Aoradh meditation trail, Pucks Glen…

 

Aoradh meditation walk, start

We are just back after deconstructing the installations and stations in the lovely Puck Glen, which formed Aoradh’s contribution to Cowalfest. It felt like a real shame to take them down, as even today the Glen was full of people who were visibly affected by what they were encountering.

This is the second time we have used Pucks Glen in this way, and I have ideas about other things I would love to use this magical place for- watch this space to see if they ever come in to being.

As ever, if anyone wants to know more about what we did, or wants a copy of some of the resources feel free to get in touch.This time our contributions went something like this;

A water wheel spinning from a bridge in the darkest part of the Glen, asking people to think about the fact that it was energised by silver streams that had come from above.

Ribbons of all sorts of colours anchored to the top of a waterfull then fanning out over a pool. The path goes under the ribbons, in a way to make people part of the waterfall- with some suggestions to think about Streams of Living Water.

A way side shrine, with candles and a wooden carved cross.

‘Leaping’ silver fish on flexible stainless steel rods, anchored to the bottom of the stream, moving as the water rushes past. An image of freedom- where the spirit of the Lord is…

Large dry leaves (from Benmore Gardens) and pens at the top of the Glen, with an invitation to write on the leaves and drop them into the water- letting go, repentance etc.

Prayer flags, asking people to raise their own ensign- things that they want to be animated by the wind of the Spirit.

A wooden frame to look out over open country through.

A Loom, with an invitation to write names of special people who make up their community- the gifts of the Spirit being so much to do with getting on with each other.

Poetry on large PVC banners in and amongst the trees from another previous Aoradh event on a theme of ‘A time to…’

Speaking/listening tube- a long plastic drainpipe up into the tree canopy with a horn on one end and a speaking cup on the other- with an invitation to listen and speak prayers.

Also all the way through the Glen were small bits of poetry- what we called ‘messages’.

At some point over the weekend someone vandalised the installations- always a surprise given it’s location. Much of the poetry was ripped off or had disappeared altogether, as had the carved wooden cross. I can only assume that someone had a problem with the Christian starting point of what we were offering. This was balanced however by so many people who seemed to have found it so lovely, and had engaged with it using the materials provided. It really was a lovely thing to be part of…

Here are a few photos;

Nowhere to lay his head…

Continuing in the way of photograph related meditation materials, here is a photo that combined two themes in my head.

The first one was the on-going debate in our lives around the place that houses have taken in our zeitgeist. Of course was all need a safe place to live and share lives- this is way up the list of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Without this we human beings start to come apart at the seams. However, we have elevated this need to something that can only be described as narcissistic obsession. You might even say addiction.

House prices continue to shy rocket, likely putting home ownership out of reach for most of the next generations. But our culture continues to sell us an idea of the perfect house, with the perfect garden, in the right location, near the right schools as the route to the ultimate happiness and fulfillment. It is not.

Happiness and fulfillment are held somewhere in the middle of a tension that include a life lived for something, in community with others, whilst feeling loved. Sadly, our house obsession, which is so me-first, in my bubble, behind my fences, seems to mitigate against this so often. We become people who have to work like dogs to afford the maximum mortgage we can scratch towards, and at the same time the scale of our possession seems to breed fear and suspicion, often between neighbours.

The other thing the photo takes me to are the words of Jesus, who as usual has things to say that directly challenge us in our soft underbelly. In Matthew’s gospel there are stories of how people would come to him, asking to become one of his close followers. They were used to a rabbinical system in which Rabbis chose their followers from the best of the best, and sought to school them in their teachings. Jesus seemed to choose the worst of the worst as his followers of course, but the way he sent some of the more eager high achievers on their way still brings us up short. It was another of those ways that he turned the understood order of things upside down. Here is the story;

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

 

Matt 8, NIV

What is going on here?  A man asks for something, but Jesus answers him with something that appears unrelated to his request. The Message version of the bible paraphrases the same passage like this;

18-19 When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.

20 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

His words seem harsh, but the message seems to be entirely in wider context. Do not store up comforts and treasures for yourself- this is the route to brokenness and separation. If you live like this, it will all go wrong. If you want to live like me, the road will be long and often uncomfortable, but you will be fully alive.

What does this mean for me as I put my house on the market? What next? What roads will open up and will I dare to walk them?

Here is the photo.

seagull hotel

Life glimpsed through winter trees…

_IGP4236

A few shots from a lovely walk up through the woods to the ‘Chinese ponds’ round past Toward.

We took a picnic.

The trees always still you. They have this way of telling you that life is not for the burning, but rather is what happens as we pass by. Each bare branch wears its lichen colonies well, as birds flit through on some afternoon mission or other, unnoticed.

_IGP4226

 

Meanwhile out beyond the branches, through forks and crooked boughs, the real world looks so angular, so predictable. I would stay in the woods. At least for a while.

_IGP4233

 

I am beautiful…

me, fractured

A title that may well expose me to questioning ridicule- stay with me though.

For most of my life I have been affected by a crippling lack of confidence. I manage to hide it some of the time, even to act as though it is not there, but it never quite goes away. Many of you know just what I am talking about; that feeling that in any given social situation things could go wrong. That the others have more brains, more good looks, more talent, more presence.

This is not just an intellectual understanding- I know that my position is not always logical. I am quite good at some things. I even surprise myself sometimes, so do not hit me with your ‘power of positive thinking’ crap. But all my success is nuanced by the shadow of doubt. If I am not careful I know that these negative thoughts become a black hole that I fall in to.

It is not just a spiritual understanding- I know that I am a child of the Living God. I am even convinced that he likes sinners like me, that he has a skew towards those at the back of the class. My experience is that whilst God may not be my divine therapist, still he has this way of turning negative to positive. So my sensitisation can become a way of being sensitive to others. It can become deeply creative. Nevertheless, sometimes depression hangs on me like darkness and I can create nothing, love nothing.

It is not just a psychological understanding- I have been down those roads; the counselling, the self help, the CBT formulation schematics. I know the root of this in my childhood, the factors in my personality that skew me towards the shadow. I understand them in the same way that a man understands how forces of gravity will mean that it will hurt when he surely falls. I am an onion, with each skin stretched from the same damaged DNA.

It is not about appearance, although I avoid mirrors and dodge the pointed lens. They tend to make an unflattering cartoon of my face.

But enough of this.

It is true and also not true.

For despite all these things, I am beautiful.

So those of you who carry your own wounds- know this- you are more. And although I know these words are trite and shallow (I wrote them after all…)

…you are beautiful too.

Eileach an Naoimh wilderness retreat pics…

Just looking at some photos of our trip to Eileach an Naoimh. It was great, and there is much more to reflect on, but for now, a few pics as I should be busy setting up our house for an ‘open studios’ event;

 

Rowan Williams on spirituality and whinging Christians…

rowan_1724695c

He always was worth listening to carefully. Sure he never got used to packaging up media friendly sound bites, and even though many counted this in a list of his faults whilst in office, I always loved the fact that there was depth and intellect in everything he said. I have wondered how his voice might develop after being released from all the pressure of his post.

Early signs seem to be business as usual. Here are a couple of extracts, courtesy of The Guardian;

Firstly on whinging Christians, by which I mean those who see Christians in this country as under some kind of attack from the forces of evil. Check out the pages of Christian Voice and you will see what I mean;

Christians in Britain and the US who claim that they are persecuted should “grow up” and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling “mildly uncomfortable”, according to Rowan Williams, who last year stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury after an often turbulent decade.

“When you’ve had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely,” he said. “Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. ‘For goodness sake, grow up,’ I want to say.”

True persecution was “systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day”. He cited the experience of a woman he met in India “who had seen her husband butchered by a mob”.

Nothing confirms some Christians in their sense of persecution more than issues around homosexuality- it is almost as if every legal/social step forward offered to gay people is seen as some kind of prod of the devil-horns into the side of the church. Considering the fact that gay people have suffered (and still suffer) actual persecution this always seems to me to be a terrible miss-representation of the Gospel.

Rowan Williams then started out on a wider theme- that of ‘Spirituality’;

Sharing a platform at the Edinburgh international book festival with Julia Neuberger, president of the Liberal Judaism movement, Williams launched a withering critique of popular ideas about spirituality. “The last thing it is about is the placid hum of a well-conducted meditation,” he said.

He said the word “spiritual” in today’s society was frequently misused in two ways: either to mean “unworldly and useless, which is probably the sense in which it has been used about me”, or “meaning ‘I’m serious about my inner life, I want to cultivate my sensibility'”.

He added: “Speaking from the Christian tradition, the idea that being spiritual is just about having nice experiences is rather laughable. Most people who have written seriously about the life of the spirit in Christianity and Judaism spend a lot of their time telling you how absolutely bloody awful it is.” Neuberger said she found some uses of the word self-indulgent and offensive. Williams argued that true spirituality was not simply about fostering the inner life but was about the individual’s interaction with others.

I am still working on a collection of ‘Spiritual’ poetry. I think I just found a quote for the introduction!