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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Books, books glorious books!

"Never underestimate an old woman who loves books 
and was born in September".
I love this T-shirt!

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has several books on the go at once. It is said you can tell a lot about a person from the books they read. So here's what I'm in the process of reading (or re-reading) at the moment. These are in no special order but the last one is the one I'd take on a desert island if I had to choose from just this list!)
Ground breaking science about ways to look after the cells in our bodies. 
A great integration of science and practical strategies including mindfulness, meditation etc. I'm a great proponent of mind-body-spirit connection and the emerging science around it.

A novel by one of my favourite authors. I've read almost all of the ten in this series and I'm just catching up on one or two I've missed previously.

A memoir by a renowned British brain surgeon. I really enjoy memoirs. I did wonder if, having had brain surgery myself, I might not like reading this! But it was sensitively written and very engaging.

I've read two previous books by this author. (The Grace in Aging and the the Grace in Dying). This one is really about reflecting on one's life and writing a memoir based on the grace you have experienced in key moments. Excellent. Maybe I'll do it!

A well written sweep through themes I'm pretty familiar with from past study.
Lots of very good footnotes for those who want detail. 
I've just started this book. I'll probably skim read!

I'm re-reading this because it is of particular importance to someone I'm talking with. It made a big impact on me when I first read it and it is just as thought-provoking and hope-filled as it was on the first reading. (I've also re-read the sequel Map of Heaven). I thought I'd written about these two books in a previous post but if I did I can't find it!

I think I've read all of Cynthia's previous books and been on several retreats when she has come to NZ. This one is superb for anyone who is a serious practitioner of Centering Prayer. I so appreciate how Cynthia keeps writing about complex issues in a clear, contemporary way. If you've read her first book on Centering Prayer don't think you won't need this one! While it does review the basics it goes a long way further in and deeper down.

I have heartfelt gratitude for being able to read 
and for the people who write books!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Come sit awhile...

On my morning walk along the beach this seat and tree attracted my attention. Of course since it is on someone's front lawn I didn't "come sit awhile" though it seemed to invite me to do just that. Instead I took a closer look from various angles.
Shelter from the building storm

Protection from prevailing winds

A place of reflection - in more ways than one!

Many years ago I remember a series of films (not DVD's back then!) called Parables in Nature. Maybe that's what sparked in me the life-long habit of seeing parables everywhere I look. I won't spoil this morning's parable by spelling it out. Parables are meant to intrigue you to see for yourself!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Want the change...

Most of us do not like change - unless of course it is one we have chosen and planned.
This poem came my way today as part of a Spirituality and Practice series.

Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two XII, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
Where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne,
becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

"Live like a river flows" (on the road to Milford Sound)

Many of the lines stay with me to be mulled over in a Lectio Divina kind of way. Here is the beginning of my mulling...

Want the change...
It's hard for me to want the changes I see happening to friends and family members as they age. I can't avoid the fact that some of them are beginning to happen to me too. 
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
I certainly don't want to be like that! So I guess this requires adapting to change with openness and flexibility. I'm certainly very open and flexible about the things I read, explore and think about. Interesting! I realise I am happy with internal (mind/spirit) change - I really do want that. To me that's growth. The changes I resist are the physical/energy changes. They feel like diminishment.
What turns hard becomes rigid and is easily shattered 
Yes I get that. I don't think I'm hard or rigid. I hope not. 
Pour yourself out like a fountain
This line reminds me of a line from another poem (called 'Unfinished Poem'!) by John O'Donahue: "I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding". Both of these images suggest letting life flow freely wherever and however it goes. To me that speaks of allowing change without resisting it, rather than wanting it.
What you are seeking....with ending begins
Yes - every ending is the threshold to a new beginning. The 'end' of this life will be the beginning of true 'fulness of life' - which is what all our ultimate 'seeking' is about.
Dare to become the wind 
In Greek mythology Daphne was a nymph who transformed herself into a laurel tree. So to be as free and flexible as a tree in the wind a previous identity might need to be left behind.
Shaped by the wind (Cornwall Park)

Plenty more mulling to do! Maybe different lines are the ones for you to chew over.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Prejudice...intentional or unintentional

A book, a movie and a political event have all raised my awareness about prejudice, especially racism. The book and the movie have increased my enormous sadness and anger about overt racism - especially in the context of current world events. All three of these things have also given me much food for thought.
The book: Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things 

The Movie: Hidden Figures

The political event: The NZ Labour & Green Parties joint State of the Nation gathering yesterday.
Click here for Metiria Turei's address

Click here for Andrew Little's address

I highly recommend the book and the movie - and reading the two speeches. It was great to be at the Labour/Greens event in person even though we were part of the overflow crowd that had to listen via loud-speakers as we stood in Mt Albert War Memorial Park (fortunately, on a sunny day!)

So what have all these things made me think about?
  • It is so easy to be unconsciously prejudiced. Because it is unconscious we don't take any corrective action. There's a blatant example in Hidden Figures. Becoming more conscious of our biases (not just about race) is the first step. Books and movies like these help me a great deal to "look in the mirror" and become more conscious.
  • How easy it is to be unintentionally hurtful to a person who is different from me, even if I have the best intention. Picoult's book in particular highlights many examples of small comments or actions that have a subtle (and hurtful) assumption hidden in them. 
  • It was a new challenge for me to begin to understand the perspective of white supremacists (who go by various names or titles). It took me a while to get my head around the fact that in Picoult's book this group feel that they are the victims and the "people of color" are the favoured ones and/or the oppressors.
  • To paraphrase Andrew Little "We need an inclusive society [here in NZ] more than ever, given recent world events."

    All of these issues continue to give me much food for continued thought. One thing I had already decided to do (before seeing/reading any of this) is to apply to be a voluntary English Language Partner for a refugee or migrant. My interview and training comes up soon. I'm looking forward to it, knowing I will learn a lot and hoping I am a little more conscious and a little less likely to drop any clangers!

    Friday, January 27, 2017

    Imagine a country where...

    This quote comes from an essay written by Br. David Steindl-Rast in 2006. It is every bit as relevant today - in fact it seems a prophetic statement! 

    They are:
    1. Say one word today that will give a fearful person courage.
    2. Make a firm resolution never to repeat stories and rumours that spread fear.
    3. Make contact with people whom you normally ignore.
    4. Give someone an unexpected smile today.
    5. Listen to the news today and put at least one item to the test of Common Sense.

    It is definitely worth the time to read the whole Blog post expanding each of these "gestures". Click the link above or click here to do so.

    They are deceptively "small gestures" but it is surprisingly easy (I find) to slip into old habits like repeating fearful stories and rumours or not stopping to think who I might usually ignore and making a deliberate connection.

    To understand why Common Sense has capitals and see the connection of all this to Gratitude you really do need to read the longer expanded paragraphs on each point.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2017


    I've kept a daily Gratitude Journal for many years. At the end of each day I, and the friend I live with, each write three things  we are grateful for that day. It's not hard to do! Some days though it tends to become a record of what we've done that day - nothing wrong with being grateful for a day's events of course. But the other morning as I was on my usual morning walk it struck me how grateful I was for:

    • Being able to walk. Lots of people can't - or can only walk with pain or difficulty.
    • Breathing easily. I knew someone with lung disease that made every breath an effort.
    • Clear eyesight to enjoy the beauty around me - made possible for me with glasses which I've worn since I was 9.
    • Good enough hearing to hear the wind in the trees and the sea lapping on the shore.
    • Living in such a beautiful place.
    • Feeling safe on the paths I walk every day.
    So much gratitude and it was only 8am!

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Rotorua is not only about Geysers! (Part 2)

    We thoroughly enjoyed the "WW2 Duck Tour". We chose the 90 minute tour which takes you round the key areas of the city and then out beyond the city and onto two lakes. The "Duck" is a world war 2 tank-like vehicle which is amphibious.

    Another Duck conveniently alongside ours on the Blue Lake.

    Our driver gave an excellent commentary about the volcanic nature of the countryside and the fact that we were actually inside a huge crater! 

    The next morning we went to the Redwood forest and walked the treewalk high in the trees. We were fortunate to be there about 9am before it got very crowded. This meant we had a leisurely contemplative walk with time to stop at the platforms (22 of them) and read information boards. It is beautifully constructed without harming any trees.

    Throughout the surrounding forest are artistically designed lights which at night would illuminate the whole path. Next time we'd definitely do a night walk. But we were warned that it is very busy at night so walking all the swing bridges with lots of others would be a different experience.

    Sunday, January 15, 2017

    Rotorua is not only about Geysers! (Part 1)

    We spent a couple of days in Rotorua recently and didn't see a single Geyser or mud pool! (Been there, done that previously!) This time we went with three specific things in mind:
    The Bible Museum and Discovery Centre. I can't remember how I came across the link for this some time ago and thought it might be worth a look. We were very impressed! It was much more than I had expected.
    From life-sized models...

    ...to tiny artifacts (many real, some replicas)
    ... and much more. It was very well set up and covered the whole Old Testament history and New Testament events, maps, dioramas, interactive displays... It had plenty for children as well as being of interest to those with good Biblical knowledge and a scholarly bent! It stimulated my interest in archaeology! We spoke with the couple who have spent eight years setting this all up. They are adding new displays all the time so if by chance you have visited previously it's worth another look.

    I'll cover the other two things we enjoyed in my next post.

    Friday, January 6, 2017

    Roadside Art

    On our recent trip to the Marsden Cross site we passed a large shed or barn on the side of the rough metalled road. It was beautifully painted:


    When we got home I tried to translate the Maori words: 
    Rere tonu anu te waka ki runga I nga ngaru tautoko o te iwi.
    I tried Google translate which told it me it meant: "Running the car on the back waves of the people."!! (This gave me an insight into the problems people have when learning a language not their own. Don't take Google translations too literally.) I still haven't found a Maori speaker to give a fluent, colloquial translation but I think Google does point in the right direction with the message being: The waka (canoe) moves forward on the waves of support from everyone in the iwi (tribe).

    A great message whatever our "tribe" - and I loved the fact that this barn "in the middle of nowhere" had been so creatively decorated. It was in itself a demonstration of the combined pride and support of "everyone in the iwi".