Archive for October, 2006

Welling up

October 30, 2006

During JYF camp we went to Waikoropupu springs. In this place a whole river wells up out of the ground, apparently from nowhere. The water is the clearest, most pure I have ever seen. We had a walking Meeting for Worship, following each other in the silence through the bush on the path to the springs. Standing at the viewing platform as a whole group, silently and in reverence of this incredible natural beauty it was easy to see why Maori held this place as sacred. Nowadays it is protected by the Department of Conservation.

In Meeting this week someone spoke about a documentary he had seen on the establishment of a Thai Buddhist monastery in Christchurch. He had been curious about how the monks did not cook for themselves, and that this was done by the Thai community, who contributed much to keeping the monastry going, both time and money. The monks were given the space to meditate, and to teach on matters of the spirit and of healing.  He drew a comparison with the incredible plethora of committees, conversations and work that goes on simply so we can have an hour of silence on a Sunday morning in Friends.

Other ministry that morning was about truly listening to people when they talk, taking the time to really hear what they were saying. All these things spoke to me about the upwelling of the spirit. When we create the space for silence, when we wait before responding when listening to someone, we allow the spirit to well forth. We get out of the way, and let the pure clean energy of the universe flow through us.

Totaranui (part 2)

October 25, 2006

I understand that in maori ‘nui’ means big or many. So Wainui is big water, arohanui means lots of love. So Totaranui might mean big totara, or many totara. I didn’t notice many totara in the surrounding bush when we were at JYF camp, although I wasn’t particularly looking.

In New Zealand sometimes important leaders are referred to as totara, especially when they die e.g. “a mighty totara has fallen today”.

Seeing the JYFs at the camp, the next generation of Quakers, seeing the way they worked together to resolve issues, their individual thoughts and ideas, the way they acted responsibly (most of the time), the way they looked after each other, was just amazing. Seeing the potential in these people, I am sure there will be many totara in our community in the future.

Kowhai

October 23, 2006

The kowhai have been in incredible bloom this year. Or maybe they’ve always bloomed like that, and it’s the first year I’ve noticed. Every tree had huge yellow bell shaped flowers in such abundance.

Why have I noticed it this year? Much of my work in the last 18 months has been with scientists in the environmental sector. As such I’ve, by osmosis, learned a lot more about our native flora. Very few plants native to NZ have coloured flowers, most just having small white flowers. Many people see NZ bush as being uninteresting, and all the same. Once you spend some time with it though, different textures, shapes and hues emerge out of what seemed an homogenous green. Many of the leaves are small and the branches variegated. All of this means that you look at the bush more closely to identify and appreciate what’s there. It forces you to become more focused, intent, and discerning. So when the kowhai blooms with its vivid swath of yellow, it’s all the more impressive. It’s such a contrast that it leaps out and grabs you, at least it does for me.

So maybe its OK to be focused on what you’re doing. It can make beauty that much more intense when it appears. Just make sure you do look up and see the flowers from time to time.

Learning to fly

October 13, 2006

In my dreams I can fly.  Not always very well. Often I struggle to get altittude. Sometimes I can’t soar like I want to, but I can fly, and in my dreams I can, and other people can’t.

My son often talks about super powers. We often have debates about which super powers would be preferable. “Would you rather have heat beam eyes, or be able to go invisible?” I’ve told my kids a few times recently that when you’re an adult you get new powers and some of them are super. I didn’t really know what I meant until I read this. I had some vague ideas about how you gain the power of being responsible for yourself, about being able to communicate with people in a deeper, more capable way than you could when you were younger.

Peggy talks about powers that seem to be spiritual in nature (rather than the physical powers that most comic book super heroes have). I’ve for a time had a sense that some people had spiritual ‘powers’ that others didn’t. The obvious ones like Ghandi, the Dalai Lama seemed to have a spiritual resilience. Dan Millman too addresses the notion of spiritual powers in the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. I’ve never before this seen them articulated in a Quaker sense though. It seems almost unquakerly to talk about powers. Powers are something that differentiate us, make us special, unique, better than. This feels so opposite to Quaker notions of equality that it feels uncomfortable to even talk about it. But we’re happy enough with the notion of people having different gifts. And as Quakers we seem well versed with as a very few small people being able to make a huge difference through faith and speaking truth to power. So maybe it’s OK for us to have powers too.

I resonate with some of the powers that Peggy speaks of especially the first two, but some, like quixotic vision and time travel I don’t even begin to understand or experience.  Hyper-resilience I am interested in. I’ve always been fairly good at discipline, and I’ve seen eating well and exercising as disciplined activities that give me the energy to do the things I want to do. I’ve never seen them though as a means of connecting with the ‘divine power source’. This really struck a chord with me, eating and exercising as acts of worship and connection with that which is.

So maybe if I keep at it, one day I’ll be able to fly. Somehow though, that doesn’t seem quite so super a power as being able to love.

Willow

October 11, 2006

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer there is a character called Willow. She starts off as a stereotypical bookworm geek at school, but after becoming one of Buffy’s sidekicks she starts learning magic. Over several seasons she becomes a very powerful wicca. Eventually she gets addicted to the darker magics. When her lover is killed by a stray bullet she becomes overwhelmed with grief. Fueled by a spiral of rage and loss she consumes more and more power on her path to revenge. In consuming increasing amounts of power from the primal forces of the world she becomes more connected to the pain and suffering of all humans. To try to silence this anguish she attempts to end the world using magic.

She is saved by love. Where everyone else is trying to use power to stop her, her best friend Xander tells her that he loves her. He keeps telling her as she slashes him and burns him and hits him. He keeps telling her until her hair turns from black to red, and she breaks down crying, her power to harm exhausted.

This morning when I went running around the river, there were many willow branches on the ground. This often happens when there’s been a big wind. Some of the branches were just small twigs. Some were huge, a quarter or third of a whole tree. But we never seem to run out of willow trees. The wind blows down many branches, but the trees still grow.

To me, this is the spirit of non-violence. The trees do not try to fight the wind, they just bend before it, and sometimes they break. But always they grow. The immutable, irresistable power of love is expressed in the growth of living things, in the unconditional care of a friend in the face of grief, in the willingness of a people to reject violence and stand for a deeper truth.

Flowers Creek

October 8, 2006

The night before JYF camp this year we stayed with the some friends at a place called Flowers Creek in Pakawau, in Golden Bay. I’d never been there before.

I know several people in the family, and am close to two of them, the mother and one of the daughters. Over time I’d built up a bit of a picture in my head of how their home might look, based on the few things they’d mentioned about what it was like. Without knowing it I’d kind of mapped out the rooms and pictured the gardens based on very limited information.

When I got there everything was exactly where I’d pictured it. The shape of the kitchen, the location of the bedrooms, the kinds of plants in the garden. And I mean exactly. Neither of the people had really described much about the place to me, and yet my picture of it was completely accurate. I’ve been trying to work out why.

It’s exactly the sort of house I’d imagine them living in. In a lot of ways it is very similar to the way my grandparents house in Kerikeri was when I was a child. Kind of rustic, honest, and very welcoming and natural feeling. So maybe my picture was accurate because I guessed well about the kind of house they’d have. That doesn’t explain knowing the location of the rooms though.

When I think about it, it doesn’t really matter how I knew. It wasn’t a spooky feeling. It felt just right, like everything was in the right place, and all was well with the universe. I felt totally at home, completely welcome. It’s the kind of house I’d like to have, but know I probably never will because I’m just too much like me to…

The family and the house for me embody connection with nature, simplicity, and love. I hope to visit there again soon.

Totaranui

October 7, 2006

Kowhai in flower
Young people with such promise
I am happy