“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Sharing a Blessing

Yesterday was the 'Saturday Intensive' on my spiritual direction course. And intensive it was: we were together from 10 am until 6.30 pm, followed by a shared dinner. The title of the day was 'Befriending Your Shadow' and it was a fascinating journey. Of course it was all confidential to the group, but one exercise we did towards the end of the day was really beautiful, and so I am sharing the process of it with you.

There are twelve of us on the course, and this exercise really has to be done with an even number. Six of us sat in a circle, the other six standing behind. Each standing person was asked to think silently of what they would want the most important person in their childhood to say to them, and then to go round the seated circle, whispering it into the right ear of each seated person. Then we swapped, and the seated people did the same to the other six.

To receive the six benedictions was incredibly powerful - I was in tears by the end, and I was not the only one.. And then to share my own blessing with those six friends "My precious child, I love you just the way you are" was also so very special. It left us all with deep feelings of thankfulness and connection.

In the words of Marianne Wilkinson, "If I choose to bless another person, I will always end up feeling more blessed." I have found this to be so true, and feel so very blessed.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Passing of an Era

This week, two public figures whom I have adored since I was a teenager have died, both of cancer, both aged 69. Of course I'm talking about David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

There have been some beautiful tributes posted on Facebook and elsewhere Like so many others, David Bowie got me through my teenage years (Hunky Dory was the second album I ever bought, and I have loved him ever since). His music spoke to my soul, and still does. It is an abiding regret that I never managed to see him live. My life has been richer through his music. And Alan Rickman's acting has given me much quiet pleasure, particularly as the ambiguous Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. I find his voice mesmerising, and love just listening to him speak. His timing is so immaculate.

And now they are both gone, down into the silence of death. But we who are left behind are so lucky, because their work is still here to be enjoyed and savoured. I feel so sorry for their families and friends, who knew these two wonderful people in the flesh, and whose grief I cannot presume to share. May they find peace.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Seeking the Quiet Centre

This afternoon on Facebook, my friend Hay Quaker posted one of my favourite Advices from the  Quaker Advices and Queries: 

"Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and in others a habit of dependence on God's guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God."

I love this a/Advice on so many levels. Especially perhaps the last sentence: "Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God."

So many spiritual teachers I admire talk of the importance of stillness and contemplation as the surest way to connect with the divine. They talk of just noticing thoughts as they arise, and letting them go, and returning to the silence. But I find it difficult to get into the silence at all. Letting go, surrender, these things are so very hard for me. I feel like Anne Lamott, who writes in her wonderful book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers: "People ... might say jovially, 'Let go and let God'. Believe me, if I could, I would, and in the meantime I feel like stabbing you in the forehead." The first time I read that, I laughed out loud in rueful recognition.

And I try, I really do. Which I guess is half the problem. Every morning for nearly the past year, I have sat for 20 minutes, and tried to "find a way into silence". But as I said to my friend, most of the time "my washing machine mind goes round and round", and stillness, tranquillity elude me.

So I asked him whether, as a seasoned Quaker, he had any tips about finding a way into the silence. This was his response:

"The only tip I can give to using a silence is to imagine a big empty table with a white cloth in front of you, and just wait for things to be laid upon it. (PS do not put the table cloth in the mental washing machine!)

How do you find the quiet centre?