Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Declutter

Before Covid came into our lives, the buzzwords were ‘declutter’ and ‘downsize’.

Friends who were looking for ‘lock-up and leave’ properties to be able to follow the temptation of the advertised ‘overseas’ experiences and to be able to travel to far-reaching destinations, have decided to stay put. Some wanted to cross things off their ‘bucket lists’, others read books which stirred their curiosity.

And then Covid hit.

The reality of being in a safe country, where life is more or less normal, where we can go about our ordinary day to day pursuits; made people revisit their desire to downsize. In some cases they re-engaged with hobbies from the past that required some space and are travelling locally and enjoying what they have.

Downsizing to an environment with less maintenance is one thing. Decluttering and making choices of how we fill the space around us is another story.

Personally, I have a variety of hobbies, which all come with a necessary amount of stuff – or at least that is what I tell myself. The reality is that we accumulate stuff and more stuff, with the excuse that we don’t know when we may need it. As a dressmaker, I have collected materials that have become rather international, as they have travelled the world with me in their respective boxes! I wonder if it is time to have an honest and thorough sorting out session. The same applies to books and magazines and yes, everything else! Am I kidding myself that with all the leftover scraps, one day I will make a scrap quilt?

So declutter is about stuff that fills our spaces and might make us happy or not. Maria Kondo was very popular at some stage, she is not a minimalist, although she favours tidying up. Her criteria is around joy. If something makes you happy, it has a place in your house or room, if not it needs to be tossed or repurposed.

I find that my need to declutter is not merely focused on ‘stuff’, it includes what is going on in my head. Too many thoughts, too many projects and too many books to read, and then there is the possible social media overload. Work, volunteering, goals etc., all take up a lot of mental space.

Decluttering is not something we do lightly, most of us have an emotional attachment to things, and many things have special memories. I sometimes wonder if we need objects to remind us, or will the memory be the same without a tangible item?

What are we telling ourselves if we keep objects, or if we throw everything out? How will that affect us? In the past I have thrown a lot of books out, which I regretted later, knowing I had a book on ‘such and so’ where did I put it… to realise I had donated it. The idea with books might be that you put them on a less reachable shelf for a couple of months before chucking them out.

So my starting point is to establish what is essential in my life, how would I like to spend my time and what do I need for that. Relationships, health, spirituality and creativity are crucial for my well-being, and that is where my focus is.

Decluttering living space and headspace, requires a certain amount of ruthlessness. Decluttering relationships is far more challenging; to surround yourself with people who are like-minded and have similar values to health, spirituality and creativity is vital for our well-being. Gentle suggestions in changing behaviour may well be necessary.

I have started the process. Out with theology that is no longer life-giving, out with material that no longer suits me, out with linen that might be good as a ‘drop-sheet’ for painting the house.

Decluttering my head includes minimising screen time, more time spend on bible study/journaling and writing.

May you be free from the desire of acquiring and content with what you have stored away.

    


Seek Peace. Find it within.

 

Friday, 8 January 2021

Abundant Abundance

A new year, with fresh hopes and dreams. The hope for an uneventful year. A year where we can catch our breath, take stock and carry on. 

New Year’s resolutions appear to have gone out of fashion. The year just gone has left a few people struggling, and shell shocked. Why would you even bother to make resolutions? 

 

In general, they are forgotten before January has come to an end. I like the idea of New Year’s resolution. A time to take stock and set goals that help me focus on the year ahead. 

Goals that are realistic and measurable, goals that nudge me along, rather than hit me over the head with demanding deadlines. Simple goals, for example, to be mindful of the environment; buying from local suppliers or with sustainability in mind. Another great goal is to increase fitness and wellbeing. Fitness levels are easy to measure, and goals can be set—a gradual goal which can be worked on at a regular basis, with determination or with patience.

 

A few years ago, I came across 'A word for the year'. This word is not the newly invented, or the most used word of the past year. It is a word one chooses to nudge them along during the year. A word that sums up your thoughts and intentions for the year to come.

 

Do you choose 'A word for the year', or do you stick with New Year’s resolutions? Or maybe you have decided to give up on those? Did you give up because it felt like adding pressure rather than a positive focus for your life?

In the past, I have used the words ‘Surrender’, ‘Trust’ and ‘Love’. Surrender to let go of things I could not control. Trust that all would be well and would work out for the best. And the word Love, to remind myself that I am loved, that others are loved and to see the world with love.

 

This year my word is Abundance; Abundance and abundantly. I thought about other words before I settled on this. There was Discipline, SELF-discipline to be exact. Not exactly a kind, gentle nudging word. It is a word that feels prickly, and although I probably could improve on the self-discipline side of things, it is a word I need to think of. Self-discipline in exercise, food choices, or even in how I spend my spare time. Discipline to write a weekly blog…. And so the list goes on. However, it did not feel right for 2021.

 

Gratitude was next on the list. Gratitude is a spiritual discipline, to be grateful for the great life I have; the people around me who love me and appreciate me. Somehow it is not the word I need for this year.

 

Abundance.

One of my favourite verses in John’s Gospel: ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’.  (John 10:10) That sounds and feels right. Abundance in exercise, abundance in work and inspiration. Abundantly. No financial concerns, or worry about workload. To live with abundance, to live life to the full, open handedly as the Buddhist say.

 

So I did a quick search through Scripture and found in Luke Gospel: ‘One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions’. (Luke 12:15) 

In 2Cor 9:8, Paul writes that ‘God provides you with every blessing in abundance’.

I think life is about being present in the now and an awareness of living in God’s presence. 

My word for 2021 is Abundance. 

 

May you have a year of Abundant Abundance!  

 

 

Seek Peace. Find it within.

 

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Waiting

 

“Are we there yet?” 

I am sure a lot of parents have heard this question from their little people on the back seat. Maybe in combination with a ‘Mumm he is annoying me…”

 

Waiting, and having patience is something we have to learn, it doesn’t come easy. It takes practice. In our western culture, where we look for more efficiency, where we often hurry to get on to the next task, waiting is a nuisance. It slows us down in our effort to achieve life. We have people to see and things to do. We want to make things happen, not wait and waste time.

 

Christmas is only a few more sleeps. The time for ‘waiting’ is almost over. Children everywhere are anxiously awaiting the time where they may open their presents. The adults look forward to good food, maybe a few drinks, and catching up with friends and relatives and spending quality time in the park or on the beach. Well that is for us in the Southern Hemisphere! I suppose those in the Northern Hemisphere will sit close to the heater and play board-games!

 

Waiting. People do not like waiting. However, we practice this regularly. Waiting in line, in traffic; waiting for other people to answer our emails or phone calls, or even waiting for our children to finish their sports training. 

 

Waiting for the results of the latest blood test or ultra-scan. Waiting for a baby to be born, a person to retire or even to die. This form of waiting has a variety of emotions attached to it. Eagerly awaiting, with anticipation of what is to come.

Often it is not so much the time spent waiting; it is the uncertainty that plays on our mind. 

 

Waiting is about patience and trust. We know that if we wait, the light will turn green again, and we get our turn. The queue at the supermarket will eventually disappear. With patience, certain things will resolve themselves.

While waiting for the test results and the subsequent treatment requires trust. Trust in the doctors and other medical staff to help our bodies heal. The longer we have to wait, the more uncertainty can play on our mind. Our mind hate uncertainty; it becomes restless and creates more suffering by going round and round in circles and playing every ‘what if?’ Scenario under the sun. Centering prayer and mindfulness are helpful tools to combat this situation.

 

In this season of Advent, where Christians wait with expectation on the arrival of baby Jesus, is a time for each individual to ponder upon some questions. The medieval mystic Meister Eckhart writes: “We are all meant to give birth to God”. I have to work out how do I give birth to Christ within me?” What is my role in the world of social justice?

Waiting and wondering does not have to be lost time. Waiting can be a powerful tool to create the life we want. In this age of ‘instant gratification’ time out is a useful way to reassess what we need and how we can assist those around us. 

 

Buddhism teaches us to be mindful; to stay in the moment and to slow down. Buddhism teaches us that by being present, we minimize the suffering, rather than trying to bliss out or cover-up. 

 

The link between ‘Christianity’ and ‘Buddhist’ waiting lies in the shared notion of ‘letting go’. Unfortunately, Christianity is more concerned with ‘saving souls’ rather than with letting go, as Richard Rohr suggests in The Art of Letting Go. 

 

For me, Advent is not an empty waiting. I am invited to examine my way of life, how to be the best version of me and to be Christ in other people’s lives, as well as being Christ for others. 

       

         


Seek Peace. Find it within.

 

Friday, 11 December 2020

Discipline

We are reaching the end of the year and are planning for the next.

The experience of an unprecedented year, a year coloured by the effects of the pandemic, which has effected many, if not all the aspects of daily life as we knew it.

Looking back, most of us have most likely forgotten about ‘the News Year’s resolutions’ we made, the pandemic drowned the hopes and dreams we had for 2020.

We all hope for an uneventful 2021. Getting back on track with our resolutions of a healthier version of ourselves, or with an idea of goals to achieve, and plans to make.

Discipline is a word most of us struggle with. Whether from a work perspective where ‘disciplinary meetings’ are a reality, or disciplining our children as well as self-discipline are not words we tend to use in daily conversation.

‘Spiritual disciplines’ in more recent years, have now become ‘spiritual practices’, and I suspect there are similar changes in our vocabulary concerning our health habits. Life-coaches like to talk about goals, motivation and focus points, which we attempt to achieve with discipline and hard work.

Self-discipline was never my forte. However, I like the idea of a ‘sporty’ version of myself, vibrant, peaceful and serene. This, however, requires a lot of discipline. Practising self-discipline, in what I eat and drink, the amount of exercise and meditation I engage in. Discipline and motivation are the motor behind my achievement. Whatever we desire or want to accomplish, requires commitment and input.

Richard Foster, in his book ‘Celebration of Discipline’, identifies inward and outward spiritual disciplines. Meditation, study and prayer are aspects of the inward disciplines, whereas simplicity, solitude and service are identified as outward disciplines. Both inward and outward disciplines require commitment and time from those on the journey.

Recently I was reminded of the Old Testament story where Naaman went to Elisha in the hope to be healed from leprosy. The remedy was almost too simple, Naaman had to bathe himself seven times in the river Jordan. He grumbled and said the rivers closer to home were cleaner, and why would he bother. He was disappointed that Elisha didn’t perform any miracles. After some encouragement of those with him, Naaman did as he was instructed, and was healed.

This reminds us that sometimes solutions are simple but effective and that Naaman himself needed to want the change and do it. No one could do it for him. Often that is the case for us as well. If we wish to change and work towards a healthier body, learn a new skill, or gain a deeper spiritual practice, we need to put the time and effort in to achieve our goals. No one can do it for us.

With Christmas and the festive season looming, it requires self-discipline to keep our practices up. Praying, meditation, healthy eating and whatever you do to stay on top of your desired outcome as well as enjoying the company of family and friends.

For me, that means setting time apart to be on my own, to keep some routine of exercise and meditation as well as putting in the effort for healthy meals. At this time of the year when consumerism is working overtime and ‘desires’ are created and fed, I need to remain focused on personal aims. To strive for simplicity and service, rather than following the “more, more and more”, of the marketing industry which is highly seductive and irresistible.

 

Seek Peace. Find it within.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Advent

Christmas is upon us.

Carols greet us as we enter shops. They encourage us to focus on presents, to buy for our loved ones, rather than on the Divine Presence. Supermarkets started stocking the Christmas goodies weeks ago. The Christmas lighting has been on the shelves, ready for lavishly decorating our homes. The theme is to spend, spend and spend. Due to Covid-19 nor have we been able to travel overseas, nor have we had a decent holiday. We are ready for some distractions. People are tired, and are looking forward to summer holidays, time-out and catching up with friends and families.

Going on a regular retreat was a requirement for clergy in the past. Nowadays, it is a recommendation. Advent retreats were common, now they are hard to find. A retreat to take some time out of commitments and to prepare for the coming of the Christ child. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

How do we prepare for Advent and Christmas? Advent was like Lent, a time of sombre anticipation and reflection. Both are a time for spiritual preparation. A time for prayer, and in some traditions, time for repentance, and taking time out from our demanding jobs and lifestyles. The advent wreath with the four candles that symbolize Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, was designed to help us on this journey.

However, the world has changed. There are hardly any retreats offered. Some people would argue there is no need for this Advent preparation, the Holy Spirit is with us till Christ comes again. I think it is more complicated than that. When an Advent retreat was announced I was quite excited. A retreat in an intentional faith community, what else could we ask?

Silence, reflection and walks in combination with interesting, thought-provoking input sessions, nice food and restful sleep… that was my hope....
The wind was howling, the rain relentless and my room was adjacent to the shared bathroom. The bed was uncomfortable, the input sessions very gentle, however the food was fantastic!

Although it was not what I had hoped, the Divine inspired and sustained me. The Divine within us, communicating with the Divine surrounding us, guiding and challenging me. The struggles I have with Church teachings and what I believe, are continuous. The Church as an institution is facing tumultuous times, similar to just before Jesus was born.

Sometimes retreats are peaceful and move like murmuring water- restful and inspiring. At other times one is invited to visit painful experiences. Returning to those times can be a time of healing, of growth.

This Advent retreat invited me to look at who I am before God. Our preparation was the passage from Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus asks Bartimaeus “What do you want me to do for you?” To which the blind Bartimaeus responds: “Rabbi, I want to see again”.

I too want to see, I want to awaken. Although faith is not a merely a question of believing, with Carl Jung I can say: “I know”. Deep down, I know. I know God. But to see a glimpse of the Divine in daily life, to be encouraged, to experience God, that is what I want.

A while ago I asked someone if they ever doubted, had they ever hoped for ‘a sign’? She said, for those who know, there is no need for a sign. For those who doubt, no sign will be sufficient. I still like a sign now and then. A fellow traveller on the road or some wisdom gleaned from another person’s experience.

Going on retreat I had hoped for a sign, an insight in the Divine existence. Looking for something that is right in my face, all the time.

It is called ‘open-handed living’, it is about awareness and perception. It is not about earth-shattering experiences, it is about showing up and slowing down.

It is about being present.

May you find a retreat in daily life, be open to God, and live open-handedly

I wish you a fruitful Advent.

 


 Seek Peace. Find it within.