Being Still … part 1

DSC_0087The first two days of the retreat were hard work.
I’m a fairly active person and turning all my technology off and using just real books and …. space … took a day or so to adjust to.
I was quite surprised how quickly I forgot about my phone … and I didn’t take my iPad so I’d already forgotten about that!

On the first day it will surprise you all to learn that I procrastinated so much it took hours to get down to sitting quietly in my room … after making coffee, going for  walk, adjusting the bed covers, wandering around my chapel, looking out the window … the list could be endless.
I wanted to settle down, but everything inside of me seemed to be screaming no!
I guess an inbuilt distraction / protection mechanism.

Just about this time I had my first meeting with Sister Ruth.
Sister Ruth is the current Guest Sister and amazing in that she has lived in Malling Abbey for 51 years. This was a lady whose very presence brought calm …. I sweat …. Sr Ruth has pure calm pouring out of her pores!

We chatted for a while about ‘everything’ and she gave me Psalm 46 to mull over for the next 24 hours, particularly :

Be still and know that I am God. 

It was hard to sit with that.
Being still was an incredible challenge.
As I did start to ‘still’ I noticed stuff ….
Stuff like …
I was totally exhausted by the summer events
I felt alone
I felt rootless (I went to Weymouth to see my brother and if I went now I wonder what I would do as I still felt I had some ‘connection’ to my hometown)
I felt heartbroken
I felt angry at my procrastination in my own life
I had lost important people
I was carrying a lot and knew I needed to drop it and let go
At that time it was hard to see how to actually do that in a meaningful and real way.

DSC_0104That afternoon the walk I went on with my camera brought me across this tunnel by surprise.
I felt it was prophetic in a way … in that there was light at the end of the tunnel …. but to discover what that light looked like necessitated  walking through that dark tunnel …. a metaphorical tunnel for me in my situation maybe that I assumed was going to have some pain attached to it

and it did …..
and I walked through it
but that part of the story
is for the next blog ….

It’s noisy!

So I have returned from retreat.
It was a powerful time and I will write about that in the coming week …

I was ‘homed’ in the Thomas Beckett Room, which is a Tudor room above the gatehouse and from the visitors book I saw this room has also homed two Archbishops of Canterbury in the last 20 or so years along with a great variety of lovely ad interesting people. I also loved it as I got to bath in a cupboard! (If you are that interested I have posted videos on twitter!)

IMG_2121I followed the daily offices with the sisters as shown on the timetable in the pic …. it was a pretty awesome experience to sit back and listen to sung prayers and engage with God in a  different way.

My day followed a loose routine guided by the offices apart from Lauds … instead of Lauds I decided to say Morning Prayer in my room and join the sisters for Eucharist at 730 am. This worked well for me.

After Eucharist was a silent breakfast, I then read before mediating using Centring Prayer which got me to another office and then lunch. After lunch I went on meditative walks with my camera. Sometime in the day I met with Sister Ruth who had given me Psalm  46 to hold onto, particularly ‘be still and know that I am God.’

Those word have held me over the last week, and they continue to hold me now.
As I said above, throughout the week I will share more.
Although there is one thing I have noticed since leaving the Abbey …. you lot are flipping noisy! 😉

reflections on silence (pt1 … maybe)

DSC_1194I quite like silence … to many who know me that probably comes as a bit of a surprise, mainly because I can be a bit of a loud, annoying and nosey bugger … but silence has become, for me, a place of refreshment and rejuvenation. With certain people it also seems to be a place of real valuable place of meaningful communication and connection.

I have noticed that, for me, silence has become an important nourishing ingredient of my diet … so maybe those people that labelled me ‘introvert’ a few years back really did know what they were talking about.

For some background, I joined the sisters of St Francis at St Alphege for a week. Although they are not a silent order, they respected the fact that I wished top be in an attitude of silence for my 7 days with them … conversations were had at meal times as I feel a meal is supposed to be a social thing …. but outside those times I observed silence.

I have done a few bouts of 3 day silences, and I have often found those difficult to enter into. Surprisingly for me, this time, it was not entering the silence, but leaving the silence, which proved to be a challenge. Do you understand that feeling you get at the end of something where you want to leave, you know you should leave, things are pulling you to leave …. and yet … there is something like a trickle of a desire to simply stay …. to continue to experience the space a short while longer … well that was my experience this time. I knew it was time to go … but something within me wanted to stay.

Leaving silence and re-entering the real world, that I had only ‘left’ 7 days before was a challenge. I seemed to be hyper sensitive to the penetration of noise that seemed to bombard from everywhere. I remember looking quizzically at people with a ‘what the fuck are you even talking about that for?’ question screaming from my brain. That reaction was a complete, and quite shocking, observation for me to perceive.

In this seven day silence of reflection I seem to have become painfully conscious of how some, maybe the whole of our society, but particularly me (as I am only really qualified to talk about myself here … and I’m unique so it could just be me that feels like this .. because we are all unique…) uses the curtain of noise to wrap ourselves in and hide from reality.

When there is noise, rambling, music, words, …. I can listen to that and do not need to listen to myself. If i don’t listen to myself I can fool myself about the reality of things. If I don’t face reality it’s easy to act. Then life is played out on a stage … often with an audience of one!

I wonder whether it is true for many that they avoid silence, avoid that meeting with themself, with no one else around …. their simple, bare, open, honest self …. because they are afraid, really afraid, of what they may find.

In my poem in my last post I wrote

to freeze from running
and face who I may be
uncovering the past aches
that could reveal
                 …………… anything

That last word, ‘anything’, has in reality become a pretty scary word.
I was surprised by what some of the silence has revealed. I have been surprised by some of the stuff that I had ‘forgotten’.
That’s not strictly true … stuff had not been forgotten but so covered, squeezed, rolled and compressed into places where, for years, I did not have to think about them.

Silence gives opportunity to uncover, unsqueeze, unroll and decompress ….. and I will be honest …. that means some of the stuff is going to be quite painful to continue to uncover … but … it also means the uncovering and bearing really does leave me feeling less burdened with a much lighter, sunnier, outlook.

So ….. I move forward ……

(to be continued ….)

returning from silence

DSC_1189aI have been back from retreat for a little while.
It can be difficult coming back from a silent haven in the centre of London to the real life of the 21st Century.It felt almost like silence was the norm … and that the world was odd ….

Anyway …. I will write more about the experience over the next few days ….. first I am sharing a poem I wrote while in the silence …

returning from silence

silence
my friend
my refuge
my radiance
a smudged looking glass
still pure enough to unfold
a …. or is that … the … reality
that ordinarily
is too painful to face
in the back yard
of my ordinary day

choosing to hide
so i may be found
ceasing to talk
so I may be heard
tearing at fibrous shielded wounds
so I may be healed
closure

in the silence

the silence of this place
marinaded
in the well seasoned utterances
of ordinary everyday saints
seems to understand
to chime
with the masked identity
of the essence of my being

a knowledges that embraces
welcomes almost
an unshockable urgency
for me to be here
to freeze from running
and face who I may be
uncovering the past aches
that could reveal
                 …………… anything

I present
I kneel
open yet wary
to bare
what needs to be bared
and accept
the discovery

this silence
my silence
the silence
will hold me today
so i may rest
i may tentatively  hope
i may nervously dream

in
my light
my space
my ally

in silence

retreating

For a little while I am retreating.

120723070835-weymouth-beach-horizontal-galleryFirst I am going to catch up with family and friends in the wonderful home town of Weymouth. It’s shocking that it has been a couple of years since I have visited for any length of time.

The library/ guest roomFollowing that I will be joining the Franciscans at St Alphege in Southwark for a week. Here i will join the Franciscans in their normal everyday routine.

so … SHP has been fairly quiet …. that may continue for the next couple of weeks or so …. see you on the other side!

retreating

programme-tourelles-jpg-127781_3For the next three days I will be at Les Tourelles in Condette, with other clergy people from Gillingham and Rochester. We are on retreat and being led by Bishop James.

I’m not sure what the program looks like, or what we might be doing, but it’s France and the place looks good and to be honest …. I could do with some quiet to think and contemplate and just let God do the sort of things that God does …. so I am hoping there is a lot of space.

on retreat ….

Due to some generous friends I am going on retreat from today until Wednesday. I am staying in a cottage in Birchington and intend to use the time to pray, to reflect, to write, to walk, to take photos as I walk and pray and reflect.

I always find sitting beside the sea to be a thin place for me … a place where I can easily feel connected to God. So I am looking forward and and hopeful for theses next few days.

The timetable works well as my retreat will end with a drive to Edenbridge to see Sister Diane, my spiritual director.

See you Wednesday.

God and weed!

We’ve joked about the title of today’s post while wondering who such a title might attract and whether it was wise as I hope to continue to work in the diocese beyond September! The weeds refer, initially, to the weeds of the allotment while god refers to … well God!

Once a month chapter meets and on those mornings I stay at home and pray. A few years ago I went on retreat with the Northumbria Community for a week. They set me the task of weeding and planting potatoes as I prayed and listened to God. So … this week I have conducted my own mini retreat / quiet space on the allotment while weeding.

I have noticed in particular that having a fairly mindless and repetitive task to complete over an hour or two seems to free the mind from clutter and creates space to reflect. I felt a great symbolic sense that as I was clearing a patch of ground to reveal bare soil so I was clearing the weeds of thought and personal opinions that have allowed to develop and hide or disguise or prevent the development of new ideas.

While contemplating and weeding I developed a prayer:

As I clear this space
remove the clutter from my mind.
As I extract these weeds
unload those deep rooted thoughts and opinions
that are asphyxiating  growth and maturation.
As I expose fresh soil
return me to the naked space of creativity.
In this crisp original arena
propagate the unseasoned seeds of dreams.

I’m finding that weeding with God is a really valuable experience. if you’d like to try out a mini retreat in this space then get in touch – this could be easily arranged.

Aylesford

I will be leaving soon to attend the residential for KCME which is the Canterbury and Rochester Dioceses ongoing training program for curates – it used to be called POTTY training (post ordination training).

For the next few days I will be at Aylesford Priory which I know well from good use while at SEITE. It will be odd being there without everyone else I trained with, but good to know a few will be there.

For me … sadly, I feel this residential comes at the wrong time. I’m four weeks into a new ministry, I’m starting to make very tentative connections with people and I want to be ‘out there’ continuing those connections rather than inside for 3 days of training.

This is, however, good for me as it is a good excuse of reminding me that it will be God, and God alone, who fosters these connections and develops them if they are to develop. Me being away for a few days does nothing to change that – in fact, to think it does shows that I may have developed a little bit of a feeling of being important in this process which I need to be rid of.

No blogging though for the next few days as I know from experience that the Friar’s don’t have wireless 😦

rereat day 3 friday

Today has been an interesting day for emotions. The meeting with the Bishop went well. He asked some questions about things in my final report from SEITE around my thoughts on ecclesiology and the sacraments. It was a good discussion and he made some excellent observations and suggestions.

Everybody seemed to have a good meeting with the bishop which, at this stage, is quite encouraging. This was followed this afternoon by taking our oaths, After doing this there was a great sense of reaching the point of no return.

This process of swearing was followed by the bishops charge which he talked a little about ways of being church. We had a good question and discussion time after.

Today I feel we have really started to gel as a group and started to laugh together.

This is now very much the home straight, Tomorrow we have one last and brief session before making our way back to the cathedral to be ordained after having lunch with the bishop.

I still feel quite nervous and overwhelmed by what is happening and on a shallow not I really hope the rain that I can hear lashing outside my window at the moment has all disappeared by tomorrow – particularly for the party that is happening afterwards!