Orion and the Moon

 

Orion and the moon

made the perfect vision tonight

as, wondering,

the mind leapt free.

 

Now, after the magical  moment,

the many-angled houses

crouch in orange pools of light.

 

Orion FWTS

 

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Spiritual Reflection: Delight, and Meditate

 

Learning to read in a meditative way is a skill, an art, and a way of spiritual growth.

It used to be called “Lectio Divina” – a way of pondering a short text to allow all of its secrets to be opened…

delightand meditate

We are so used to skim reading today – news, images, websites, emails – that there is a great danger we skim read life.  We can skim and skate on the surface and never get to the heart of things.  We can completely miss the depths.

But blessed are those who delight and meditate.

Gerard Hughes in “God of Surprises” says it’s like sucking a sweet!  Let the tastes go round your mouth. Don’t rush it, crunch the sweet and swallow it quickly.  Take your time.  Let your mind dream and spin out ideas starting from the phrase.  If it goes too far away, bring it back to the phrase.  Start by making yourself do it for 30 seconds, then a minute, then maybe a bit more.

Start with some favourite or well known phrases:

“Our Father”

“The Lord is my shepherd”

“God is love”

At the moment, I use a short verse in the morning, and sometimes one in the evening, too.  Then it will come back to me during the day, or during the next day, and I will think about it some more.

If you try lectio divina, I hope that you will find delight, you will be able to meditate, and that you will learn.

 

Spiritual Reflection: Beyond the Here and Now

 

Identity is a spiritual matter to my mind, as my spirituality is part of who I am, so is part of the complicated notion of identity…

 

identitybeyond hereandnow

T.S. Eliot wrote that “here and now cease to matter” – and I wonder if one of the problems with modern concerns about identity are about an obsession with the “here and now”.

“What am I thinking and feeling here and now?” might be the preoccupation of an anxious person – whereas the idea that thoughts and feelings are temporary and fleeting gives us a sense of perspective and the reassurance that we live our lives over much longer periods of time.

This led me to consider how we construct our identities beyond the here and now – with reference to the past, and to the future.

It is obvious that we are shaped by our pasts.  Some have had traumatic pasts which leave a present which is problematic because of things that happened years and years ago.

Many of us learn valuable lessons because of past experiences we have been through.  Some of us have been lucky to have had inspiring families, role-models, teachers and leaders, who have nurtured us and provided us with principles and practical coaching in various character strengths.

But we are also influenced by more distant pasts, whether or not we are aware of it.  The culture we are born into was shaped by hundreds and thousands of years.  Our genes have been shaped by thousands, perhaps millions of years.  What we read may have been written by people who died many years before we were born.  For myself, I think of books by my “inspirers”, and others:  writings by wise leaders, on spirituality, philosophical and ethical ideas by the great thinkers of history, of passages in the greatest world poetry and literature.

These treasured contributions to culture have shaped my identity.  I go back to them time and time again, and they continue to shape and form my identity.  They are a wellspring of inspiration and guidance.  My identity is forged well beyond the here and now by these thought leaders of the past.

And then there is the future: the contribution that our own goals, ambitions and hopes make to our sense of identity.  I have been much influenced by Stephen Covey’s book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – he demonstrates how each of us has the power of decision-making, regardless of our past and present circumstances.  It is a challenging idea, as it does not allow us to look upon ourselves as victims of circumstance.  We have to own our reactions.  There is always a gap – as he says – between stimulus and our response to it.

This means that every decision I make in the present about the future is my own free choice.  My future identity is in my hands.  I am choosing whether I become a better person each day, or the opposite.  My thoughts about the future – optimistic or gloomy, hopeful or depressing – play a huge part in influencing my beliefs about myself and my identity.

Identity turns out to be very complex : a merging of the past and the future with the present.

Identity is  a journey – a fascinating journey – perhaps one of the quintessential journeys we make as human beings.

And many of the answers are to be found beyond the here and now.

Spiritual Reflection – More than Meets the Eye : Three Ways of Perceiving

 

There are things in themselves, there are things understood, and there is the reasoning power applied to what we see.  These are like the stepping stones to eternity…

 

steppingstones toeternity JTG1

 

According to Bonaventure, one of my inspirers, there is “more than meets the eye” to looking!

First, he says “the supreme power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator shine forth in created things”.  From the variety and beauty of nature we can see God’s power, God’s wisdom and God’s goodness.

…the stork has its home in the junipers.

The high mountains belong to the wild goats;

the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

…all the beasts of the forest prowl.

The lions roar for their prey

and seek their food from God.

The sun rises, and they steal away;

they return and lie down in their dens.

Then people go out to their work,

to their labor until evening.

How many are your works, Lord!

In wisdom you made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

creatures bounding

Secondly, there is a way of perceiving which he calls “the way of faith”.  He explains that this involves considering “the world in its origin, development and end”, showing “the power of the highest Principle…His Providence; and…His Justice.”  In the second way of seeing, there is an appreciation of God behind nature.

risebeauty mysteryJTG2

And there is a third: perceiving nature by using our reasoning.  He says we see that “some things merely exist..others exist and live…others exist, live and discern”.  And also, that “some things are merely corporeal…others are partly corporeal and partly spiritual [human beings!] …others are wholly spiritual.”  And finally that “some…things are changeable and corruptible…others are changeable and incorruptible…some things are changeless and incorruptible”.  And so “the soul rises to the consideration of the power, wisdom and goodness of God.”

Not only do we live in a beautiful and awe-inspiring universe, St. Bonaventure says, but we have powers in our soul to see, appreciate and consider the spiritual meaning of the universe, in his wonderful little book “The Journey of the Mind to God”

powerssoul JTG2

Inspiring Paintings: The Return – Rembrandt b. 15th July, 1606

 

This painting is so powerful that Henri Nouwen, another of my “inspirers”, wrote a whole book about it…

the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-1669.jpg!Large

At first sight, you might miss the amazing contrast of darkness and light, and the way the light bathes the loving father and the sorrowful son.

It’s easy to miss the hand of the father, that hold the son so tenderly.  Is one a man’s hand and one a woman’s hand?

And it’s easy to miss the shattered shoe of the son.  He has been through the mill.  He has walked a long way.  He has been humiliated.  And now he has returned.

I wrote a whole collection based on Henri Nouwen’s book about this painting, called Returning to the Father, and I post a few poems from this collection below:

On the darkness and the light:

 

Hidden for so long

the light glowed brighter

 

As the years removed

the layers of darkness

 

Flesh begins to fail

and spirit starts to show more clearly

 

It is time to live seriously

touch with hands of blessing

 

All fragile holy things

that come in need of love.

 

On the son’s long walk home:

 

On the long walk home

I prepared my explanation many times

I could justify

every wrong I ever did

 

I could not think his heart to be so great

it could simply forgive

 

And how could I accept

that moment of complete

overwhelming of the soul

by an impossible love?

 

The full title of the painting is The Return of the Prodigal Son

It is based on this parable in Luke 

Henri Nouwen’s book is called The Return of the Prodigal Son : A Story of Homecoming