Listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning, while exercising on my cross-trainer, I felt a swelling of pride.
At 9:30 there was a fifteen-minute programme ‘Hacking Happiness – What if Happiness isn’t about the self at all?’.
This was followed by a fifteen-minute reading from Erling Kagge’s book ‘Silence’.
And then a wonderful segment on Woman’s Hour in which mothers talked openly and poignantly about their experiences of breastfeeding.
And I thought: What if there had been no flower power? No feminism? No new approaches to psychology, spirituality and the arts? These reflective, open-hearted, emotionally intelligent and inclusive programmes might never have been recorded and broadcast.
I often quote the African liberationist, Franz Fanon, who said that the greatest tragedy for any generation is to not fulfil its mission.
Listening to those radio programmes I felt proud because things have changed.
I know that right now national and global politics seem vulgar and dangerous. It is easy to feel pessimistic. But turn your minds back to when men in grey flannel, tweeds, black robes and uniforms seemed to be the sole authorities, with only a few bohemians sparkling colour into the patriarchy.
Things have changed.
Each of us who followed, and still follows, that new way which respects all ages, all genders, all sexualities, all abilities, all spiritualities, all ethnicities – and, as best we can, demonstrate compassion, love in action and a deep instinct for social justice and equality for all beings – we have helped bring about that change.
And the mission continues.
Quietly or loudly be optimistic. Keep on trucking. All will be well.
Glastonbury Abbey is a place of Christian hospitality. In that spirit, we welcome people of all faiths and of no faith. And we invite you to enjoy our Prayer and Meditation Moments.
For hundreds of years this beautiful abbey was a place of worship, of learning and of sanctuary. As you enter its grounds, you may want to contemplate that your life is a spiritual journey.
Wherever you approach one of the areas indicated on the map, slow down and pause. Take the opportunity to breathe calmly and find peace within yourself. Then, if it feels right, follow the brief instructions.
You can do as many or as few of these Prayer and Meditation Moments as you choose. There is no particular sequence to them so you can do them in any order that works for you. We have however mapped two walks – a short one and a long one – which you might want to explore.
ST PATRICK’S CHAPEL
Many people came to Glastonbury Abbey for healing. Sit quietly in this chapel. As best you can, breathe calmly and allow your body to sink and be at ease. Quietly say this prayer:
I am open to receive the gift of healing. May all people and creatures be blessed with good health.
This Glastonbury Thorn tree flowers twice a year in Winter and in Spring, like a Middle Eastern thorn. Legend suggests that it is a cutting from an ancient line of trees that dates back to the visits of Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus. Quietly contemplate:
How wonderful that the cells of this tree carry its history and its future. May I always see the connections and wonder of all life.
LADY CHAPEL Upper Level
This chapel is dedicated to the worship and celebration of Mary the mother of Christ. The divine female can be found in many spiritual traditions. Quietly say this prayer:
Mother of the world, help me to love and care for all beings.
ST JOSEPH’S CHAPEL Lower Level
There are legends that Joseph, the uncle of Jesus, came to this very spot bringing the chalice from the Last Supper. Walk slowly and mindfully towards the altar. Quietly say this prayer:
I am grateful that I am safe and have a home. May all people have a safe home.
Legend states that King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are buried here. Their court was home to the Round Table of chivalrous and brave knights. Quietly say this prayer:
In a world of injustice may I have the strength, courage and wisdom to support and champion the weak and vulnerable.
Here in the cloister the monks walked slowly, praying and contemplating life. See how slowly you can walk around the cloister and at the same time calm your breathing.
May I be slow and calm. May I be wiser and more loving. Help me understand life’s difficulties and guide me into clarity.
In this kitchen food was prepared daily for the Abbot’s visitors. Quietly say this prayer:
The food I eat comes from nature, plants, animals, farmers, transporters, traders and cooks. I give thanks to all of them. May everyone be fed and well.
A monastic Herb garden would have supplied medicines, aromas and flavours. Quietly say this prayer:
I give thanks for the beautiful diversity and healing power of nature; and I give thanks too for the gardeners and their care.
Every year this beautiful orchard gives an abundant harvest of apples. Quietly say this prayer:
Thank you mother nature for your beauty and your abundance. May I always remember and care for you.
FISH POND (Lower)
Water is one of the four ancient elements. Earth. Water. Air. Fire. This beautiful pond is cradled by earth. It is filled with water.Airand wind play on it. Light from the fireof the sun reflects from its surface. Quietly say this ancient prayer:
Earth my body. Water my blood. Air my breath. And Fire my spirit. I am one with All That Is.
WILDLIFE POND (Upper)
‘Ask the animals,’ said St Francis, ‘and they will teach you the beauty of this earth.’ At this pond we find fish and fowl. Pause. Calm your breath and be at ease. Notice the fish, the birds, and the insects. Be aware too of the sky and the hills around you. Feel the air against your skin. Quietly say this prayer:
I give thanks for the blessings and gifts of all animals. May all creatures be treated with care and respect.
PARK AREA – BODY PRAYER
There is a beautiful tradition of moving your body in tune with a prayer.
Slowly raise your arms above your head and stretch upwards:
The universe is filled with mystery and love.
Slowly bring your hands down and place them over your heart:
I too am filled with mystery and love.
Lower your hands so that your palms face the earth – or kneel down and touch the earth:
I bless the Earth and all living beings.
Repeat the action as many times as you like.
In this area we celebrate untamed nature – God’s garden. Be quiet. Imagine our whole planet and humanity living in complete harmony with the natural world. Quietly say this prayer:
From the tiniest insect and wild flower, out to the greatest ocean and mountain, may I celebrate the beauty of all creation.
Choose any tree that you like. In many spiritual traditions, trees are a symbol of strength and wisdom. Pause and imagine that you are a tree. Imagine and sense that you have roots growing deep into the ground. Feel the strength of your trunk. Feel the flexibility and movement of your branches.Quietly say this prayer:
In a world of endless change and noise, may I be like this tree – strong, flexible and wise.
Every Thursday at noon I sit in St Joseph’s Chapel in Glastonbury Abbey and participate in a healing meditation. It is a simple twenty-minute session: being still; awareness that healing is always available; receiving healing; sending healing to wherever there is suffering.
Sometimes in this meditation I contemplate what exactly is happening. I have one sceptical brain cell enquiring whether spiritual healing is real, or whether it is just a displacement activity to make me feel useful in a world where I may be useless. But this doubt is more than balanced by a clear sense, a deep knowing, that something real and useful is truly happening
In my meditation I also enjoy contemplating the nature of good health. Good health it seems to me is best defined as a state of comfort and flexibility. There is enjoyable harmony and flow. This applies to both our physical and mental states. It is similar too for societies. Bad health is the opposite. Illness is pain and rigidity. Movement hurts – physically and emotionally. Nothing flows.
If we accept this simple flip-flop – comfort and flexibility versus pain and rigidity – then we can suggest a coherent definition of healing. Healing is surely anything that facilitates comfort and flexibility. This definition is appropriate for modern medicine. It also reflects the Taoist philosophy that the universe is a harmonious ocean of flowing states; so a healthy state, for an individual or a community, is also to be in harmony with this continuous flux and flow.
In this context the process of all healing methods – surgery, medication, touch, spiritual healing, exercise, diet, being in nature and so on – can then be easily described. First, identify what is uncomfortable and rigid. Second, intervene with an appropriate strategy to enable comfort and flow.
There are obvious problems of course if we deny or misdiagnose the rigidity. More difficulties can be triggered too if we seek an easy healing intervention, instead of an effective one. A simple example from most of our lives is when we feel emotional pain and then intervene with food instead of perhaps some quiet in nature or a dance.
It is a simple reality of life that most of us at some time or another experience pain and therefore seek healing. The good news is that within each of us is there is a great doctor, a wonderful agent of healing: our own consciousness.
Your consciousness – your mind, your awareness, your soul – can acknowledge your pain, seek to understand it and find the best medicine to bring yourself back into flow, comfort and flexibility.