Deep like the Rivers

My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Langston Hughes.

In this final week of water practices, we will be using water as a meditation guide.

The sight and sound of water is highly evocative – the roar of a waterfall, the chatter of a creek, the soothing rush of low waves. The rich sensory offerings of water helps us to move into a meditative state, in which we can ground and center ourselves. Regular meditation refreshes our spirits, helps us meet the challenges of the day. Take ten minutes each day this week to meditate to the sights and sounds of water, the elixir of life, which sustains us all.  You can either play the video, or read the words before sitting in meditation.

Video Meditation
Play the video below, let your eyes go soft as you watch the water.  If it is easier, close your eyes and simply listen to the flowing water. It`s okay if your mind wanders; the point is not to empty your mind, but to not get caught up in your thoughts, to let them flow by you as the water flows. Gently remind yourself to come back to the water. Let your emotions – boredom, discomfort, sadness, joy – flow by as well.  Breathe in, breathe out, watch the water.  Video by Johnnie Lawson, Meditative Artist. (Warning: this video begins with ad).

Guided Meditation
The words below offer a guided meditation.  If you are using it for yourself, read a sentence out loud or silently, then close your eyes and image the scene.  To read aloud for others, invite them into a quiet time.  Ask them to settle into a comfortable sitting down or lying down position and close their eyes.  You might ask kids to wiggle their legs and arms and relax.  Wait for calm, then read the meditation out loud, pausing between sentences. Let there be silence when needed.

The Pool in the Forest
Breathe deeply, picture yourself walking along a path in a maple- pine forest. Breathe in that sharp pine scent.  Maple leaves crunch under your feet as you soak in the warm sunshine. Mushrooms poke out of the ground, moss hangs off branches. As you walk, the path begins to slope down toward a creek. You pass by limestone outcroppings, pale and solid and beautiful. You come to the creek and wander alongside, stepping from stone to stone.

Breathe deeply. You find yourself walking up to the source of the creek, a clear spring-fed pool. Dip into the water.  It is cold and refreshing. Cup your hands and take a drink. The water tastes sweet. It feels bracingly alive as it drips off your fingers. The water is so inviting, you decide to swim. As you dive in, feel the rush of energy as your body is immersed in the cool water. Every cell of your body feels completely alive. The water swirls and encircles you.

Relax into the soft embrace of the pool, let go of tension and breathe. Float quietly, supported by the gently moving water. Let your worries go like leaves floating downstream. Stay floating and drifting in the water. Let your thoughts dance along in the silence. Relax into the sunlit pool.

Breathe deeply. Feel the water in your blood and in your cells. The water within you,the water surrounding you. It is all one. One element. One whole.

Remember this as you climb out of the pool, reinvigorated. Remember this sense of belonging as you leave the pool, walking back along the stream.  Remember the wholeness as you walk back out of the pine forest and into your ordinary, extraordinary life.

 

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Water Awareness

This week we will focus on running water, developing sensory awareness as a spiritual practice. Sensory awareness or “reverential contemplation” is a Unitarian Universalist way to access our first and sixth sources. Reverential contemplation can lead us to experiences of mystery and wonder and help us connect to the rhythms of nature. Neo-pagans, taoists. naturalists and martial artists may also  develop their sensory awareness as part of their learning process. Through deep breathing, grounding the self, and paying attention, we can increase our connection to the world around us, reminding us we are part of a “great conversation” among all life on earth.

Flowing Water

Find a source of running water, seek out a trickling stream or rushing river or go sit by Lake Ontario. If you can’t get outside, use a water fountain (I found one at a second hand store for a few dollars), or stand by the sink as you are filling it to do the dishes.

Breathe deeply. Feel your feet firmly, yet loosely, planted on the ground. Let your worries and stresses sink down into your feet and into the ground. Listen to the sounds of life around you. Breathe deeply.

Focus your eyes and ears on the water. Watch its movement and form. Notice the shapes and patterns that it makes, where it runs fast and where it slows down. Look at how it pools and puddles. Breathe in. What does the water smell like?

If outside, notice the way the patterns of movement form and reflect the shapes the land. The visible motion is only the surface layer, there is more complex motion below.  What can the surface tell you about the depths? Notice how the light plays off the water, changing as the water changes.

If you are inside, be aware of the sounds the water makes at different depths, as it touches different materials like metal or ceramic. Change the pressure, notice what happens to the motion of water as the flow increases or decreases.

After five minutes, breathe deeply and look away from the water.  Take a minute to reflect on your experience of flowing water.

Water in Motion exercise adapted from Starhawk’s The Earth Path

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Blue Socks for the Journey

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Last month I went on a silent retreat at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre near Paris. In exploring the beautiful property and beyond, in peaceful quiet, I was able to slow down, reflect and simply be. It was a good time out to catch my breath and clear my thoughts.

Activities were put out for us to pursue if we wished, colouring mandalas, creating prayer beads, and poems to contemplate. I loved the fairytale images in this poem by the tremendous Canadian poet Lorna Crozier.

Packing for the Future: Instructions

Take the thickest socks.
Wherever you’re going
you’ll have to walk.

There may be water.
There may be stones.
There may be high places
you cannot go without
the hope socks bring you,
the way they hold you
to the earth.

At least one pair must be new,
must be blue as a wish
hand-knit by your mother
in her sleep.
Take a leather satchel,
a velvet bag an old tin box –
a salamander painted on the lid.

That is to carry that small thing
you cannot leave. Perhaps the key
you’ve kept though it doesn’t fit
any lock you know,
the photograph that keeps you sane,
a ball of string to lead you out
though you can’t walk back
into that light.

In your bag leave room for sadness,
leave room for another language.

There may be doors nailed shut.
There may be painted windows.
There may be signs that warn you
to be gone.Take the dream
you’ve been having since
you were a child, the one
with open fields and the wind
sounding.
Mistrust no one who offers you
water from a well, a songbird’s feather,
something that’s been mended twice.
Always travel lighter
than the heart.

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Water Restores

With easy access to water through our municipal water systems, tidied away in faucets and pipes, drains and culverts, we take it for granted. Today I invite you to reflect on the restorative powers of water.

At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have
settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
Mary Oliver

This short video by artist Maik Thomas offers a visual meditation on a quiet pond. Sit down, breathe deeply and take a break beside the water.

Canadian Wonder

A couple of Sunday mornings past I drove down to the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga after spending a few days with my fellow Canadian Unitarian Council board members at the Ecology Retreat Centre in Hockley Valley. We’d had gorgeous weather on Saturday, with the just beginning to colour leaves glowing in the sunshine in the woods. It was a good meeting but I was tired, and feeling a little unprepared for worship as I left the Centre in the pouring rain.

Fortunately, moments of wonder can happen in the most unexpected places.

I drove down Highway 10, passing green forests with an occasional highlight of red-orange brilliance. Shelagh Rogers was interviewing Lenard Cohen on CBC One. Then KD Lang began singing Cohen’s Hallelujah. And I had one of those moments when you simply are in the moment – the pouring rain, the thunk thunk of the windshield wipers, the flashes of autumn colour, Shelagh’s warm tones, Leonard’s raspiness and the power of KD’s voice offering a bittersweet song all combined into a moment of perfect beingness – a feeling that to simply be alive here and now in this place filled with all sorts of beauty was enough. It’s hard to describe these moments of just being, but they allow me to not be me and just be immersed in the present, in presence.

I stopped worrying about the service and had a peaceful drive through the storm.

Here is K.D. Lang’s gorgeous rendition of Hallelujah from the 2005 Junos.

Winter’s Harsh Beauty

For the UU Spiritual Practices blog I curate for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Durham, where I am the Consulting Minister, I spend some time each week reading and watching and listening to meditations. A few weeks ago, I found this magnificent video of an unusually cold winter in Holland filmed by Paul Klaver at a nature reserve. Death and life are present in the snowy landscape. In the midst of this brutal cold snap, this ode to winter’s strength makes me appreciate my warm house, but also reminds me that the bare bones of winter are strangely beautiful.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/81372566″>Winter</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/pklaver”>Paul Klaver</a> on.</p>

 

Simply Wait

by Lee Ransaw

by Lee Ransaw

I used this quote from the brilliant writer Franz Kafka as the closing words at last Sunday’s service at the UU Congregation of Durham.  We were exploring the idea of finding space for true relaxation in our lives.  This summed it up perfectly.

Blessing    from Franz Kafka

You don’t need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.

Don’t even listen, simply wait.
Don’t even wait, be quite still and solitary.

The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked,
it has no choice,
it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

In the coming weeks, let the world offer itself to you.
Simply wait.