Andy’s Headspace App was a really useful introductory tool for me when I began to take meditation more seriously. His guided meditations were super accessible and helped me begin to get into a daily rhythm of sitting. Since then I have 100% recommended this tool to those who maybe can’t make the leap to a mindfulness/meditation class but are curious as to what it’s all about. The New Yorker has written a great article on Andy’s story suggesting his work to be pioneering in the ‘digital therapy’ oxymoron sweeping the globe. Take a read. It’s a great article!
I heard this quote on SuperSoul Sunday when Oprah was interviewing Jon Kabat Zinn, the grandfather of the mindfulness movement in the West. At the start of the 8 week mindfulness course (MBSR program) that he teaches, Jon often begins the course with this statement above. Jon tells his patients that over the duration of the course they will be pouring energy, in the form of attention, into what is right with them – much of which we never notice or take for granted, or don’t fully develop in ourselves – whilst letting the doctors or health professionals take care of what is wrong with them!
I love this statement. Why? Because it’s a good, positive and true starting point for understanding ourselves.
So often we can be predisposed to the negative in our life – the soundtracks, thoughts, memories or voices that speak to us about how crap we are at things or how there are so many things wrong with us or that we just need to do more in order to have significance.
This statement pushes back against that. If you are breathing, right now in this moment, as you read this post, then there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what is wrong.
And this is how the story begins in the ancient Jewish text called Torah. God created humankind in his image and said that humankind were not just good, but very good – there was more right with them than wrong with them. And even today, many, many years later that is still how God sees you.
So, image bearers, why not decide to start the day by celebrating what is right and very good about you. Why not write out this quote and stick it somewhere you’ll see every morning and when that negative voice creeps into your consciousness and pronounces it’s judgement, tell it to [ . . . .] off and speak these words out over yourself!
It starts with a thought. Then before you know it that thought expands into a full blown conversation, a conversation that ends up expanding into a whole story or movie. Then the heart might start racing. Hands might start to sweat. Stomach might start turning. Then before you know it you’re whole being is transfixed with the thought-turned-into-a-movie and you’ve lost all sight of of what you were actually doing in that moment whether it be shaving your armpits or playing with the kids.
That one tiny thought expanded into an all encompassing, fully engaging take-you-out-of-the-present kind of experience that sometimes can last for hours, even days. It can happen with good thoughts. It can happen with not so good thoughts.
What . . . you . . . focus . . . on . . . expands.
Jesus knew this. That’s why he talked about worry a lot. Paul knew this. That’s why he invited his readers to transform their minds and meditate on good things.
So here’s my invitation for you.
Slowly take a few deep breaths.
In through your nose and out through your mouth.
And then focus on this:
“Hi God. How you doing today? . . .”
This post is an email that I wrote to the small crew that I have been pastoring over the last 6-7 years bringing people up to speed with some decisions I am making. As with all decisions there are consequences.
Hey all . . .
Just wanted to bring you all up to speed regarding our gathering yesterday as not all of us who are part of the Christchurch swirl were there.
It was about this time last year that we were in a process of re-evaluating who we were, what we were about and where we were going. At that time we decided to put a stake in the ground and say YES to continuing this journey together as Christchurch. The purpose of our time together on Sunday was to re-visit this conversation again regarding where we were all at concerning Christchurch a year down the road. During our time together I shared some important news regarding where I’m at.
I believe that it is time for me to step out of my role as pastor of this community. This decision has not been made lightly and there’s been a ton of getting quiet and listening to my heart, the wisdom of others and the voice of God. What has made the decision more interesting is that I have no clear definitive idea regarding what I’m going to be stepping into. All I know is that I have to step out of my role here before I can embrace what is to come, and I know there is something to come.
The last few years journeying with you all have been some of the most formative, healing and transformative years of my life. I’ve discovered a whole new dimension of God’s personality that’s good and beautiful. I’ve learnt what it means to be vulnerable and open. I’ve learnt what it means to be comfortable with ambiguity, pursing the questions more than the answers. I’ve learnt how beautiful life can be when you journey with people who don’t hold the same beliefs or values as you do. I’ve learnt what it means to love and be committed to the other. I’ve learnt that relationship is what life is all about. And I’ve more deeply fallen in love with the person and story of Jesus and his followers the church. More strongly than ever I am thankful for the church and how it has shown me in all its brokenness and scarring the beautiful face of God. All of you have revealed God to me in some way and for this I am so deeply thankful.
There are a couple of things that I want to make really clear in stepping out of this role.
Stepping out of this role does NOT mean I’m leaving relationships (or the country!!).
I am very much committed to continuing to participate and invest in the relationships that exist within Christchurch.
Stepping out of the role does NOT automatically equate to the dissolving of Christchurch, however, it does raise questions as to what the future might look like.
Over the next month or so myself and the leadership team will help facilitate listening to God, one another and processing what the future might hold for us both personally and as a group. We will also create space to remember and celebrate what we have learnt over the last few years as well as articulate what we want to carry forward into the rest of our lives. Any decisions we make will impact Dawn and our sister community Strathcona so we’ll be giving good processing time to this.
I will not be stepping out of my role until this process of determining what the future of Christchurch might look like is clearer.
My hope is that I will officially step out of this role by the end of June at the latest.
Lastly, I am available to get together with anyone if you have further questions or thoughts.
Peace and tons of love to you all.
“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 to 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. Take a look at your life. You never know what resetting spaces you might just find!
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.