Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Prayer a priority

This quote may seem a little harsh. I provide it here not to make anyone feel guilty. Seriously - don't go there. It's simply a reminder to myself and because I feel particularly challenged these last few weeks to upgrade my prayer life, specifically concentrating more on Presence in all circumstances. I am so addicted to thinking!

Here's a challenging gem from Henri Nouwen via Christine Sine*:

My main problem is that I have not really made prayer my priority. … much of what I am doing is motivated by many other concerns: getting back in shape, learning some manual skills, knowing more about birds and trees, getting to know interesting people… and picking up many ideas and experiences for future teaching.  But if prayer were my only concern, all these other laudable things could be received as free gifts.  Now, however, I am obsessed by these desires which are false, not in themselves but by their being in the wrong place in the heirarchy. (p42)

*Source: http://godspace-msa.com/2015/07/28/preparing-for-retreat-thoughts-from-henri-nouwen/
*Photo: Rod Janz

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


This poem describes where I am at right now... waiting.

It feels like a "dark night" in contemplative language. Nothing satisfies. Despite my desperate need for more income, I'm tired of chasing after shiny things and don't want to start anything new. The whisper I hear is to simply "be a practitioner."

I am trying to be patient, live one day at a time and allow life to unfold.

So here I am.

Creating a clearing.

by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.

Thanks to Christine Valters Painter for posting on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinevalterspaintner/posts/10153590340182089

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Having no agenda can change your life

Agenda-less Walking Meditation

Kathleen and I participated in the MS Charity Bike Ride with some friends a few years ago and our friend Scott kept reminding the group that there was “no agenda.” He said this several times during the ride as we had to wait for someone to make it up a hill, or we (me) were impatient to leave a rest stop. He would notice a bit of impatience and just simply say, “no agenda.” Somehow it caught on and became the theme of the ride that day. It was a great reminder and helped me enjoy the ride so much more.   

Here are a few of my random thoughts having to do with a way to meditate without an agenda as you walk. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!


Kath and I went to the birthday party of our friend’s one year old grandchild the other day. When we arrived, their other grandchild who is three years old was standing with them fully engaged and bent over looking at an ant crawling along the driveway. When it comes to walking meditation maybe we can regain some of this joy by just going out without an agenda, fully engaging, and spending time with whatever captures our curiosity.

Walking and meditating without an agenda reminds me of play. When I walk and meditate without an agenda I am being childlike.

If you want to give it a try:

  • go out, walk, and be curious,
  • don’t be so serious
  • be open to spontaneous moments of joy
  • follow your intuition
  • look closely at a leaf, a snail, or the bark on a tree

…..just like a child would be inclined to do when he or she is at play. You’ll be amazed at what you discover about yourself and God!

For me, the ability to just play and not have an agenda seems to be lost. In my old age I now have to be intentional about playing. Children play naturally and somewhere along the way I lost it. How about you?

Enjoy the journey

One benefit of agendaless walking meditation for me is it helps me to “enjoy the journey.”

On our way to the birthday party mentioned above we were almost in two car accidents when two other drivers got impatient and drove into the intersections we happened to be crossing. Everybody is in such a rush!

Walking and meditating without an agenda helps me to enjoy the journey. I find this enjoyment spills over into my life and everyday activities when I practice it which is so helpful because I tend to be driven at times.

Drivenness is not a healthy state...

  • It keeps me from being present.
  • It's bad for my health,
  • It’s a symptom of my addictions.

Agenda-less walking (or driving, or riding, or sitting and meditating) helps me to connect with the Creator and that connection is everything!

“No agenda” creates a clearing, an openness - which for some - is the very definition of meditation.

An experience

Agendaless walking meditation opens the door for spiritual experience. Experience is not the goal of meditation, but it happens and I’m grateful for it when it does because it can be life changing. The other day I was on my regular walk - agendaless of course - and I felt led to stop and look out at the bay. Fortunately for me we live across the street from a beautiful park that is right on the end of an ocean inlet.

First, I noticed the water was calm and bristling with life.
Then I noticed a hummingbird - I have never seen a hummingbird in this park before
Then a bald bald eagle came swooping down as it was being harassed by two seagulls  - I didn’t know seagulls pestered eagles
Then a heron flew by
Then I noticed two geese sitting calmly on the edge of    the shore
After that I noticed the beautiful reflection of the the trees and the hills in the water
And finally there was the sound of bird song.

It was like the heavens opened up and nature came pouring out. All it took was for me set aside my agenda of having to get somewhere on my walk and to stop. I had never stopped at that spot before. After standing there for a few moments, simply being present and open to my surroundings, I felt refreshed and full of gratitude.

It was a moment of connection too. I have had this thought and feeling before after similar moments like this one. The question popped into my head; “where have I been?” and “”why did I ever leave?” It reminds me of what the prodigal son may have felt and thought when he returned home.

Monkey Brain

If you have practiced meditation, you know how hard it can be to simply be open and connect if your mind is racing. If you find your mind racing while you walk, consider using other meditation techniques. I find it helpful to consciously take 5 to 10 breaths, or practice centering prayer, or do my best to just be.


When I notice something that catches my attention, or my intuition tells me to do so - I STOP, observe, and just be.

I have to remind myself that any meditation, or prayer technique is not about doing it perfectly, it's about connecting and abiding and resting in God. Overtime as I practice meditation I will just naturally and intuitively become more present, loving, and ready for action.


As I write this paragraph, I am at a three day coaching clinic. One of the things that has been said over and over on this first day is how not having an agenda creates space. Just as it creates space in a coaching situation, I think it creates space for us to encounter the Creator. Creating space is for us, not God. It’s not a reward. The Creator doesn’t need the space - we do! God is present 24 hours a day. Meditation is all about being open and noticing. As I said above, if our brains are racing and we are driven by an agenda there is little room for us to notice the Creator and whatever He wants to show us.

More tips to walking without an agenda

  • I try to just be as I walk.
  • I want to simply be open and not even have a spiritual agenda.
  • I let go of any expectations of experience.
  • I let go of my demands - even of the Creator.
  • I make a conscious decision to just be present with no strings attached.
  • I don’t get attached to any thought or feeling as I walk.
  • Critical: slow down. I find it helpful to walk slower than I normally do.
  • Everything (thoughts, feelings, desires, experiences) are all welcome as I simply let them go.

Practical Concerns

Only walk as long as your health will allow you to do so. If you are going for a long walk, bring food, water, extra clothes or rain gear. I won’t go into my own embarrassing story, but don't do risky things like I did and got quite seriously injured as a result - a quarter mile off the trail, all - by myself I might add!

Going Deeper

The following video inspired me years ago. I practiced this meditation practice for about three years in a row through rain, sun, and snow in the same place in a park in Langley, BC. Walking Meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh: https://youtu.be/QdO1vZJgUu0