beloved life practices 11: be here, be now

 

REFLECTION: ‘Pause. Take a deep breath in. Then a long breath out. This moment contains everything you need. One of the most freeing outcomes of nurturing a stillness practice is that it helps us discover the present moment. To step into its gift. To immerse ourselves in it. And to be transformed. We have a natural capacity to do this. But this stance of giving ourselves to the now needs nurturing. We may sometimes love the present moment, but we seem to have a default setting that swings between what is past and what is future… But this moment, in all its dulled ordinariness (the common state of things), or in its shining wildness (the occasional state of things), contains all that we need…

 

beloved life: be here be now
beloved life: be here be now

 

PRACTICE: A good place to begin Be Here, Be Now is by giving attention to some of the things that we do everyday as part of our routine. Like taking a shower. You can take a shower to become clean, or you can take a shower to take a shower (and also emerge clean!) Notice how the water forms and shapes itself as it flows over you; enjoy the sensation of the water on your skin; wonder at the gift of water and your own connection to it. A next step is to cultivate this stance of attention throughout the day. Be prepared to be surprised and engaged by a conversation, an unexpected sight, an aroma or sound…’

©Ian Adams 2013 ‘Running Over Rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times’ (Canterbury Press)

Look out for short daily posts around this week’s theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

 

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beloved life practices 10: become polyphonic

 

REFLECTION: ‘Two talking heads. With two opposing views. And only one can be right. Get two experts or affected parties on the sofa, and let them battle it out. This may work, but it can encourage a dualistic way of looking at the world, where only one answer is the right answer, and where the last voice speaking wins. This kind of dualistic thinking shores up our own sense of rightness. But perhaps something more subtle, more generous and more hopeful is necessary if we are to bring goodness to the world in these demanding times…

 

beloved life: become polyphonic
beloved life: become polyphonic

 

PRACTICE: …A good way into a practice of Become Polyphonic is to listen to some polyphonic music – like that of Palestrina… and the next time that you encounter a situation – at home, at work, in your community – in which there seems to be a strong force urging a single answer that excludes all other points of view, ask yourself if polyphony might have a contribution to make. Then ask yourself, how could you, through your words or actions, begin to create space for a diversity of voices to be heard? How could you Become Polyphonic?’

©Ian Adams 2013 ‘Running Over Rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times’ (Canterbury Press)

Look out for short daily posts around this week’s theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

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morning bell: the demanding wisdom of Abba Anthony

 

The new series of morning bell beginning 17 January offers a way into stillness each day in the company of another Beloved Life hero, the so-called ‘Father of Monks’ Abba Anthony, one of the earliest of the Desert Fathers and Mothers – those first hermit-monks who went into the deserts of Egypt, Sinai and Judaea to seek after God. Born around AD251 in Egypt, Anthony heard the Gospel read in church ‘Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor and come…’ He responded by pursuing an ascetic life in the desert, initially under the guidance of a hermit, then in solitude. Early in the 4th century, his reputation attracting followers, he came out of solitude to act as their guide and father.

 

icon of Abba Anthony
icon of Abba Anthony

 

Abba Anthony’s wisdom is brilliant, insightful and demanding. Some of it feels very natural to us. Other sayings and stories from his life are harder to understand in our context, but they are worth our time and attention. This man was deeply serious in his devotion to God, to neighbour, and to the earth – his search is full of wisdom for our journeys…

The images were all taken by Ian Adams during 2013 on the same stretch of coastline in South Devon. The translation used is from ‘The Sayings of the Desert Fathers’ by Benedicta Ward SLG, Ciscterican Publications Kalamazoo 1975.

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beloved life practices 9: find your stillpoint

 

REFLECTION: ‘Where do you go when everything is in chaos? When life is in turmoil? When everything is in flux? The practice of Slow into Stillness marks the journey we need to make to help us face the tough times. The practice of Find Your Stillpoint suggests that there is a destination for the stillness path, a place within us to which the journey into stillness is leading. This destination is the stillpoint, the place of beloved belonging, from which a life of stillness and action can flourish, whatever is coming our way. This is the heart of the unknown land on the map of existence marked by St John of the Cross. And it is of course a state of being rather than a physical place…

 

beloved life: find your stillpoint
beloved life: find your stillpoint

 

PRACTICE: The practice of Find your Stillpoint is the practice of Slow into Stillness continued, ever deeper, ever further. So follow that pattern of still-space, posture, breath and stilling word. Now, if and when you sense you are ready, let go of the stilling word, and be attentive to what you may encounter. You are in the stillpoint at the core of your being. In my own experience this may, very occasionally, feel euphoric. Sometimes there may simply be a notion of rest, a hint of joy, a sense that we are not on our own. At other, more demanding times, this can feel like absence, darkness, and even loss. This is all very usual. In the ancient and unfolding Jesus tradition this is all described as some kind of experience of God…’

©Ian Adams 2013 ‘Running Over Rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times’ (Canterbury Press)

Look out for short daily posts around this week’s theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

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morning bell: the Epiphany – Jesus our Enlightenment

 

The season of the Epiphany is full of meaning. In Western churches celebration of the Epiphany has tended to focus on the mysterious travellers from the East who, the gospels tell us, made a long and hazardous journey to bring their gifts to the infant Jesus. In the Orthodox churches of the East the greater focus is on the Baptism of Christ at the start of his public life and work. The bigger picture painted by both traditions is that these events describe the revelation of Jesus as the divine Christ – and that his coming is a gift to the whole world.

 

morning bell: Jesus our Enlightenment
morning bell: Jesus our Enlightenment

 

This great Epiphany (also Theophany = revelation of God) widens further to reveal God as Trinity, and  contains within it the seeds of many further epiphanies, about life, about love and about own place in the world. The words for this series have emerged from my own preparations for the Epiphany. The phrase ‘Jesus our Enlightenment approaches’ comes from the Orthodox Festal Menaion (service book for the great feasts of the Church year). The images that follow the opening 15thC icon of the Epiphany were taken at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth. May the words and images inspire your own journey of stillness, prayer and action during this great season of  the Epiphany…

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beloved life practices 8: slow into stillness

 

As we enter the season of Epiphany next week we begin the second series of practices (08-14) in ‘Running Over Rocks‘ – ‘PRACTICES OF STILLNESS AND MOVEMENT from complexity towards simplicity: discovering the essence.’

REFLECTION: ‘Do nothing. Do nothing to do something. Do nothing to become something… Perhaps the most important movement we can ever make is, ironically, into stillness. To do something or to become something, it is necessary to do or to become (a kind of) nothing. Stillness is the starting point for much, perhaps even everything, that is truly good…

 

beloved life: slow into stillness
beloved life: slow into stillness

 

PRACTICE: Stillness needs practice. It’s a discipline that needs to be explored, learned and befriended. Almost all the great spiritual traditions have made similar discoveries about the path into stillness. Slow into Stillness is our own practice in four steps based on those traditions and our own experience of seeking stillness – here they are in outline:

1. Find a space where you can be without distraction.

2. Find a posture that is alert and comfortable.

3. Give attention to your breathing.

4. Now let a stilling word or prayer word form silently within you…’

©Ian Adams 2013 ‘Running Over Rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times’ (Canterbury Press)

Look out for short daily posts around this week’s theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

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