Jesus said: ‘Come with me by yourselves and get some rest’ (Mark 6:31)
Last week I spent 3 days in the beautiful East Sussex countryside with 9 other ladies and one man (!) on ‘Retreat’. It was without doubt a high point of my year so far. Led by Revd. Shaun Lambert, author of Putting on the Wakeful One and A Book of Sparks, the retreat title was ‘Mindfulness of God and Personal Transformation’. I have been on some secular Mindfulness courses before, but this was taking the Christian perspective that every moment is pregnant with the possibility of meeting God or in the Greek the ‘Kairos’ moment which is mentioned in Mark 1 verse 15 … ‘The time has come, he said, the Kingdom of God is near …’
I was expectant and looking forward to having some time and space away from the hustle and bustle to reach that moment through being mindful and learning from Shaun different ways of finding inner silence. I think it is important to be clear that mindfulness is not about emptying your mind it is about using your body and your mind and intentionally directing your attention and awareness towards God. It is about being watchful and paying attention. To empty your mind would be impossible since roughly 70,000 thoughts pass through it each day. Instead it is a noticing and remembering and using your senses to come to a place of awareness where we can receive new insights and ‘hear’ God. The hearing will not often come as a voice … although for some of us it may do … it may come as moments of utter peace, complete wonder or inexplicable joy.
Mindfulness is not hard to do but it is hard to remember to do and for most of us it takes practice to remain in the present and not be worrying about the past, the future, daydreaming, watching some sort of screen or rushing from one task to another. It is the opposite of mindlessness. We are all different and people are motivated to enter silence through different pathways – some find it whilst walking or running and noticing creation, some find it in music or looking at a piece of art, others by using their hands to create something, others by meditating on some words of scripture. The point is to find the thing that helps you reach that inner silence and cultivate a deep attention and that ‘muscle of attention’ as Shaun puts it then needs exercising and so we need to practice.
Whilst away we had the opportunity to try different ways to be in the presence of Jesus including writing poetry – that was a first for me! We did a chocolate meditation (I particularly enjoyed that one J), we used a labyrinth in the garden and walked mindfully and we used the art room, as well as spending time with scripture. Since returning I have been trying to practice being mindful and it does work. I am trying to be in the present more than 2 hours a day which is the average for most of us (!), and that has to be a good thing.
In conclusion, I would recommend two things – if you get the opportunity to go on a Retreat do take it. Come and chat with me if you would like to know more. And then I recommend looking up Shaun Lambert, perhaps reading one of his books and learn more about finding a still place in your life so that you can hear God.