Sunday March 29 2020
Dear Chapel Members and Friends,
The present situation where we have to isolate ourselves to avoid infection is strangely conducive to the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is also a way of coping with the stress and anxiety of isolation.
In a recent interview Stephen Fry spoke wisely about our need now to redefine our sense of time. We can take more time to do everything, and do it in a more orderly and thoughtful fashion. We can allow time to take on a different dimension, a more generous dimension if you like.
To practice mindfulness meditation might take half an hour twice a day, but to conduct our daily lives in a mindful fashion is something that can be continuous. Mindfulness is not confined to meditation sessions, but can go on all the time throughout our daily activities.
Mindfulness means being fully aware of whatever we are experiencing or are involved in. It does not try to control our activities, just make us more attentive to them. It discourages thoughts about the past or the future or making judgements about them, and simply encourages awareness of the present moment. As a result, it can lead us to feel more relaxed about what we are doing, and feel increased contentment about it.
I have very briefly summarised ideas on mindfulness from Dr Tony Fletcher’s book Buddhism – How We Do It, and Tony summarises his own practice in part by saying;
It is moment by moment awareness
Alertness, not missing a thing
Watching events as they unfold.
There is a lot more in his very helpful book which will be of interest.
Are we engaged in important work, or on very mundane tasks? Mindfulness will apply to it all.
As you will have guessed, it is a very ancient practice, to be found in differing forms in different faiths around the world.
Here is a very familiar expression from our own tradition, by George Herbert (1593-1632):
Teach me my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for thee.
Whoever looks on glass
On it may stay his eye;
Or if it pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heaven espy.
All may of thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which, with this tincture, “For thy sake,”
Will not grow bright and clean.
A servant with his clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
Shall we end with a short prayer taken from an Eighteenth-Century Missal?
“O God, whose gracious providence has particularly ordain’d the spirit of meekness to waft us safely through the turbulent sea of the world… vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, that the clear experience we every day make of our own weakness and vanity, may so dispose us for this precious virtue, that our minds may never be discompos’d with passion, nor our tongues break forth into violent expressions, but our temper may be always preserv’d calm and regular… Amen.”
March 29, Mindfulness
April 5, Palm Sunday
April 12, Easter Sunday
April 19, Rest and Recovery
April 26, A Ministry of Ordinary Life
May 3, What is it about Hymns?
May 10, The Rainbow Symbol
May 17, Respect to Nurses
May 24, Lockdown
May 31, The Spirit of Pentecost
June 7, Infinity
June 14, Our Chapel
June 28, Subversion
July 5, "All right, me duck?"
July 12, Kindness
July 19, On Unitarian Philosophy
July 26, Priorities
August 2, Soul
August 9, Prayer
August 16, Church Service
August 23, Negative Capability
August 30, How Belief Endures
September 6, Loneliness
September 20, Are you WOKE?
October 11, The String Vest
October 25, Hand-Washing
November 8, Remembrance Sunday
November 29, Advent 2020
December 6, The Rich Legacy of Carols
December 13, Significance of Christmas Gifts
December 20, Zoom Carol Service
December 27, Last Sunday in the year
January 3, Epiphany 2021
January 10, The Fragility of Resolutions
January 17, Seeing Things Through