by Rachel Inglis
posted 7 September 2015
I heard Rev Dr Giles Fraser say once that the most common question he was asked as a parish priest was how to pray.
Some years’ ago I came across this in a book I was reading by Frank Houdek SJ:
"Personal prayer is as individual and unique as the person. Each person must develop an authentic and appropriate way of responding to the living God, that is, a way of expressing his or her uniqueness to a very specific, particular, and unique manifestation of God’s love and presence."
I felt incredibly moved as I read this passage and my mind immediately went to my practice at the time of doing very small, free-form weavings.
To the outsider, they were inconsequential without a strong design element and not very artistic. But they were very meaningful to me, although I’d be hard pressed to say why. I knew that in some way I was ‘praying’ although it wasn’t prayer as I knew it. I wasn’t using words, I wasn’t even ‘saying’ anything to God without using words, but something deep within me nevertheless felt that it was prayer.
One day I started weaving with a particular colour and realised that I was close to tears as I worked with the yarn. Something about the colour and texture touched me deeply but I could not have said why at the time.
Recently I came across this video about praying with colour by Vinita Hampton Wright which made me think back to my experience of weaving. It has helped me to honour my weaving experience and to recognise it as authentic prayer.
- How do you feel about prayer; is it a vibrant experience for you or do you feel ready to explore and experiment?
- What might help you to develop your “authentic way of responding to the living God”?
If you’re looking for more inspiration, The Epiphany Group regularly runs courses in Scotland on growth in prayer and reflective living.
Treading my own path
by Rachel Inglis
posted 17 August 2015
I’ve just come back from an 8-day retreat at The Coach House at Kilmuir which looks out onto the Moray Firth. It’s a place of interminable skies ...
...of constantly-changing weather
and of wonderful flora and fauna. I’d love to show a picture of a dolphin here, but sadly I didn’t see any. My inner child thought she spotted a dolphin fin one morning, but the adult me says it was only a wave.
The Coach House is a lovely place; welcoming, gentle and nourishing – highly recommended! Retreat Houses in Britain are dwindling fast, so this is a treasure to keep hold of.
Why do I go on retreat? For lots of reasons, I guess. Mostly to take time out to reflect on the recent past and to listen to God and to what might be emerging for me for the immediate future. But primarily to come back to myself; to spend time gazing, listening and savouring.
“Awaken to the indwelling presence of the Beloved.”
(Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying, Ps 119)
If you haven’t been on retreat before, I’d recommend you give it a go. Aig Fois is offering another weekend Advent Retreat this year. I eased myself into the experience by going on a 3-day retreat, then a 5-day the following year and then an 8-day the year after that. Each time I left feeling I could have done with more, which encouraged me to go to the next level!
I loved walking in the woods behind The Coach House. I rarely met anyone. I wandered the paths, allowing them to lead me rather than determining where I should go. As I walked the paths, sometimes they were distinct and I could see clearly where others had walked before me.
Sometimes I only saw a few feet ahead of me at any one time and the way would emerge as I continued to walk.
Other times, the path disappeared and I had to tread a new one.*
So like a retreat.
So like life.
“... the murmur of my own deep life grows stronger.”
(quoted from ‘Where I am Going’, in the Book of Images)
* This is a reference to my favourite poem by Edwina Gateley:
"There in the forest / Deep and dark / There was no path. / So I trod one."
One seeing, One knowing ...
by Rachel Inglis
published 23 July 2015
“Sometimes God is so very far away!”
This cry of longing came from a retreatant at the close of a Retreat in Daily Life. I sympathised and was grateful for his honesty.
His cry took me back. My emotional default position had been – ‘God is surely far away ‘. Then one day I came across this phrase in a book I was reading by Gerry Hughes SJ:
“God is closer to me than I am to myself”.
The phrase burrowed down into my subconscious mind like a dormant seed. Thinking of nothing in particular as I stood at the bus-stop after work, tired and hungry, I’d suddenly be ambushed by it.
“God is closer to me than I am to myself” I’d find myself saying over and over again. I’d say it with different vocal expressions. Sometimes with a ‘really?’ at the end. Other times with a wondering tone of voice. How could God be closer to me than I am to myself? Was that even possible?
I’d wonder what God was thinking of me at that moment; if God really was closer to me than I am to myself, God would presumably know what I was thinking and feeling! Was I comfortable with that?
I found my image of God being challenged. Wasn’t God ‘out there’, to be ‘found’ if I ‘prayed really hard’? The notion of God being closer to me than I am to myself turned all that on its head.
All this repetition began to do stuff in my heart, and very gradually I discovered that it had changed the way I saw God and the way I saw myself in relation to God.
Sometimes I ‘feel’ it, most times I don’t. But I can say that I know now in my innards that God is surely closer to me than I am to myself.
Meister Eckhart says it best: "The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love."
Can you recall any phrase you’ve heard that has stayed with you, and changed the way you see God or see yourself ?
WHAT MY FRAZZLED SOUL NEEDS
by Rachel Inglis
One of the ways of praying which we use regularly in our quiet days is what we call ‘stilling prayer’. I first encountered it back in 2004 when I attended a course run by the Epiphany Group in Edinburgh called ‘Growth in Prayer and Reflective Living’. I would arrive at the end of a tiring day at work and found the stillness at the start just what my frazzled soul needed to calm down, relax and be ready to receive.
Reconnecting with myself
It took some time before I understood it as a way of praying, and longer to appreciate the depth to this simple prayer. Not only did I find it calming, but it helped me to reconnect with myself in the present. So much of my life seemed to be lived in my mind – in the past as regrets over mistakes, replaying conversations I'd had, or in the future as what I had to do later, shopping I needed to do, worrying about folk I cared about.
What I have learnt through this way of praying is that my physical body can only be in the present moment. Unlike my mind, my body can’t anticipate or recall actual pain or excitement, it can only feel it in the moment.
Being in the present moment
So, by focussing on my body, like noticing the feel of clothes against my skin, or being aware of my chest moving gently up and down in time to my breathing, I am able to come into the present moment. In time, I began to be able to notice how I was feeling at a deeper level, and to notice how the Mystery, whom I call God, was with me in that moment.
I practice this way of praying on my own, but it surprises me how much easier it is to pray with a group. Participants in our quiet days testify to this also. There is a sense of interconnection as the group holds and supports the stillness together.
God dwells in the present
The most exciting realisation, though, was that God dwells in the present; not the past or the future. So when I can be in the present moment, there I experience God with me.
LATEST NEWS FROM AIG FOIS
by Rachel Inglis
I’m delighted to announce that our new website is now up and running!
New features allow you to:
- Ask a question, make a comment or ask to be put on the emailing list.
- Sign up for events online.
- 'Like’ and ‘share’ information from our website to your own Facebook page.
We hope you will:
- Send the link to friends who you think might be interested.
- 'Share’ items on your Facebook page.
- 'Like’ our Facebook page, if you haven’t already.
- And let us know what you think of the new look.
We will publish a regular blog to inspire and encourage.
We hope you enjoy this video about finding God in all things, something about which St Ignatius spoke constantly.