I often wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t signed up for a mindfulness course in January-2012.
Leading up to this, life was good but hectic. I was balancing a demanding career, my second Master’s degree, a calendar of social events and it was all becoming a bit much.
I’d been interested in meditation for a while but had thought that reading about it was sufficient. However, in a search to find a panacea for my increasingly stressful existence, I signed up for the mindfulness course in the hope that actual practice might help.
On day one, I was rather underwhelmed. The Japanese lady who was running the class took us through various techniques, enabling us to pay attention. The language she used seemed rather vague, the techniques too simple and I wasn’t that interested in acknowledging my chaotic mind and rapid heartbeat – didn’t she realise I had come to distance myself from these?
A couple of weeks later, I remember brushing my teeth and, rather than leaving water running down the plug hole, I turned the tap off. When I was in the supermarket, I bought less than usual. Whilst on the phone, I wasn’t multi-tasking, I was listening. It was as if I’d been wearing dark glasses and had taken them off. With my fresh eyes, everything seemed illuminated – the so called ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This was inextricably linked to a greater awareness of God, who seemed present in everything. As the weeks progressed, it seemed to me that what I was learning only made sense in a spiritual context.
After the course finished, I decided to investigate the Christian position on meditation.
My pre-conceptions, having had limited contact with the church, were that neither would sit well together but personal experience indicated otherwise. Googling ‘christian meditation’ led me to a WCCM retreat in Bere Island four weeks later to learn more. Last December, I was part of the Way of Peace pilgrimage to India. Today, I work for the community as Director of Development - a position funded by two donors, who wish to help our community become more sustainable so its work continues to impact lives within future generations. Over the coming years, my focus is to develop strong relationships with people who share our vision and wish support our worldwide mission. Every single gift of time and money will help create more sustainable foundations for the global community, ensure we are able to support national needs and extend the community’s out-reach.
I believe our community has something very special to offer.
The course I attended promoted the benefits of meditation but, in my experience, the spiritual fruits which manifest when you practice meditation in our tradition generate infinitely greater value. After an eight-week course, it would be very easy to stop meditating. However, being part of a community has enabled me to sustain my practice over the long term whilst also developing deep friendships.
From a donor’s perspective, it seems to me that every investment in the work of the community creates radical, human returns. Once learnt, the teaching lasts a lifetime. The fruits do not seem to be limited to the individual and have social and global impact too.
‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’ – CS Lewis
This quotation captures perfectly my experiences since January-2012. Being able to see more clearly isn’t always pleasant – I’ve never been more aware of my faults and failings. But, with the grace of God, I don’t feel these uncomfortable aspects are for me alone to resolve - I know that something much greater is at work in my heart. I am extremely fortunate to have encountered Christian meditation at a relatively young age and am excited about life, now that it’s firmly rooted in what matters most. What’s more, I feel exceptionally privileged to be spending my time working to help others receive this truly life-changing gift.
Rachel Sharpe is the WCCM Director of Development