A family Christmas gift – the entire set of Harry Potter DVDs – hours of first class story telling so prepare for what could be a few Potter inspired blogs!
I was engrossed in the film when out of the screen leapt one of Dumbledore’s (or should we attribute the real author and say J K Rowling’s?!) magical quotes filled with wisdom:
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
But, we cry, we must have dreams! Yes we must – and if you don’t have any this year is your year to dream! But those dreams can become mesmerising and all demanding. They can continually pull our thoughts and energies into a time that is yet to come…or may never come. Meanwhile the gifts that today, the present, bring are missed: moments of joy go unexperienced, creations of beauty go unseen, pleasurable sensations go untasted and priceless opportunities are missed.
This resonates for me as 2018 has been the year in which Mindfulness has become an almost (am still working on it!) integrated part of my functioning. With that has come a growing awareness of how much time I spend mentally tripping over my own feet in a race to catch up with my thoughts that are minutes, hours, days, weeks and sometimes years ahead of my actual body. I can only exist physically in the present moment but my mind engages in endless time travel. With that comes anxiety, stress and regret as I continually realise too late that I have missed some precious moment that I can never recapture.
It is a balance we need, as is so often the case. We need dreams – as to dream is to take the first step towards making life fulfilling. If you have no dreams then don’t be surprised if life disappoints you! But we must balance the dreaming with the living – experience the moments of joy, notice the beauty around, taste the pleasures that arouse all your senses and seize the priceless opportunities that are around every bend in the road. Let us be waking dreamers, fully engaged in experiencing every moment of the lives we already have, but daring to dream of futures that hold even greater wonder.
Have you heard the expression ‘a thin place’? Originally a Celtic concept it describes places where the division between the earthly and the divine, the physical and the spiritual is reduced…places where we suddenly feel connected to something more that the everyday, concrete world we inhabit…..places where we find ourselves experiencing a connection to something that our scientific brain cannot explain. “They are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever” (Eric Weiner).
Ever felt like that? I have, and time seems to stand still – or maybe I stood outside of time for those infinite moments. But is it in a Place? There are definitely places that seem to inhabit the thin zone for many people, but there is no guarantee that for you it will hold a thin place experience. I think that it is much more personal than that – it is about an individual, it is about the juncture of a time in your life with a place of significance, a place that at that moment resonates and takes on something more than it had before.
Then what? For some the experience is one of spiritual revelation and a connection with God and the divine. For others it becomes about gaining a new sense of perspective of our place in this universe, of our purpose and of what matters.
As I thought about Thin Places my mind moved to Christmas and I realised that the Christmas story is one of Thin Place encounter after Thin Place. For each person the location of their Thin Place was part of their everyday life – Mary at home, shepherds in fields, astronomers at work….each had a Thin Place encounter where the division between them and God disappeared and they heard a message that came from beyond their everyday existence. Their response to that experience was to believe in the truth of it and to pursue it. Were there others who we don’t know about who chose to dismiss their experience and return to everyday life unaffected? But those who responded came face to face with the ultimate Thin Place – no longer a Place but a Person. Where the division between the Divine and the earthly was not even thin – it was nonexistent – as God became Man and dwelt among us. For those that met Jesus in his lifetime of earth, He became the Thin place where they encountered God.
May our Christmas be a Thin Place where we encounter the Divine and respond to that experience – where we recognise our worth and our purpose in this world.
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