People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about …Joseph Campbell, The Power of the Myth
Welcome to This Body.
When I was a teenager I had an unexpected and unlooked-for experience of God. I knew myself to be loved. I knew I could trust it. This turned my teenage world upside down and started a search for God that culminated in undergoing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius at St Beuno’s in 1989 as part of their 3-month course in Apostolic Spirituality.
In 1999 I went on a Focusing retreat with Ed & Pete. It was the first time I had been encouraged to trust and listen to my body rather than just using body posture, attention, and movement as an entry into prayer. It was an epiphany. I have come to trust that this body can teach me everything I need to know. This has become my ground of presence, prayer, spiritual direction, and writing.
I have come to realise, one step at a time, that what I experienced as a youngster is always true: God is for us and can be trusted to be present. I was searching for what I had already been given as a gift. There is no search, no ‘journey’ to be made. God is here and now, the air that I breathe, and the ground upon which I walk. The spiritual ‘journey’ is the homecoming to God at the heart of everything – and at our own “deep heart’s core”. We can realise this in our lives and feel it in our bodies – in this body.
We shall not cease from explorationTS Eliot, Little Gidding from Four Quartets
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I want people to know this. I want people to know that God is on their side. I want people to know that God is not distant so that they have to ask “Where are You?”, but right here so that they ask, “How can I know You?”
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.Deuteronomy 30.11–14
God is not “an alien will [but] an affirming source,” says Rowan Williams in Being Human (p.72). I suspect that the common image of God is of a distant, male, “alien will” that wants us to obey Him – or there will be consequences. I want people to come to see that this is badly mistaken, that God is an “affirming source”, the ground of their being, the very possibility of life.
In knowing this, we have everything we could possibly want: belonging – being part of something bigger and beyond our little selves; ultimate safety; love without comparison, criticism, or competition.
In this spirit, I was ‘given’ this blessing.
And yet… Despite all this, we remain fearful, addicted, overly-attached, distracted, and distant. The sheer closeness, intimacy, and otherness of God are disturbing and we resist. At least, I do. And here begins the journey. It is not a journey to ‘find’ God, but rather a journey to remember our true selves as brief expressions of the Unnameable.
I offer spiritual direction, supervision, training, and this writing. I am a tutor on the Ignatian Spirituality Course. (In the past, I led the 2nd and 3rd years, but I’m happier when I focus on the training.) I am available for workshops, courses, consultations, and retreats. I am based in Teesdale, Co. Durham. Feel free to contact me.
At other points in my life I have worked in a DHSS centre, a café, been a Chemistry Teacher, a computer programmer and systems analyst, a verger at St James’s, Piccadilly, and a hospital chaplain at West Middlesex and Ealing Hospitals.
I want people to be released into a positive, trusting, life-affirming experience of God and themselves. I work with starting, encouraging, and deepening a relationship with God, and in the life and sense of vocation that follows. I am interested in the practicalities of what facilitates this relationship, especially the sense of God felt in this body.
These are key elements that fire me up and are central to this work:
- God: authentic spirituality starts with being loved and desired by what is massively beyond us, and yet which pervades us. Strictly speaking, this is unnameable but I use the name, God. God desires and loves us unconditionally. Any religion or spirituality that does not start from this simple premise is fundamentally flawed.
- desire: perhaps all we have to do is let ourselves be loved, to be the objects of God’s desire. Within this gaze, I come to know who I am, and what I really, really, really want.
- vocation: everyone, every being, every thing has a purpose that can be found within the love and desire of God for our lives – for life. Finding and clarifying this purpose gives direction and energy to our lives.
- shaping: spirituality is about how we are shaped by life, and how we shape a life out of who we are (identity), what we truly want (desire), and our purpose (vocation). It is choosing daily to live these truths.
- this body: is the locus of the divine-human meeting. My contention is that through kindly attention to the sensations of this body we can connect into a process of ever-deepening immersion into the reality of God at our centre and at the centre of life. I use the couplet ‘this body’ to try to indicate that there is not an I that is in or that has a body, but rather that this body is me and is distinct but not separate from God.
In the words of Monica Furlong, these “have lent purpose and order to a not particularly orderly or exemplary life.” I am still learning, and being taught, to realise God and to love.
I am supported by the Annunciation Trust.