spirituality & human flourishing Thu, 20 Aug 2015 16:25:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 One Thought Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:56:34 +0000 20150820_074125

Like all days, yesterday had some major moments of struggle. Part of my life involves managing a hustling cafe which many of you readers know and frequent (Water Shed Arts Cafe). I love the role that I get to play in this business however yesterday held a fair amount of frustration. Over the last month or so I’ve been spending more time working ‘in’ the business rather than ‘on’ the business. It’s been a humbling process as I’ve been making new neurological pathways and learning, learning how to fail well.

The icing on the cake yesterday was when things decided to get busy whilst it was only two of us on shift. This busyness has no regular, consistent and predictable pattern to it (I’ll write about this flummoxing reality again sometime!). A number of people just decided to all come in at the same time to order food and blended mochas.

Jenn was flying with making lunches and I was attempting to manage till and make drinks. Now drinks are a growing edge for me especially making blended mochas (don’t understand why people want coffee blended especially when it tastes WAY better over ice! Try it sometime. Honestly.) There’s an art to getting the shot, chocolate, milk, and ice ratio just right (we make our mochas with real chocolate – absolutely delicious).

So, in the flurry of busyness I had four mochas, all different chocolates, milks and coffee blends that needed to get made.

My internal dialogue went something like this:

“Nae, you’ve got this. Just think. Pull the shots. Okay, dark chocolate. Breathe. Oh shit! Another customer. Better take that order.”

Take the order. Back at the bar.

“Okay. Shots pulled. Okay, pour over dark chocolate. Let it melt. Okay, put that one aside and pull another shot Nae. Crap. What am I gonna melt this one in? Cup. Use another cup. Right. Pour shot over the milk chocolate. Melting. Right. Done. Oh boy . . . here comes another person.”

Take the order. Another drink added to the list.

“All right. This is crazy. How the heck am I going to make all these drinks in time for people? Focus. Okay dark chocolate mocha. Right, need ice. Got my two blenders. Put the ice in. What would Ivan do? (Ivan is my barista idol!). Okay, pour dark chocolate in this one. Milk chocolate in this one. Remember they’re two different sizes Nae! Oh crap. I’m so behind on this. Can Jenn help on this one? Nope. She’s running around. Okay breathe. You can do this! Alright pour some milk in them. Wait. How much? This much I’m thinking. Crap. Crap. Crap. This isn’t looking right. Just keep blending Nae. Okay here we go. Nope. . . . it’s not looking good. Yup that looks like a runny brown pee not a blended mocha.

What the heck! I can’t do this.

And there’s 3 more to make plus another drink. . . . Jenn! Can you help? . . . Nope. Arghhhhhh. I can’t do this. Why?! This is stupid. I’m meant to be the manager and I can’t even make a freaking mocha properly. I’m no good at this job. I can’t do it. I’m not cut out to be a barista. Oh shit. People are waiting. What do I do . . ? What do I do?” 

“Nae do you need some help?!” Up pops Ivan’s head on the other side of the bar!

“Oh my gosh. Thank God for Ivan.”

This final frustration pushed me to my universal challenge line and when I’m at that line my thoughts are often about flight. I wanted out. I wanted to crawl into a corner and cry because in that moment I believed I couldn’t do the job.

I seem to be visiting this line a lot these days. Not a bad thing. What I’m learning though as I experience the line’s terrain is that the thoughts I have when I’m in this space can make or break me. These thoughts can change everything about how I view myself and how I am engaging with the present moment. One thought like “I’m no good at this job” or “I’m not cut out to be a barista,” can lead me to a place of absolute self-annihilation. One thought can change everything.

After Ivan stepped in to help, I thankfully managed to catch my self talking thoughts and change the dialogue. I experienced frustration, however I was able to stand back somewhat, chalk it up to the learning process, and reflect on how I might navigate that situation better in the future. That universal challenge line always extends an invitation to us. What we need to remember is that one thought, in response to that invitation, can change everything. So, maybe my mindfulness practices are working, helping me detach from my thoughts, seeing them as events that will pass, not getting sucked into the vortex of self-deprication.

Out of the frustration I’ve learnt that I need to practice my mocha drinks. I need to think through scenarios of how I might juggle till and barista-ing when there’s a flurry of customers. If you live in the area and have read this entry, why not stop in and ask me to make you a blended mocha!

Happy Thursday everyone!



Digital Therapy – the great oxymoron Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:34:41 +0000 Print

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!

AS LONG AS YOU ARE BREATHING Thu, 28 May 2015 17:21:31 +0000 CCZvVIFUsAAvUL8

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!

WHAT YOU FOCUS ON . . . Sun, 03 May 2015 15:24:03 +0000 unnamed-1

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? . . .” 

STEPPING OUT Tue, 28 Apr 2015 19:02:18 +0000 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.


RESET Sat, 24 Jan 2015 01:22:31 +0000 “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!

ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW Tue, 13 Jan 2015 21:34:15 +0000 For the last couple of years most mornings involve this ritual:

  1. Wake up
  2. Attempt to get out of bed
  3. Get out of bed
  4. Make coffee or get coffee if someone else has already done the great deed!
  5. Return to my room
  6. Grab my blanket, journal, bible and any other significant read
  7. Light my candle
  8. Sit and write my gratitudes and consolations/desolations
  9. Read the Moravian readings
  10. Sitting meditation
  11. Blow out my candle
  12. Change clothes
  13. 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.

NEW YEAR. NEW MUSIC. Mon, 12 Jan 2015 02:57:44 +0000 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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 6.25.30 PM

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!

MUM Mon, 30 Jun 2014 23:40:57 +0000 IMG_0453.JPG

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
each strand
now displaced
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
sweet Mum
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

Writhing cotton
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
familiar touch
comfort arrives calm
and for moments you stop
crying trying

“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
and bedsheets.


MERTON & ME. DAY 25 of 35 Thu, 13 Mar 2014 04:13:59 +0000 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!