey-Contact-Us

The retreat is based on my new book ‘Putting On the Wakeful One: attuning to the Spirit of Jesus through Watchfulness’, published April 24th, available for pre order on Amozon…

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Is the remains of your prayer life, lying there like a discarded nest?

like a discarded nest

like a discarded nest

Sometimes I talk to people and they describe the remains of a prayer life, like a discarded nest.

Spring is a good time though to start the process of rebuilding a prayer life again. We can take our lessons from the nest-builders.

The most difficult thing in prayer and mindfulness is a daily practice. It is also the most important thing. You have to gather the stuff of a nest, and the stuff of prayer consistently and regularly.

Just as with the birds the stuff we need is all around. In our prayer times God interweaves his Word with all that we bring into a place that we can begin to find, home in on, like a nest. It becomes a home.

Just as the birds find the stuff they need from the environment around, so can we. Time spent in nature, letting the grass whisper of the Creator, as embodied contemplation, adds to the nest. The flight of silence and solitude where we attentively look and listen for the footprints of the Invisible God who is already there with us. The encouragement of others we see flying in the sky, also looking to build a nest of prayer.

The building of a nest and the life of prayer require stability, the returning to one place, from which we can fly. In that place, just like the birds, we can nurture new life, that will grow wings of its own. Like the birds we also need to migrate, to find a place to retreat to. For me over the last 10 years that has been Worth Abbey.

Perhaps each year, like the birds, we need to re-examine the nest, and start the process of building a new one. Automaticity in prayer and life can be the thing that leads us to discard the nest prematurely, and not try to build again.

Building again asks us to hope again, to not give up, to become resilient in our prayer life. In our prayer life our ordinary, embodied and relational life is transformed, as we meditatively consider His Word, the work of His hands…

The bell that rings out silence – Worth Abbey Church #mindful

Worth Abbey

Worth Abbey Church hangs like a bell in the sky, ringing out…silence. This sense of being in a bell that is all to do with silence increases when you sit inside – even more you get a sense of a giant bell hovering above you.

Back in 2006 a phrase of 5th century Bishop, Diadochus of Photike, pioneer of the Jesus Prayer, also rang me like a bell. The energy of that phrase has stayed with me ever since, motivating and directing me. He said, ‘Let us keep our eyes always fixed on the depths of our heart with an unceasing mindfulness of God.’[1]

Within the vast  bell-like space of Worth I have been inspired to cultivate that mindfulness of God. The space and the silence invite you to indwell such mindfulness in your heart.

I have just led a retreat at Worth over the weekend on watchfulness and mindfulness of God. The experience did something which one translation from the Prologue of the Rule of St Benedict calls running ‘with hearts enlarged.’ The experience made my heart bigger. It was not just the space, the silence, the rhythm of prayer – it was the people. Those who were on retreat and the monks who offered us hospitality.

Now as I am home and I believe for weeks afterwards, if previous experience is to go by, that bell church that rings out silence will still ring in my life. I will still hear the echoes of the silence drifting to me on the wind.

[1] Quoted in Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism (London: New City, 2002) p.204.

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.
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#mindfully choosing the palette of colour you paint with..

#mindfully choosing the palette of colour you paint with..

I was leading a retreat at Worth Abbey on watchfulness over the weekend. On the Sunday morning I got up early and walked to the Abbey Church at 6.15. There is very little light pollution and the night sky was very open.

The stars beckoned me to look at them, stopping me in my tracks. Their beautiful silence brought tears to my eyes. I have always liked the Don McLean song Vincent (starry, starry night) about Van Gogh. The opening lyrics came into my head as a refrain:

‘Starry, starry night,
Paint your palette blue and gold…’

The rational part of my brain said, ‘the words are not right’. The actual words are:

‘Starry, starry night,
Paint your palette blue and GREY..’

But a voice came back to me saying, ‘no, you paint your palette blue and gold.’
It felt like a message from the stars for the New Year.

For me blue speaks of faithfulness and stability and sticking with people, God, the way of watchfulness and mindfulness. Gold speaks of the brightness of hope.

What mindfulness has taught me is that I can choose the palette of colours I paint my life with. Each thought and feeling has its own colour. Sometimes I have painted with grey, allowed depressed thoughts to become a ruminative pattern in my mind. I have learnt that they are passing events in my mind, that they are not me and that I can let them go.

As I have noticed them and let them go, blue and gold thoughts have sprung up. The message of hope came as a gift from the stars, ‘paint your palette blue and gold…’ I can mindfully choose the palette of colour I paint with. And so can you.

Watching with our Transforming Lord, retreat at Worth Abbey 3-5 January 2014

Watching with our Transforming Lord, retreat at Worth Abbey 3-5 January 2014

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.
This retreat is led by Shaun Lambert, a Baptist minister, frequent retreatant at Worth, writer (a regular correspondent for the Baptist Times and author of a recent thought-provoking book, A Book of Sparks, which mentions his Worth Abbey experiences) and good friend of the monastic community.
See link below for further details:
http://www.worthabbey.net/cloister/weekend.htm

The #mindful windows of awareness

The #mindful windows of awareness

I have just come back from leading a retreat at Worth Abbey about shifting our mental gear from doing to being, from thinking to awareness. The beautiful Abbey Church has a visual parable built within it, that helps illustrate an important aspect of our awareness.

It is a circular church, and has windows running all around the rim of the circle (see photo). Attention is about what we do with our awareness. We can focus our attention, for example, on sounds – allowing whatever sounds are out there to come into our hearing. That is like looking through one window of the many we could look through in the Abbey Church.

Daniel Siegel in his book The Mindful Brain talks about us having a rim of awareness through which things can be attended to. We have our five senses on the rim, five windows if you like on to the world. But Daniel Siegel suggests we have eight senses: in the sixth sense we can become aware of what is going on in our body, in the seventh sense we can become aware of what is going on in our minds – thoughts, feelings, sensations, and in the eighth relational sense we can become aware of what is going on with other people around us.

I would also like to suggest that there is a ninth sense, that works with the other eight senses, which is about becoming aware of the presence of God.
We can focus our attention, just attending to one window, whether it is hearing or sight. But we can also cultivate an open awareness where we are able to allow all our senses to come into awareness. Using the Abbey Church as an example this is where light is coming in through all the windows, and we are aware of all the windows in the circular rim of the church simultaneously.

Often we live through only a few windows, the others blacked out to our awareness and attention. Mindfulness and contemplation open up all the windows of awareness to our awareness and attention. As this happens we begin to experience life in the moment as it truly is, which is whole and full of healthy possibilities, including the possibility of hearing the footsteps of the Invisible One in our life.