What do spiritual teachers and leaders do when no one is looking?

What do spiritual teachers and leaders do when no one is looking?

Out in public they lead, worship, support and teach. But what are they up to when home and alone?

Over the decades I have hosted and met many of them. From experience I know that they all do the same thing. Away from their audiences, their students and congregations, they take quiet time to connect more deeply with their spiritual source.

It does not matter what their tradition is — mainstream religion, pagan, shaman, healing, yoga, meditation, dance — they take time day by day to deepen their spiritual connection. Without exception this is done quietly and humbly, with an appreciation of how small they are in the context of the cosmos.

Yes of course, after the outbreath of public service, they need to regenerate and fuel themselves. And Yes their legitimacy as a spiritual leader comes from the authenticity of their own spiritual practice. But this is not their primary motivation for ongoing spiritual practice.

Their primary motivation is their own inner calling. The core of their spiritual lives is not public outreach, though being of service is crucial. The core is their private and internal vocation — to greater connection with all that is, more love and compassion, expanded consciousness.

Think of any spiritual teacher you like and contemplate their life at home.

Be realistic. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Amma, the hugging saint, is not hugging everything in sight but is quietly allowing herself to be hugged by spirit. The shaman is not continually transported by plant medicines and trance-dancing but sits quietly in landscape. The Dalai Lama spends hours in meditation. The Pope is not ceremonially processing around his apartment in robes and mitre but is in contemplation and prayer.

This was always their real calling. Release all the teaching and leadership. They are solid in their spiritual practice.  

Some of their ambitious followers and students may seek to be like them, also leading and teaching. But they may be missing the point, the essence. All the different spiritual paths and styles lead to the same thing — the individual’s personal spiritual calling and practice. Repeating myself now, that essence is:

— Deeper connection with all that is

— More compassion and love

— Expanded consciousness

Spiritual growth may sometimes happen serendipitously or with a wave of grace. In reality it requires dedication and daily perseverance, a rhythm of quiet opening and connection.

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So I wonder if for some of us there has been a silver lining in this Covid crisis. It has provided a time and focus for spiritual practice. We do the same then as all the teachers and leaders. We are called to an ever-deeper relationship with the wonder and energy, with the awe and mystery of all that is.

Each Breath New Patterns

Each Breath New Patterns

One of my problems, like everyone, is that I get stuck in habits and opinions.

And these habits slow down, even sabotage, my development as I seek to become more connected, more conscious and more loving.

My opinions and my sense of self are the worst ruffians.

Just because I have a particular opinion I am attached to it. These opinions are both very shallow and very deep.

At the shallow end I have a sense of aesthetics and culture. So for example I think people should enjoy certain television series and not others, wear colours that suit their skin tone and not own motorcycles of a certain brand.

Less shallow, I am opinionated around politics, social and cultural affairs. It does not take long to identify me as an anarchic green socialist with strong tendencies to intellectual snobbery.

I also have distinct opinions about metaphysics, esoterics and spirituality. These inform much of my daily life and practice.

And then so much deeper is this sense of self, this particular William.

Being glued into any of these opinions — I use the word ‘opinion’ lightly and deeply — blocks the flow and expansion of my growth.

So a while ago I wrote a prayer-poem to help me.

I share it with you now:

EACH BREATH, NEW PATTERNS

Life within me

Life around

Unfold within me now the

Power of growth

Wisdom of love

Intelligence of being

Let me find integrity in the

Service of liberation

Let my inner life be proved in the strength of silent action

As each breath creates new patterns

Give me rhythm to embrace unfoldment

May I know beauty in every difference

Welcome change in every crisis

And give compassion to every cry

Consciousness joins all in life

Earth to cosmos

Soil to stardust

Human to divinity

Let love flame within

Freedom is with all

Space Consciousness Love and the Pandemic

Space Consciousness Love and the Pandemic

Recently a research project asked me for my definition of consciousness.

Answering this enquiry philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists usually disappear down a rabbit hole of complexity. But I like a simple answer.  I encountered it first in Vedic philosophy and the books of Alice Bailey.

I summarise it:

Consciousness is the innate capacity to respond to stimulation. 

It is the capacity in everything to respond to stimulation.

Every time we see something responding to stimulation we are witnessing consciousness in action.

This applies to everything. I really mean everything — electron, atom, rock, plant, animal, human, planet, solar system, galaxy, cosmos, space . . .

Here are examples:

A rock responds to pressure and temperature. That response is an indication of the rock’s consciousness.

A plant may respond to temperature, gravity, sunlight, moisture and nutrients.

Animals may respond to many stimulations.

Humans respond to even more stimulations. Humans can respond to their own thoughts.

So the difference between a rock and a human is this. Human consciousness is more complex, more responsive to multiple stimulations.

Based in this interpretation we can suggest that consciousness is woven into the essential fabric of life and cosmos.

Expanding their awareness beyond the human realm mystics suggest that planets, our sun, stars, galaxies and the cosmos also have consciousness.

Space is consciousness.

This possibility can be a focus of enquiry in metaphysical meditation as human consciousness expands and experiences altered states. Sitting quietly it is the empty mind, like a receptive radar dish, that can garner insights. These insights are found in what one of the fathers of yoga, Patanjali, called ‘the raincloud of knowable things.’

Some meditators may reject the idea of any activity when sitting in silence. Others are very happy to explore inner realities, possibilities and dimensions.

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I have been building on this understanding of consciousness. In meditation I have been contemplating these seed thoughts and exploring their mysteries:

— Space is an infinite ocean of consciousness with an innate capacity to respond to stimulation

— Empty space is filled with matter, energy, electricity, vibrations, beings, ideas, plasma . . .  some miniscule, some galactic

Like all mystics and meditators my consciousness expands further when I am in a soft mindful state of love and bliss

Let me now add a thread that may help us address our current global crisis.

Ultimately our galaxy and all the dense matter we know will disappear.  It will be sucked into the mystery of a black hole.

This event is billions of years away, but it is inevitable.

So here is an interesting possibility:

When all the matter of our galaxy disappears into that black hole, will human consciousness also disappear?

Perhaps only dense matter is sucked into the black hole.  And the more subtle matter of our consciousness continues.

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This kind of enquiry posed in meditation is profoundly relevant to how we manage the current global crisis.

We can only conduct these contemplative enquiries if we are deeply calm, centred in our hearts and awake.

In that state we can truly see the bigger picture.

Waves and cycles of human history come and go.

There have been many plagues and demagogues. They pass.

Calm compassionate equanimity radiates.

It can balance, stabilise and heal the suffering, distress and anxiety of our times.

Humanity’s destiny is to be loving, conscious and connected.

Empaths Sensitives Stop Self-Soothing, Assert Clear Boundaries

Empaths Sensitives Stop Self-Soothing, Assert Clear Boundaries

It is obvious isn’t it? If you are sensitive or empathic or an introvert, who feels easily overwhelmed by life or people, you need boundaries.

I myself am a sensitive empathic introvert and can be easily wobbled by other people’s vibes. I know very well how to self-soothe and use calming techniques. They are great and useful. They certainly work well when I am on my own.

But when I am out in the world dealing with people and everything else, I need more than self-soothing. I need boundaries.

Why? Because the self-soothing mindful calming techniques will, in fact, just make me more of a passive sponge.

That is a horrible thought — being a passive sponge. But that is exactly what happens if we self-soothe and calm ourselves when faced with hostile or difficult behaviour and vibrations. We just become receptive radar dishes absorbing all the crap. Not good.

I talked about this when I was recording the interview for The Shift’s ‘Meditation and Mindfulness Summit.’ The very experienced woman in charge of the video/audio technology said afterwards that this was the first time she had ever heard that. “I’m a sensitive empath and no one has ever told me to assert my boundaries. That makes total sense.”

In fact I have been teaching how to assert boundaries for decades. My best techniques are in my books Psychic Protection and Feeling Safe. I also have an online Psychic Protection course you can find here at Watkins Wisdom Academy. https://watkinswisdomacademy.com/product/psychic-protection/

Especially for women who from a very young age have had to endure unwelcome intrusions of their boundaries, it can be crucial to learn to respect and assert your space.

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— I recommend books on ‘assertiveness training.’

— I suggest too that people do twelve months of a martial art so as to learn the minimal strategy of throwing a kick or punch and asserting your boundary. You may never need to throw that punch, but that attitude will be in your aura and be felt by bullies who will back off.

— Sometimes I suggest that folk should wear a watch that beeps every hour (I have a £6 Casio that does the job) and every hour they pause and assert clearly and loudly to themselves: This is my space! My boundaries! Respect! Do that sixteen times a day for a few months and things will change.

As always, do it with love and affection.

I hope that is all of the above is helpful. The huge silver lining to being empathic and sensitive is that we can also feel all the good things.

And of course — if you are strong, healthy and have clear boundaries, be chivalrous and kind.

 

Mainstream Statements that Include Spirituality

People who are engaged or interested in spirituality often think that mainstream thinking is hostile to spirituality. But do some research and you will be surprised by the number of authoritative bodies that publicly assert the value of spirituality. They may not be clear on how to put spirituality into action, but they have public statements about spirituality and good practice.

For the students on the Diploma in Practical Spirituality & Wellness  we have a reassuring handout. It is evidence that we do not have to persuade the mainstream that spirituality is beneficial and important. Below is the text of the handout. I hope you find the statements interesting and inspiring. And if you know others, please add them in Comments at the end of this page

 

Royal College of Psychiatrists ‘Spirituality and Mental Health’ 2014

‘Spirituality emphasises the healing of the person, not just the disease. It views life as a journey, where good and bad experiences can help you to learn, develop and mature.’

 

World Health Organisation  May 1984

The Thirty-Seventh World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA37.13, which named the “spiritual dimension” as an integral part of WHO Member States’ strategies for health.

 

United Nations – The Earth Summit Conference 2002

‘Health ultimately depends on the ability to manage successfully the interaction between the physical, spiritual, biological and economic/social environment.’ Agenda 21, 6.2

 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council

‘The Nursing and Midwifery Council expects newly qualified graduate nurses to be able to: In partnership with the person, their carers and their families, makes a holistic, person centred and systematic assessment of physical, emotional, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual needs, including risk, and together, develops a comprehensive personalised plan of nursing care.’ (2011)

 

Scottish Executive Health Department ‘Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy’ 2009

‘Chief Executives are asked to ensure that this guidance is brought to the attention of all appropriate staff and, in particular, to ensure that: They have appointed a senior lead manager for spiritual care.’ ‘Spiritual care is usually given in a one-to-one relationship, is completely person-centred and makes no assumptions about personal conviction or life orientation …. Spiritual care is not necessarily religious. Religious care, at its best, should always be spiritual.’

 

General Medical Council ‘Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice’ 2013, p.1

‘A doctor must adequately assess the patient’s conditions, taking account of their history (including the symptoms and psychological, spiritual, social and cultural factors), their views and values.’

 

Education Reform Act of 1988

The opening sentence ‘The curriculum for a maintained school (must be) a balanced and broadly based curriculum which — promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society.’

 

Education (Schools) Act 1992

‘The Chief Inspector for England shall have the general duty of keeping the Secretary of State informed about … the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at those schools.’

 

Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, Jan 2015

The word ‘spiritual’ appears 20 times – Para 128: ‘Before making the final judgement on the overall effectiveness, inspectors must also evaluate: the effectiveness and impact of the provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development . . .’

 

British Association of Social Workers ‘Code of Ethics for Social Workers’ 2012

Upholding and promoting human dignity and well-being ‘Social workers should respect, uphold and defend each person’s physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual integrity and well-being.’

 

If you know other authoritative and useful statements, please post them in the Comments below. Thanks.

Glastonbury Abbey Meditation & Prayer Walk

Glastonbury Abbey Meditation and Prayer Walk

Introduction

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.

  

HOLY THORN

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.

 

ARTHUR’S TOMB

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.

CLOISTER

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.

ABBOT’S KITCHEN

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.

 

HERB GARDEN

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.

ORCHARD

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.

 

WILDLIFE AREA

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.

BEAUTIFUL TREE 

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.

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You can view and download a PDF of this leaflet on the Glastonbury Abbey website: https://www.glastonburyabbey.com/resources/glastonbury_abbey_meditation_and_prayer_walk.pdf