Tuesday 15 November 2016

The Salt Doll

Last week, I was searching for a short. meaningful story to use as a devotion. As a result, I found myself completely engrossed in Anthony de Mello's The Song of the Bird. I love de Mello's wisdom that emerges from his short, sharp and often surprising stories. I came across one that really spoke to me and I vowed to return to it at another time. So here is the story.

The Salt Doll

A salt doll journeyed for thousands
of miles and stopped on the edge of
the sea.

It was fascinated by this moving
liquid mass, so unlike anything it
had seen before.

"What are you?" said the salt doll
to the sea.

"Come in and see," said the sea with
a smile.

So the doll waded in. The further it
went the more it dissolved till there
was only a pinch of it left. Before
that last bit dissolved, the doll
exclaimed in wonder, "Now I know
what I am!"

You see what I mean? So much wisdom in so few words. I think I could write an entire thesis on what this story teaches me, but none of us have time for that. So here it is in dot points.

  • The journey is more important than the destination. The story doesn't tell us of all the important encounters that occurred in those thousands of miles leading to the sea, but we know they are part of the story.
  • Always have a sense of curiosity and ask questions. This is how we learn and grow, by having an inquiring mind.
  • We learn, not by being told, but by experiencing. The sea could have begun some lengthy explanation about its consistency, its breadth and its depth. Instead it said to the doll, "Come in and see". In experiencing, the learning becomes a part of us.
  • In our learning about the other, we discover our own self. How true is that? In meeting people who are from different cultures or hold a varying opinion to ours, we are challenged to examine our own prejudice and long held assumptions.
  • When we discover from where we came, we find our true self. There is something about knowing where you have come from that helps you to know where you are going.
  • In discovering a deeper knowing about who we are and to whom we belong we are able to let go of the ego's need to succeed. In fact, in losing our false self, our true self is found.
Such a profound little story! So much to teach us!

Tuesday 8 November 2016

What to expect in a Mandala Workshop

On the weekend, I had a conversation with someone considering hosting a mandala workshop for their community. They asked me what exactly happens at a mandala workshop, so I thought it might be worth letting you all know.

The mandala workshops offered generally last for three hours. They begin with an introductory session providing information about some aspect of the use of mandalas. Being a universal symbol, there is much to share. In the introductory workshops I try to give an overview of the use of mandalas that only touches on these different aspects. In subsequent workshops we can delve deeper into their use in various spiritual traditions, cultures and psychology.

After a time for questions and discussion, we then prepare to create our own mandala. The different tools and media available are introduced to the group and some suggestions given for how to begin. The group is lead in a short, guided meditation that links in with the theme of the workshop. Participants begin to create their own mandala. Sometimes this is slow process and at other times it happens quite quickly. I have seen participants walk away with one unfinished mandala and at other times with three they have completed in the time. It is the process that is important, not the final product.

The creative time is spent in quiet. Occasionally there is need to talk with others, but we try to allow each person to maintain their own space. Refreshments are available throughout this time and we usually play some soft music to create a contemplative atmosphere.Towards the end of the workshop we gather again as a group to reflect on the process. People are invited to share as little or as much as they would like. Creating a mandala can be a very personal and emotional experience. It can often be a time of healing and self discovery. We aim to create a safe place for sharing.

Participants in the workshops do not have to be "arty". In fact, it is often an advantage not to be. Unlike creating an artwork, the importance is not about choosing the right colours or using the correct techniques. There are no rules! So, if you think your community would enjoy hosting a mandala workshop let me know. We can tailor it to the needs of your group.

Saturday 5 November 2016

On Sunsets and Seeing

This morning I had the privilege of preaching at the opening of Presbytery and the Induction of a friend and colleague into a new ministry position. As part of my reflection I referred to three different ways of seeing a sunset, as described by Richard Rohr in his book The Naked Now. He talks of three different people seeing the sunset with three different eyes. 

The first eye is what we see, hear, smell and feel. The second eye is how our knowledge of the world makes sense of it and explains it. The third eye is that which stands in awe and has a deep realisation of the connectedness with all things. My message, in a nutshell, was the need for us to see with the third eye.

Well, on the way home I was able to practice what I had preached. Just out of Bunbury, about an hour from home, the sun began to sink in the sky. At the same time, I began to drive through thousands of flying ants. This continued for at least half an hour, well and truly long enough to see with all three eyes. My first eye felt the need to adjust my sun visor and continually adjust my position to avoid being blinded by the bright sun. My windscreen filled with the scars of bugs that didn't manage to dodge my car. I noticed the ants that had landed on the road making the bitumen seem like it was alive.

My second eye considered the temperature of the day, the changing of the seasons and the impact this had on the life cycle of these ants. I thought about the sheer size of their community and remembered days walking home through similar swarms. I was thankful that this time I was in a car.

But, my third eye enjoyed the experience. The ants seemed to dance through the air. I considered why this surge of life had chosen this time and this place to emerge. I imagined how vulnerable each little ant may feel, perhaps knowing such freedom for the first time. I noticed some of them get caught in webs on road signs. I wondered about the web of life and how we are part of it. The sun dominated and was almost painful. In all its beauty, there was also discomfort and danger. Isn't this how the paradox of life is? 

When it almost became unbearable and my eyes were blinded by the intensity and brightness, the sun faded beyond the horizon. I could see again. The flickering display of ants dispersed and it was over.