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Week 20

Wildlife wonder – Volcanic rock

I debated whether I could include a rock as a ‘wildlife wonder’ but it feels like it is ‘wild’ and has ‘life’ and it’s most definitely a wonder. There are numerous bolders like this scattered across Grenada, that came from the volcanoes that formed the island. This large bolder is likely to have spewed out of the extinct volcano to the side of our house, now known as Levera Hill. The date of its last eruption was one of the many things we checked before buying the house, but thankfully this was about five million years ago. As we explored our new garden, Hosten and I both felt drawn to this rock and we were grateful that when it was spewed out of the volcano, it landed in our future garden.

It is made of basalt rock, which forms when volcanic lava cools down. Basalt is found across the world but it is often under the earth’s crust whereas in Grenada it is closer to the surface, making the soil here more fertile than many other countries.

I have discovered that leaning against this rock feels a very stable and grounding experience and I find myself patting it as I pass or greeting it as if it’s my new pet – and it’s certainly easy to care for than previous pets! The surface is surprisingly cool, which adds to the attraction of leaning against it, particularly in this humid season.

I have also found that when I lean against it, the view before me is of the half-built house next door. This neighbouring site initially put me off our house. However, recently I have come to value the static work in progress of an unfinished project. It is a reminder that I am also a work in progress, as is the development of this retreat house and it is a regular reminder for me to live with imperfection and to trust the process.

This rock is at the side of the house, where we are planning to develop a reflective garden and this will become one of the places for reflection. It has, as most rocks do, a quiet strength which is almost palpable if you give yourself the time to sit with it.

Grenadian Gift- Liming

As you travel around this island, it won’t be long before you pass a group of friends or someone relaxing on their own and who are ‘liming.’ This is the Grenadian term for hanging out, relaxing, quietly contemplating life and enjoying the view. I have heard that it comes from the idea of having nothing more to do than squeeze limes. Liming is a gift from Grenadian culture and something those of us from Western cultures need to learn more. Liming is having times to be laid back, quiet and easy going. However, almost to add some balance to this default way of being, there are also times of loud music and speed here such as during bus rides, beach parties and carnival season and liming can sometimes happen at times that aren’t always quiet.

Recently I had a leak from a water pipe in the kitchen downstairs. Fortunately I went down there to get something in the late afternoon and discovered it, otherwise it could have continued all night. As I stepped into the kitchen, I found that I was standing in 2 inches of water that had flooded the downstairs kitchen and newly decorated pantry and was running down the corridor to the room full of unpacked cardboard boxes. It took me a few hours to clean up the water and thankfully the builder came and fixed the pipe that evening. The next day I unpacked about 30 boxes, which were mainly of books, in trepidation, assuming that most of the contents would have been ruined. However I was amazed to see that the boxes had soaked up most of the water and that nearly all the books were safe.

For some reason, I hadn’t got round to putting up my hammock on the balcony but after a few days of clearing up the aftermath of the flood, it felt a good time to do so. I am discovering that swaying in a hammock, looking out to sea is a great way to lime!

Reflections from the Retreat

The leak coincided with two online contemplative events that I attended and strangely and quite literally, they all flowed together. The first event was a ‘Mystics Summit’ which had teachings from a wide variety of teachers from various spiritual traditions over five days and the second was a four day Contemplative Fire retreat on storytelling, creativity and connecting with nature.

Having become a Christian as a teenager, my spiritual path has gradually moved me to the more contemplative and mystical teachings, for which I am eternally grateful. A definition of a mystic from one speaker at the summit, is that ‘a mystic is someone who has had an experience of Ultimate Reality and a realisation that it’s the most important thing in their life and they want to deepen it and develop it because it is the core of their identity’ (William Bloom). Another said ‘a mystic isn’t a special kind of person, but that each person is a special kind of mystic. If you let yourself be present, anything can be a mystical moment.’ (Robert Holden). In hearing a large number of speakers in a short space of time, it helped me to realise that what I value is hearing wisdom from God spoken out of experience rather than words about God spoken out of egotism. This is also a challenge to me about how I talk with others about my spiritual life and reinforced my desire to offer a space here for people to experience the sacred rather than talk about it.

I have struggled over the years in how I see the church has sometimes created more barriers to people experiencing God than they have offered ways in to this experience and churches can sometimes offer a narrow and limited view of the Divine. As someone said, it is like reducing works of art to painting by numbers. One speaker said that we sometimes have to wrestle with our faith tradition and it is like going into a ship wreck and finding the hidden treasures. Some of the treasures I have found for my own journey include the Christian medieval mystics such as Eckhart and Julian of Norwich and the Celtic traditions of Christianity, which were largely squashed by the Roman invasion, which bought a different form of Christian worship to Britain. Listening to speakers from a range of faith traditions, helped me to reaffirm my commitment to the uniqueness of the ‘Jesus stream’, (which is not the same as church). I know that I can draw from other streams which I find helpful at times, knowing that all authentically spiritual streams flow into the sea, but that my calling is to follow that particular stream of the life of Jesus. This concept of a stream led into the Contemplative Fire retreat in which a key theme was about flow. An analogy was offered that our spiritual journey can be like walking in a wood and that it is helpful to follow a stream so that we don’t lose our direction. So it was quite ironic that, as I reflected on following a particular stream and going with the flow, I found that I was literally standing in a stream that was flowing through my kitchen! Strangely this leak, in the context of the retreat, heightened my reflections.

Another key quote that came out of the Mystics summit was from one of my favourite speakers and authors, James Finley. He said that we can sometimes make the spiritual life like getting over a high jump, but then Jesus comes along and removes the bar off the high jump and places it on the floor, so that we trip over it and fall into the arms of God. Moving from working hard for God to going with the flow with God was a key lesson for me during this retreat. One that I need to keep going back to and relearning. This tied in to a metaphor of gathering water from the writings of Teresa of Avila. She compared the early stages of the Christian journey to pulling up water from a well with hard work and effort and then moving to the more mystical way of allowing a stream of water to just flow through the garden.

As part of this retreat time, I spent some time in the garden here, planning two small buildings as reflective places as well as the reflective garden area. I hope that these spaces will encourage others to dwell deep in the contemplative stream and find fresh energy and grounding in their unique calling, as I have done this week.

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