To Contemplate…SINCing with God

This morning I was at BBC Radio Leicester with Rupal Rajani taking a look at the papers for the day. It was a real joy to do this. Amongst the news we were talking around the topic of wellbeing, something we are all becoming more aware of in our lives. Rupal asked me what contemplative photography was, and asked for an example; it struck me that I haven’t blogged about that, despite it being the focus of so much of what I do write about! It is something that I just got on and did, and have come to take for granted. Yet, it is something which has such a positive impact on my wellbeing, and something of an oasis in what is so often a hectic state of being.

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It is a way of being in the world, or a way of noticing the world, which comes from a stance of stillness. The contemplative seeks to go deeper within themselves in order to see what is right in front of them – which they look at but rarely actually see.

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It is a practice which is like meditation, but I would call it meditative prayer, as I am seeking to draw closer to God; Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. I begin by closing my eyes and focusing only on my breathing – I ask God that I might breathe in the breath of God, and I breathe out gratitude for this moment in time, firmly transfixed on exactly what I am doing right now. How often do we do that? How often are we only focused on one thing?

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For me the intention is always to see through God’s lens or, more specifically perhaps, see glimmers of God in the place where I find myself and in the people who are nearby. I seek to capture images of God as Divine Light, here with us now.

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It might be something about the way they are focused…

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Or that Divine Light shining through…

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It might be that my attention is taken by difference and diversity. Whatever I notice I trust that I have noticed that, from the attentive stance I began with, because God wants me to see something.

Within my curacy my ‘formal’ training largely takes place through supervision and the opportunity to notice. One of the most helpful questions my Training Incumbent asks, and I notice myself asking before her now, is ‘what do you notice?’ The answer should never be a single sentence, because if we are truly noticing, that will involve what we see (and I mean really see, rather than what we are looking at), what we hear, how we feel, how others around us react, what that says about how they feel and how that impacts on how we feel.

Where in society do we have this space to reflect though? Our heads are filled with so much noise as we race from one thing to the next, before getting home in time to fulfil all that people need us to there, going to sleep and getting up and continuing the loop the next day. An article in The Guardian this week reported on a study undertaken on European robins found that their behaviour was affected by human produced noise. The bird song, when interrupted, had missed information and caused the bird receiving the information to act more aggressively, or give up too easily. Both of those responses seem all too familiar to me when I feel under pressure.

Contemplative photography is a way of relieving that pressure one drop at a time, and also a way of preventing the pressure from building up again to the same degree. I use the method of:

  1. Still the heart
  2. Intentionally seeing through God’s lens
  3. Noticing how what I am seeing is making me feel and noticing anything that God is saying through that
  4. Contemplating or sitting with some of those ideas and feelings
  5. After ‘SINCing with God’ in this way, prayerfully returning into the world, slightly transformed by the experience

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Sometimes I end up taking a photograph of what I have seen, sometimes I use a photograph previously taken, sometimes there is no photograph, and that is the real rub of this – it is not about taking photographs, but receiving photographs (as Christine Valters Paintner writes about in Eyes of the Heart) as they are revealed by God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer – after all, it is God’s lens that I am seeking to look through!

 

Seeking the Holy

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I have loved going to places of pilgrimage in Tokyo and blending into the background as I watch the expectation of the sacred or seeking of the experience of the sacred. Yet at Sensouji, it was not so much the obvious places where I found the sacred, but somewhat off the beaten track. Old treasure, lighting, stillness, solitude or the wind offered wonderful reminders of that ever present divinity – if only we will stop long enough to look, to see, to hear and to feel.

間 – ma (space between)

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ways in which difference is held together in Japan, and the Japanese understanding of beauty and stillness. I have been struck by the number of people from other lands who have made Japan their home for so many years, as well as reflecting on my own story, and why I returned to Britain after living here for four years. There is a mix of ancient and modern, secular and sacred, stillness and disturbance, each held in such close proximity.

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There can be invitation alongside hostility…

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…it can feel like two parallel universes; equally as a foreigner here, all that I have known can feel like it is from a parallel universe, one that is presently inaccessible.

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Rituals and respectfulness can demonstrate the beauty of the soul.

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Often blue sky and sunshine can elevate the soul.

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Equally, without warning, unfortunate events unfold; those that you would much rather leave behind or not have to receive, like ‘bad fortunes’ that can be left in the safety of the shrine rather than accompanying you home.

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Then there are customs which bring you to your knees, like these prayers for children – especially those who did not have very long with us – given hats and bibs to keep them warm, as well as windmills to offer relief from the sun.

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It seems that there is nowhere quite like this wonderful place of contradictions amidst harmony – where space or stillness is sought after within a busyness that I may never truly understand….

Holy Listening

#482 #theartofholylistening #listeninsilence #thegiftofvoice How often do we really listen, and allow someone to say all that they need to? #bestill #bewith #beinthemoment

Where do you find God?

#432 Where do you find God? In the busyness or in the quiet? This will be my next #placementchurch until Easter and there is a beautiful #ladychapel where you can really feel #God in the silence and stillness. 

Beauty of relationship 


#354 I came across this bench randomly which seems to encompass the beauty of relationship as #togetherness, #stillness and #solidarity for me. It’s a rare find, but a real treasure when you do find it!

Taking Things For Granted

#258 This afternoon there was a #powercut in the village which stopped me in my tracks. I had been doing some work but the Internet and printer were both off. I had been meaning to get a cup of #tea for some time but that was not possible as even the hob is electric. There was no radio, no tea, no food (I was just going to toast some crumpets) and no phone as there is little to no signal without an Internet boost. It was a very quiet hour which made me think about how much I take for granted in our modern, fast paced society. After the power returned, my tea and crumpets tasted better than ever, but I also appreciated the #stillness and #silence. whilst it is an inconvenience, there is a greater #appreciation for something once it has gone. It made me wonder what, or who, in life should I have more appreciation of before it is too late…

  

Presence of God

#204 What a perfect location for #studying There is a real sense of #stillness and #presenceofgod

Just lovely! Where do you feel most comfortable and creative to work? (at Cuddesdon)

Find God in the Stillness

#108 I struggled to photograph #stillness, which is in itself telling as I think we struggle to put it into practice. Nevertheless #psalm62 tells us to “Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul; for in him is my hope.” Do you need to find God in stillness today?