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We seek in the practise, a knowing that comes “from the diffused daylight of the world to the narrow shaft of light that connects God’s future to our own, the remote to the near, the object of the promise to the step before us.”[1] 

Notes from Sanctuary

Like last week, we were priming the canvas so that we can recognize what God is painting on our canvas — the art that God is making out of our lives. We are coming to acknowledge that our true identity comes only from God—that our identities are not something we shape, but are given to us by God.  

“The journey into God that is at the core of Christ-following leads to the discovery that the foundation of our very being is our being-in-God.”[2] 

We seek to see what is beyond the obvious for us — so we are learning together how to put the obvious away. What is obvious for some (like me) is worry, planning, insecurity, money, competition, success, and power structures. How do we in our day to day life quiet those juggernauts so that we may stand a chance of hearing that still small voice? 

Yes, we, when cloistered away in a quiet, comfortable and sacred space may fare well in accessing the truth of our being in God, but how do we gain access to that truth when we are in the world? One answer to that question is that there are times when activity must collaborate with contemplation. 

The Brain, weighing on average just 3.5lbs, but consuming nearly 25% of the bodies caloric resources to fire some 86 billion neurons & 100 trillion synapses with an unfolded surface area of some 2.6sq. ft - governing hearing, sight, smell, sensation, cognition, motor co-ordination, feelings, sleep - wake cycles & so on...  

Moving contemplation assists all of our body – our nervous system, our intellect, our hearts and our minds to understand that in the world; in our cars, in our homes, in the classroom, in the hospital, in our gardens “our unity, integrity, wholeness, salus, shalom is not in us but in God-in-Christ.”[3]  

8 August Practise 

First we began with 5 minutes of week one practise, found here. Then we entered into moving contemplation. 

My preferred style: I like to gently clasp my dominant hand to my chest just to let my body know that I am engaging in a disciplined practise. Next I walk… very slowly. As I lift my left leg, I acknowledge it and say silently to myself, ‘up,’ next as I move it forward, I say ‘moving,’ and then as I plant it I say ‘down.’ There can be a pause and then repeat with the right leg. When turning I say, ‘turning, moving, down.’  

Swifter walking style: You may clasp the dominant hand behind your back and walk at a preferred pace (this is handy if you do not have privacy and do not want people to stare), saying, silently to yourself, ‘left, right, left, right.’ 

Sitting moving style: Grasp a book and turn it over with both hands with great care. One of my favourite professors told me a story of being in India, and a book fell from the bookshelf to the floor. My professor’s hostess quickly moved to the book, picked it up and held it to her forehead before putting it away. This clearly expressed how precious the written word was to her, along with gratitude for the content. Holding it with that kind of sentiment or reverence, simply rotate the book saying silently to yourself, ‘side, top, side, bottom, over.’ 

In whichever style is chosen, the same gentle discipline from week one applies, to continually and persistently redirect the mind from scheming, gloating, obsessing, worrying, planning, fantasy, logistics, ruminating or dreading—back to the movement.

Moving contemplation is very robust. It is wise to start with 3 minutes, then 5 and then up to 15 minutes maximum. Make sure to rest afterwards if you are just beginning. There is nothing ‘lightweight’ about this practise whatsoever. 

This photograph I took on a run through the woods behind my Parent's home. I bring this practise with me in my running and I must say that it is an incredible gift to enjoy creation in this manner.

Some of the Saint Mary’s contemplatives chose the Garden, others chose the coolness of the Church and some did make use of the sitting moving style in the Chapel. Refreshments were served in the Garden as we reflected on our experiences together. 

Week one and two provide the backbone of a contemplation practise. In my experience, contemplative prayer is fruitless without this base. The transformative powers of this practise are not limited to any part of our lives really. For me, I noticed the changes first in my fine motor skills, then in reduced anxiety and more restful sleep. I am so excited about week three and have begun preparations.

Until then! Peace,

[1] Oliver O'Donovan, Self, World and Time: Ethics as Theology Volume 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013),123.

[2] David G Benner, The Gift Of Being Yourself (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 101

[3] Rowan Williams, A Ray of Darkness (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1995), 78.