Some mornings I stand under the shower and think of being baptised into a new day.
As the water cascades over my head I imagine Jesus in the Jordan river, probably standing much the same way and thinking of his life ahead.
I reflect on my ministry as editor of Wel-com to bring the good news of Wellington and Palmerston North dioceses to some 24,000 readers in the central third of the country.
As with Rangiwhiua Hewitt whose spiritual journey I wrote of in the June 2008 Wel-com, (www.welcom.org.nz/?sid=886) my own journey took off with a crisis in my life—in fact several crises over time usually sparked by loss and grief through the death of friends or family.
In that void, feeling as though my guts had been ripped open and exposed to a Wellington southerly, desperation drove me to seek God and then to rail at God for allowing this to happen.
My next move was to try to understand myself through these experiences, validating and honouring them as part of who I am—God’s creature, woman, wife, lover, mother, grandmother, friend, writer, editor, musician, gardener and, of course, reader and golfer.
As a child of the church, growing up at a time before altar boys shared these tasks with girls, when women’s roles were restricted mainly to making the scones for afternoon tea at the many sodality meetings and being involved in CWL, I had to learn to value all of my talents, not just those that fitted a service role.
In prayer, too, I eventually learned that my experience was a valid ground for getting to know the God in me which sometimes met the God in others through shared experience, a look, a laugh or a smile.
In learning about social justice, I realised the God possibilities in accompanying people in their pain as they struggled for justice in their situations. Then I had to be open to how my understanding their experience might change me. Working with others on a project, perhaps a submission to the government on immigration law, also gave me a sense of God moments in the celebration of shared achievement.
A golden moment occurred when I discovered that my perceptions of God in others and in everything was heightened if I spent half an hour or so each morning in silent contemplation struggling to stay out of the busy thoroughfare of thoughts and be open to God’s invitation to spend the first moments of my day alone with God.
This form of centring prayer has been taught by Cistercian monk, Thomas Keating. Cynthia Bourgeault, an American episcopalian priest and contemplative who studied with Thomas Keating, has been practising centring prayer for more than 15 years.
She writes of spiritual non-possessiveness as a state of emptying ourselves to be filled with God.
The centring prayer that Bourgeault advocates has the contemplative gently acknowledging the thoughts and letting them go. A mantra or simple word or phrase repeated often helps keep the mind free for prayer.
Bourgeault puts the goal of contemplative life as ‘unitive seeing’ gradually realising that there is nothing that is not God.
‘To see this is to behold the Kingdom here and now and to be in constantly renewed immediacy with the source of your own true abundance’ (Bourgeault 158).
The goal of my journey then is to totally let go of my ego and surrender to God through contemplative practice, trusting God to guide me in my dealings with others and in working to promote God’s reign.