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Discerning the wise

Posted by Simon Parke, 22 November 2017, 12.13pm

The wise do not speak from their strength.

Nor do they speak from their cleverness.

The wise do not speak from their need to find a solution.

Nor from their need to be right… or noticed.

Instead, the wise speak from their wounds…wounds kindly noticed and gently held.

For wounds that are kissed are doorways; and our ramshackle certainties, blind alleys.

And the wise speak also from transparency of soul; from the self-acceptance found slowly in solitude.

In this steady luminous space, there is nothing to lose… and nothing to gain.

The wise may speak comfort.

Or they may speak anger.

They may speak of malice, of joy or denial.

They may mock or applaud.

But always they speak from the earthing of their wounds gently held and their cleanly seen-through selves.

When they leave such earthing, and it does occur…

... they simply join the noise.

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Emily saves

Posted by Simon Parke, 21 November 2017, 5.48pm

My poem of the week was once sent to me by a newspaper editor; and I’ve had it at my work desk ever since.

He was helping me become a better writer.

But the poem makes me a more wondering human too.

And less urgent.

It’s by Emily Dickinson, a reclusive New England poet in the 19th century.

She is lauded now, though not in her life.

I’m tempted to say her life was unusual; but then is there a usual life?

But with truth so brutalised, so black and white, so ‘Please love me, please notice me!’...well, Emily restores and guides me.

Tell all the truth

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.

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The power of your heart

Posted by Simon Parke, 20 November 2017, 5.51pm

Breathe deeply for a moment.

Allow your body some calm.

You deserve that.

And ponder this moment.

This moment in your life.

The fight to survive.

The grace and glory of being.

The glory of your being.

Feel kindness to yourself… and kindness towards your faltering journey to now.

And only kindness.

This is not the time for negative.

There is no good time for that.

For your negative self-perceptions are a lie and always have been.

And for each fall and each wound remembered, now only kindness; for our falls and wounds are sweet doorways if we will stay with them.

And this moment of truth.

The unimagined truth of your glory.

Where all is quite well and all is miracle; where love finds you.

And slowly, quite slowly, you feel the power of the heart.

The quiet, faltering, eternal power of your heart.

Breathe deeply for a moment.

Allow your body some calm.

And know the power of your heart.

You walk in its strength from here on.

In the power of your heart.

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The anchorhold

Posted by Simon Parke, 20 November 2017, 10.45am

Do you have an anchorhold?

It may not be a helpful image but bear with me until you find an image that does help.

Behind the word is the idea of a safe place inside you, a place where you exist, independent of all that is happening around you - the turbulence, the claims, the joys and demands.

So here you are not defined by others; nor are you defined by any perceived successes or failures on your part.

Ultimately, neither relationship nor achievement is an anchor, for these experiences shift and vary.

And neither are my hopes, which have so little substance.

The original idea of the anchor is the stability it gives the boat in a storm. Without it, at the mercy of rolling waves and hidden currents, there is the danger of shipwreck.

One famous violinist sat in solitude the day after performance, recovering himself; it was here in solitude that he most truly existed, away from the public response, positive or otherwise, to his particular genius.

And a woman spoke to me recently about an image that arose in her, where she was standing at the centre of a storm - yet quite untouched by the tornado around her.

It was a still centre.

‘That’s my anchorhold, Simon. I don’t know where it came from, but I can go back there in my mind. I feel quite safe there, whatever is happening around me.’

The anchorhold could be a place in your body, it could be your breathing, it could be an image.

It’s a place where you can always go.

Sometimes it will be a refuge when life is difficult; and sometimes it will simply be a celebration, an affirmation of your existence.

Here you can breathe, smile and live.

Here you exist wonderfully.

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This wild dog called pain

Posted by Simon Parke, 15 November 2017, 7.36pm

We walk with our pain like one with a wild dog on a lead.

We seem to have acquired this creature, this attachment, somewhere along the way –  we didn’t choose it.

And we’re not in control of this animal, that’s for sure.

Sometimes it meanders alongside us almost unnoticed, and appears quite tame.

But it can suddenly attack, really it can, whether it’s our ankles or the ankles of another, snarling in rage, large and impossible.

It’s awful.

We ponder letting it go, not sure if we can.

Is this wild dog for life? We don’t know.

So there we are.

We walk with a wild dog called pain on a lead.

There’s more to our life than this dog, of course.

There are rainbow-coloured leaves, my new slippers, a drink with friends and silence too full of joy.

But we talk with it now and then, as we continue on our way.

It seems to help.

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The art of being present

Posted by Simon Parke, 14 November 2017, 7.25pm

People say it is good to live in the present. and this makes sense.

The past is stale bread, the future is no bread, the present is fresh bread.

However, it’s difficult to be present… despite it seeming the most obvious and easy thing in the world.

In truth, most of us are hardly ever there.

One of the reasons for this is that we can only be present without judgement.

If we are judging our situation in any way, wishing it were different, we cannot be present.

And our mind is always judging.

Always, always.

‘I wish the sky was blue today, and not this wretched rain.’

And suddenly, I am not present to my walk, which is sad.

So we abort the present with our judgements.

Perhaps we live our lives thinking it used to be better when…

Or imagining that just around the next corner is the answer. I’ll be happy then!

The present is not quite what I want, but with this or that, it could be great!

We live in situations that we are constantly judging, with people we are constantly judging.

It’s what the mind does.

‘Can the bus go any slower?’

And so we are not present to our journey.

When we don’t accept the present, when we don’t embrace it exactly as it is, when we resist it in some manner, we are somewhere other than here now.

It doesn’t mean we have to declare it to be marvellous.

But it does mean we accept whatever is presented…without judgement.

‘I am finding this difficult and that’s OK.’

I’m not judging it; I am just speaking my experience in this moment. I’m present to my experience rather than wishing it were other.

We might be present to difficulty or joy.

The mark of a contemplative is one who beholds…which is pondering/seeing without judgement.

We’ve dared to try this on retreat this week.

And people who never imagined they could do have been pleasantly surprised.

We’ve taken a difficult situation, an area of damage in our lives…and merely looked at it, without judgement, without trying to impose a solution on it.

We just behold it, it’s what is, it’s OK…and allow room for grace.

Strangely, change occurs when we accept a situation rather than resist it.

The present is fresh bread, yes.

And one way there is to notice our judging mind, give it the day off - or the week - and allow this moment to be exactly as it is.


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Down at the sorting office

Posted by Simon Parke, 13 November 2017, 4.00pm

Here are two parcels you will need to collect from the sorting office.

You’ll need to collect a hot package of anger and sit kindly with it for a while.

Let any self-righteous rage or wild fury that arises give way in time to simple anger, specific to your memory and experience.

You have not always been well-served by others; particularly when you were small and vulnerable.

You are allowed to feel.

You’ll need to claim what you feel, before you can give it away.

And you’ll also collect the damp package of sadness and sit with it for a while.

Let any melodramatic sense of tragedy or vague despondency that arises give way in time to simple sadness, specific to your memory and experience.

Things have not been as you hoped they might be in your brief stay on earth.

You’re allowed to feel.

You best claim what you feel… and then you can give it away.

And this is the thing.

Once collected, acknowledged and listened to, anger and sadness can become something else, something vital like energy, clarity, empathy, creativity and self-kindness.

Until collected, a part of us is rotting in the sorting house.

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Where Christianity and mindfulness meet

Posted by Simon Parke, 10 November 2017, 5.58am

Our journey in this short piece will be along the path of letting go.

Letting go is a simple but difficult process.

It is allowing things to be as they are in our consciousness…and then releasing them.

(And the word ‘allowing’ in that sentence is important.)

Letting go is the opposite of clinging – whether to a physical object, an idea, a person or an outcome.

It’s not abdicating responsibility or saying nothing matters.

It’s simply noticing an attachment which exerts some manner of control over us and our emotions…and letting go of it.

This is health.

If we cling to an attachment, there is pain.

The attachment might relate to the past, taking the form of regret: ‘If only my life had turned out differently!’

Others are attached to the idea of some future state of happiness, always restless, striving endlessly towards something.

We can become resentful, stressed or made vindictive by unwanted outcomes which we can neither accept nor let go of.

Though real change is in letting go.

When we let go, we become space for change rather than anxiety for change.

These are different states and shape the world around us differently.

This is a process echoed in life. Before we can breathe in, we must first breathe out.

Space and hope die when we cling, replaced by depression, anxiety or shame.

We let go to live…and to let live.

This is simple but difficult.

There is an agony to letting go, a scream of abandonment, a ripping of our identity.

It is the agony of the cross re-lived in us.

This is holy ground.

But the agony of letting go, whether in small ways or large, brings us to the doorway of emptiness, a vulnerable space through which life may enter.

And here is the visceral connection between mindfulness and Christianity.

Mindfulness gives us a language and a process for letting go; or, as it’s called in the Christian tradition, kenosis or self-emptying.

At the heart of Christian experience is the self-emptying of Christ, who did not cling to equality with God; but who, in the agony of letting go, created new space in the world.

All truth is God’s truth, however labelled; so it should not surprise us that beneath the argumentative surface, these ancient traditions greet each other in recognition.

They greet us too, with the offer of compassionate, stripped-down, simple, hopeful space within us.

So much to let go for.

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On being useful

Posted by Simon Parke, 08 November 2017, 5.34pm

I am in a seaside town in winter.

I walk along the seafront before the world wakes.

The seaside cafes are closed and quiet in the cold, but I notice a frosty table, which someone has forgotten to put away.

I know this table in summer.

It is busy and useful. People hover nearby, waiting to get a seat, waiting for someone to eat up and move on.

The table is in demand, holding tea and cakes, milk shakes and ice cream, servings of fish and chips.

Such glory!

But in the winter dawn, things are different.

The people have gone and the table is alone, sought after by no one and touched only by the frost.

It’s glistening and beautiful, but not useful….though I note a seagull alighting upon it for temporary rest, before returning to the chill currents of the sky.

I am drawn to the table this morning, it is trying to speak.

I sometimes feel the need to be useful. It makes me feel better about myself.

But it is not always the season, there is not always a queue, so I perhaps I force things.

I say to myself:  ‘I must be useful!’

When all the time, it’s enough, like the table, to be touched by beauty.

This morning on the seafront, this table is quite perfect.

It has nothing else to do.

Perhaps, just being touched by beauty, is the most useful I can be.

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Essence and personality

Posted by Simon Parke, 06 November 2017, 5.43pm

Our essence, our substantial selves, is not an abstract or elusive idea, like some portrayals of heaven.

Rather, it is something we already know.

We have all experienced our essence and are acquainted with some of its attributes.

We may wish to know it better, but we are certainly acquainted.

And as we contemplate our essence, we will be struck by significant recognition.

For our essence is the reality at the centre of our being.

AH Almaas describes it as a reservoir of sweetness, warmth, kindness, empathy, clarity, discernment, intelligence, synthesis, will, steadfastness, contact, gentleness, subtlety, openness, curiosity, happiness, enjoyment, balance, courage, justice, detachment, precision, spaciousness, expansion, depth, capacity, initiative, contentment, generosity and identity.

These are normal yet startling qualities, and the primary energies within us.

But like graffiti scrawled across a masterpiece, secondary energies, created by our personalities, often overwhelm us.

Energies like despair, pride, judgement, negativity, resentment, anger, fear, vanity, jealousy, depression and anxiety have their own bleak force within us.

We learned these things well when young, and unlearning childhood lessons is difficult.

But these energies remain secondary to who we are.

Primary to who we are is our essence.


(This is an extract from my book, ‘The Journey Home’ published by Bloomsbury.)

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