“And just remember: you can always begin again”
Those are the words that I hear most mornings when I sit and do my guided meditation. They invite me into freedom. They invite me into life.
Last semester (well actually last year) was what I would call FULL ON! By the time September hit in, I was teetering on crashing. There were a number of circumstances that were colliding all at the same time (new job, family stuff, pastoral responsibilities) and I was struggling to breathe. So, I signed myself up for a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program – an 8 week course that provides people with stress dealing tools aka it helps you live and breathe!
The course was a life saver and enabled me to not spiral out of control. I would recommend it to everyone whether you are stressed out or not! It was a course in the school of Wisdom. You address issues such as turning off the autopilot; becoming aware of how to engage with emotions, thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations; dealing with perceptions; responding rather than reacting in communication; healthy eating and much more. The course was really practical and we were I introduced to the practice of mindfulness (some call it sitting meditation) and mindful movement (easy forms of yoga).
One of the beauties of the practice of mindfulness is growing in the posture of extending loving kindness towards yourself. After 10 minutes of silence you discover really quickly that its super difficult to focus simply on one thing such as your breathing. There’s thoughts firing your conscious off in all directions, emotions swirling around about people, places or circumstances, bodily sensations (pain, itching, dead legs!), and if that isn’t enough theres sounds and smells to deal with! You kind of feel like you are setting yourself up for failure when you begin this practice however that’s when these words cut through the noise and remind you to “remember, you can always just begin again.”
When you learn to begin again in the small things it becomes a little easier to apply it too the larger things in life. Beginning again is about resetting and there are so many unnoticed rhythms in our lives that can foster those fresh starts we long for. One of those for me is sleep. Sleep resets me and every morning I consciously remind myself of the new beginning gift I receive.
For the last couple of years most mornings involve this ritual:
- Wake up
- Attempt to get out of bed
- Get out of bed
- Make coffee or get coffee if someone else has already done the great deed!
- Return to my room
- Grab my blanket, journal, bible and any other significant read
- Light my candle
- Sit and write my gratitudes and consolations/desolations
- Read the Moravian readings
- Sitting meditation
- Blow out my candle
- Change clothes
- Head out for a walk or swim
This time usually lasts anywhere between 1.5-2hrs and its MY sacred time of the day. It grounds me. It helps me wake up, move out of the grumps (ie. bad waking up mood), and consciously remind myself of the fresh opportunities this day holds. Part of that ritual is reading Scripture.
I view reading as a mirror. What I mean by this is I’m careful to watch the reactions of my soul as I read the words on the page. Somedays I get angry at the narrative, other days inspired. Then there are those days where it’s just going through the motions and nothing seems to be going in. It’s in those reactions that I begin to discern the voice of God. I agree with Calvin here: “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God” and vice-versa. So becoming aware of my reactions as I read this key text (that is meant to speak to humanity about the person of God) is important for me.
The New Year has seen me switch things up a little as I’ve replaced the Moravian readings with the book of John – a familiar and favourite book of mine. Christchurch has just begun to embark on a journey through this text and last Sunday I got to share some thoughts on the prologue. Already its been quite the journey. The prologue is no easy thing to wrap your mind around. John’s words are jam packed with meaning and his metaphors and paradoxes can bug you for hours. But that’s the magic of it all.
On the weekend a bunch of us sat in our lounge and read it from cover to cover in one sitting. Hearing the various voices read numerous interpretations of the text was an enriching experience. Some read slow. Others faster. Aaron got is his improv on and had us all laughing. Such a precious memory. As I re-heard the narrative my attention was drawn to new ways of seeing and understanding the story. I was hit hard by the constant attack Jesus received on his identity. People were relentless in their questioning. I was intrigued by the relationship that John had with Peter. And I was amazed once again at how threatened the Jews were by the presence of this one man.
Every time I come to this text there is always something new – something new to learn about myself, God, the other, creation.
The key for me is to remain open, present and curious.
Yesterday I decided enough was enough. It was time to invest in some new tunes. Christmas had brought some gifts of the monetary variety so with a budget in mind I opened the old iTunes store and went a wandering. An old friend of mine had tweeted about a new artist he was listening too – Aaron Krause, Holding onto Love. I generally trust this dudes taste in music so quickly sampled some of Krause’s music on iTunes and hit purchase. An hour later, and $50 spent I had invested in three more artists plus Krause. You can see the other artists below.
Music and I have a little bit of a on and off relationship. For someone who is meant to be a ‘musician’ and who once wrote an album as well as having a wall full of vinyl in my home and a very expensive couple of guitars sitting out of sight and out of mind, I’m struggling in my relationship with music.
Two Christmas’ ago I decided I was going to try and invest in my relationship with it and so didn’t buy any more digital music but rather started collecting CD’s. Went the tangible route. The injection lasted all of about seven CD purchases. After listening to music on my friends record player I then decided that CD’s were inadequate communicators and flushed out some more cash and bought a record player, a bunch of vinyl and an old receiver. Something sparked and I now have a wall full of vinyl and many great memories of beer drinking, food eating, music listening celebrations littering my neural pathways. However there is still an absence in it all. There’s still something missing.
Music once was my life. I loved, lived and breathed it. It was my occupation. It connected my whole being – my thoughts with my emotions, with my feelings. It made me feel alive. Yet today it doesn’t wield the same magic. Something has changed. I’ve changed. And I guess I’m grieving. Grieving more deeply than before, realizing the loss and trying to figure out how to make amends. How to be open to a new connection with this beautiful gift. To be present to it and with it. To not let it just be something I flick on in the background but rather to listen.
So I threw another $50 at iTunes and downloaded a bunch of music, transferred it to my phone, stuck my headphones it and wrote this blog whilst listening to Beck.
Okay so I’m working on the being present thing.
Bit hard with Beck. This album is awesome!
Here’s to 2015 and relational transformation!
About 10 days ago I returned to the UK as my Mum had taken three falls and ended up in hospital. Mum has a disease called Parkinsons and is entering into its final stages. How this stage has manifested in my Mum includes huge anxiety, depression, constipation, stiffness, jerks, little mobility and memory loss. She’s eaten and drunk very little hence there’s has been a significant amount if weight loss.
It has been an emotional roller coaster for all of us filled with moments of her rallying and and moments of saying goodbye. Her quality of life is not great. Recognizing who is in the the room with her is a challenge as engagement with the world outside of her eyelids is limited! She gets locked into this internal world which we only get glimpses of. For example, last night we left her at the hairdressers getting her hair done which was quite funny!
During this time, in order to help process the change in Mum the one thing I’ve been doing is picking up the pen again. Below are free verse rants that have tumbled out of these weird circumstances.
Mum. June 14
Hair once styled
makes you beautiful in pain
curls you inwards
into a world I’m blind too
heart beating stranger
I lean in to
kiss the skin
shallow, sunken breathing
you smell sweet
a name no other owns like you
holding my hand veins
intertwining with mine
soft discoloured warm hands
I speak four words
I love you Mum
“I love you dear”
I love you Mum
“I love you dear . . . where you going?”
Bones and Bedsheets. June 16
growing like vines
around thin branchlike
“Can we go home now?”
contorted cries grasping
bedsides of plastic
lock limbs in
“Oh . . . Graham! Graham!”
bursts out tender hands
comfort arrives calm
and for moments you stop
“Get your coat Graham.
The doctors said I could go.”
“No dear, we need to get you well”
greets the painful heart
of tangled bones
So I was taking a break walking around the neighbourhood today trying to get my head out of my paper when my thoughts were interrupted by this 3 year old toddler who was outside sat on a step screaming “Can I come out of time out please? Can I come out of time out please?” All I could do was laugh. Literally laugh. That 3 year old completely expressed how I am feeling about writing this paper!! But alas on we go! 10 more days left then time-out will be done!
I want to starve . . .
my victim mentality
you know, all those things that make me small,
that shrivel my heart up,
and make me blind to life, connection,
the other, and You.
So today I start
by letting hope feed me
because hope, when I eat it, makes me
feel as though
no circumstance is inherently hopeless.