Episode #3 of the Podcast! Imagination meditation on John 13:1-17 with Neil

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Hi everyone, this is Rachel. I hope you have had an excellent week!

The podcast is live on iTunes, so you can subscribe there if you like!

Here’s what to expect in Episode 3 of the podcast:

I tried something new this week and created this episode without any background music. We normally meditate without music. Let us know what you think about the difference. Music? No music? 

* Ro and I do an update of life around here this week, including uncles, camping dreams, housecleaning, and a quiet week.

* Neil guides us in an imagination meditation on John 13:1-17 (If you want to skip straight to this part, it’s at 08:34.) 

Enjoy!

The Youtube version is here :)

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free. 

A Little Breath

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Here at Shekina Garden we are taking a little breath.

For two weeks we are halting most of our regular rhythms at the Garden. It is school holidays for the kids. One family is away for a holiday with visiting parents. Jazzy and his Dad Joshua need to go to Laos for a visa run. And we are preparing a Gathering for theRIVER - a whole bunch of communities like ours, coming together in Chiang Mai in a few weeks time. There will be folks coming from all over the world to think about community and faith and travel and Jesus. Just the best sort of gathering!

Soon the season here will start to ramp up, as the rains stop and the weather cools down. Already, friends are starting to return for the part of the year that they live here. We have joyous reunions with friends we see each year. And I realise the sweetness in both the seasonal friendships - where we are apart for half the year and get to catch up on each other’s very different lives; and also the friendships that go all through the year - the ones we cough with during the dry burning season, and sweat with during green season.

We all do different things when we take a seasonal break like this. Some folks like to give their homes a big spring clean (autumn/fall clean?). The kids don’t have school so there are more fun holiday-type adventures to be had. There is a little bit more time for other projects or study, creating or reading. We get together with friends for bible reading circles, or coffee, or board games.

Our regular work is so good. We love it so much! Our meditations, gardening days, meals together, devotion circles. Beautiful practices that require our full selves. But if we keep doing them all year without any break, it can feel like we are on a wheel that never stops, as Rae says. And that isn’t such a nice feeling. So before High Season is upon us, with all its energy and visitors and events, we make an opportunity to take a breath. To look around at all that has been going on. To thank God for what has been happening around us and in us. It is good to stop, and to breathe long and deep.

  (A post by Ro)

(A post by Ro)

Episode #2 of the Podcast! Psalm 119:25-32 with Chinua

Hi, Rachel here! Here’s what to expect in Episode 2 of the podcast:

* Ro and I do an update of life around here this week, including pita, a river of people, controlled fells, weeds like trees and bees with knees.

* Chinua guides us in a Lectio Divina meditation on Psalm 119: 25-32 (If you want to skip straight to this part, it’s at 07:33.) 

Enjoy!

The Youtube Version is here, if that is what you prefer. 

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. Thank you to new patrons: Alison, Maja, Kesselfam, and Susan! We're so thankful for your support!

Food Forest Glory

Hi, this is Ro writing today. I want to write a blog post about our amazing Food Forest at Shekina Garden, but I've been putting it off because how could I ever do it justice? So let me just give you a little snapshot...

This area out the back of the property, over the last year, has been transformed into a wonderland. Joshua is the mastermind and coordinator of the magical transformation happening in the Food Forest at Shekina Garden, born out of a growing love and knowledge of Permaculture and a passion for beauty and growing the food we eat.

We see caring for the earth as an integral part of our spiritual life. The Divine has gifted us this spectacular planet to care for and live off, to protect and cultivate. We look forward to the day when the whole world will be made new, and the glory of God will cover the earth! Until then, part of our work here on earth is to care for, respect, learn from, and bring back to abundance the little patch of earth we have been entrusted with. Sounds lofty, perhaps, but to me, gardening is holy work.

So to tell a little of the story so far of our Food Forest...

In May 2017 we hired a guy and a tractor to come and level the ground a little. To plough through whatever weeds had survived dry season, and mulch it all up into the newly soggy soil at the start of the wet season. (Wet season starts here in May, usually with some wild, windy lightning storms, then settling into more regular rains in June, which become daily in July and August, trailing off during September.)

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We soon threw kilos and kilos of beans and legumes into the soft wet soil to begin a cover crop of awesomeness, fixing nitrogen into the soil and blocking weed growth. Mung bean, kidney beans, pigeon pea, soy beans...

 Then came even more fun... 

A pathway to facilitate a meditative walk through the whole property had been concocted by Heather, Chinua, Leaf and Joshua as part of our Grand Plans for the whole of Shekina Garden. Paths through the soon-to-be Food Forest were laid out by Leaf and Joshua.

Five banana circles were dug and planted. 

Tapioca and mulberries and citronella and lemongrass were propagated. 

Trees were planted! So many kinds! Lemon and orange and lime and mango and cocoa and jackfruit and mangosteen and guava and coffee and pomegranate and Jamaican cherry and dragon fruit and papaya...so many papaya.

Whole coconuts sprouting new growth which will take years to grow into huge palms and bear fruit. 

I sprouted a baby moringa tree from seed that our friends Brian and Katie gave us, and it's grown about 12ft in the last 12 months. 

To protect our baby avocado tree we created an Avocano! An avocado volcano!

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We planted and propagated all last wet season, then watered and watered all through dry season to keep things alive. Then this wet season everything has absolutely exploded with life. Every shade of the colour green imaginable. I tell our friends that it's a magical fairy land. And it really is. Wild bees have started a little comb on a tree. Butterflies are in abundance and the soil is full of fat, happy worms.

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We've also added aloe vera, pineapples, Thai basil, cannas, Mexican sunflower, sweet potato, zinnias, Queensland arrowroot, turmeric in abundance...and so many more species that are edible and/or medicinal.

I brought dozens of marigold seedlings from my garden at home and planted them along one section of path. 

From one small comfrey, carefully brought from afar, Joshua has spread comfrey plants all over.

Plans for how we can incorporate seasonal foods growing on our property are becoming part of our conversations and dreams for Community Lunches. To feed our traveller tribe fresh organic food from our own gardens - bliss!

Low benches are being made in little shady spots where a couple of people can sit and have a chat together.

Hand-painted signs and bible verses can be found in various nooks.

A plan for a labyrinth is afoot.

Plans for two small bungalows are being drawn up, so that travellers who want to do a dedicated Jesus Retreat with us can stay onsite.

Mmm, really I can't do justice to the loveliness which is this little patch of land at the back of Shekina Garden. You'll just have to join us one Thursday for Community Gardening Day and get your hands dirty with us, to fully appreciate it! Consider that an open invitation!

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Episode # 1 of the podcast! Psalm 32:1-5 with Ro

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(Rachel here.)

Well, this is exciting. We've been dreaming of offering recorded meditation for a long time, and here we are! In this episode:

  • We have a brief introduction, talking about a few things we've been up to around here.

  • I give a short introduction to some of the points of meditation.

  • Ro guides us in a Lectio Divina meditation on Psalm 32 :1-5. (If you want to skip straight to that part, it starts at 07:30.)

Enjoy!

The Youtube Version is here, if that is what you prefer. 

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support!

Announcement: Our podcast is on its way into your earspace!

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Oh, hello! This is Rachel, stumbling out of the jungle of life to say HELLO and tell you about exciting things in our future. After years of dreaming about it, we are starting a meditation podcast, featuring guided meditation recorded specifically for the podcast or live from our morning meditation sessions at Shekina Garden.  

If all goes well and the creek don’t rise (quite literally, the Pai river is full to the brim) we will be sending Episode 1 of the Shekina Meditation Podcast into your airwave space (I don’t exactly understand how that works) on Friday! Yes, on Friday, this coming Friday. We will be posting weekly! All our podcasts will be totally free, but we do have a Patreon account set up if you want to support our communities through this venture, as well as get extra audio each month.

We hope that these recordings will be a resource for those who are interested in having Christ-centered meditation in their lives, either for personal practice or in small groups. And we’re so happy to share what we have learned about meditation in the presence of God. 

The Unseen Path of Faith

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We begin by laying on the floor of the saalah, letting our bodies sink onto the cool concrete.

Placing our hands on our bellies, we breathe deep and take a moment to arrive at this morning's Movement Meditation. A special practice, a time to connect with the Divine. With the creator of our amazing, intricate bodies.

Our focus this morning is on this verse from the Sacred Scriptures:

The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Our guide, Naomi, reads this verse again and again during the Meditation, letting the words sink deeper and deeper.

We slowly begin to stretch and move, as soft rhythmic music flows around the saalah. We take up space. We squeeze ourselves into little balls. We play and stretch like little kids.

Naomi suggests that we slowly make our way to standing. She describes to us the image of walking a slack-line or tight-rope, and we all begin to pretend to walk, on unseen lines, around our space. Some close their eyes, some walk backwards or on all fours.

We are using our bodies to go deeper into the concept of faith, of walking a spiritual path which we cannot see. Of believing in the unseen.

"The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

What does it mean to walk a path we cannot see? How do we journey with the concept of faith, or trust? We walk and move and meditate, enjoying the experiment - how do our bodies and our souls interact?

"The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

Later in the meditation, we are guided to create a figure-8, or 'eternity' symbol with our hands. Following the music, we create this shape with our shoulders, hips, or feet. We dance our own dance around the saalah, not caring what others think of us or our movements, just free in the moment to dance with the eternal Divine.

I begin to trace the eternity symbol on my body. With my forefinger, I write eternity on my hands, my arms, my chest, my belly, my legs. The verse comes to my mind:

...God has placed eternity in the hearts of humankind... (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

and I imagine God's hand tracing eternity over my heart. In my heart. The concept of forever and ever, beyond what I can see or imagine.

I keep tracing. On my feet and toes. On my face. A big, swooping eternity symbol over my eyes... 

'Christ, be over my eyes today. May I look on people with compassion.'

I trace a small eternity symbol over my lips...

'Jesus, May my words today reflect you. Help me speak loving words. Words of grace.'

I think of another verse, from Jesus' prayers in the biography by his friend John:

...I am in you and you are in me. (John 14:20b)

The eternal Christ lives in me! I am hidden with Christ in God! As I continue to trace the shape again and again, I consider this deep, deep mysterious truth.

"The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

Eventually, we again make our way to laying on the cool floor. We breathe deeply. We consider the eternal Christ. We consider his presence with us here and now. 

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Then we sit in a circle and drink ginger lemon honey tea, and share of our experiences of the morning's Meditation.

I am thankful for this practice. For the space and the music. For my sister guiding us with gentle prompts and ideas for movement. For other seekers and wanderers to walk this Path with. This Unseen Path of faith.

 

(A post by Ro)

Floods

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me." -Psalm 42:7

 

On Saturday morning, after a night of apparently light rain, the Pai River was unsatisfied to stay within its banks. It broke free, rising a meter and a half, rolling over fields and grassland, huts and motorbikes. The pretty green lady river became a raging, muddy monster, freaking many people out of their wits. It didn't take any lives.

The water flowed into Shekina Garden, and, stronger than we could have imagined, picked up big things and small things, carrying them from one side of the garden to the other, or taking them away completely. It knocked our fence down and plucked out our flowers. It pulled our garden beds apart and ripped up the seeds I had just planted. It destroyed our beans and some of our trees. It brought us many chili plants from another place. It displaced angry fire ants, now looking for revenge. 

The flood also came into Brendan and Leaf's house, creeping up the walls of their downstairs room, destroying precious things. It swept their neighbor's bamboo house away, and covered their motorbikes. It swept the little fish that Isaac named Steven (?) out of his bowl and into a big, wide world. (Leaf says that Steven swam all the way back to the pet store and she and her little daughter Ruby are going to go and pick him up there.) 

When the water went down, everyone could see the feet and feet of fine mud everywhere. The garden is no longer the rich green of this season, instead it is brown, brown, river mud brown. 

I was away when the flood happened, and I didn't get back until a few days ago. Today I went to the garden for the first time, and I saw a changed place. I was in Chiang Mai on a work retreat, trying to get World Whisperer 2 ready for publication and World Whisperer 3 written, and decided to stay rather than turning around and coming back home. I'm not sure it was actually such a good idea, in hindsight. I drove around and cried. I walked around and cried. And perhaps being away made it more sad, because I was alone and anxious. When I went to the garden today, all I could see was what it didn't take.

Here's what the water didn't take: our carefully made earth walls. Josh's precious comfrey plant. The songbooks I made by hand. Or really, the garden itself. Because Shekina Garden is the physical representation of an idea: that we can live as a group of Christ followers in the world and in living out our faith, form a loving community of people in different points in their path toward God, existing in the circle of Jesus's love. It didn't take Brendan and Leaf's hospitality when it hurt their home, it didn't take Rowan's playfulness or Neil's mad scientist obsession with fixing electronic equipment, even when it has been submerged in water.

I look around and see pictures of the love, the play. Josh digging trenches, Chinua throwing people in the mud, Heather upending a bucket of mud over his head, Naomi watching our kids so he could help while I was away (crying and trying to work). It reminds me that community is always better. That adversity can't hurt community. People have rushed to help, cooking and digging through the piles of stinking mud to cart debris away. 

We are warmed, we are loved, we are resilient. Pray with us as we look for ways to help others affected by the flooding.  And thank God that the flowers will grow again. They can't help it, in soil this fertile with love.  

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life." -Psalm 42:8

Neither of these images are mine, and this post is cross-posted at journeymama.com

Gardener's Paradise.

It was our own form of shopping spree and we were in heaven. 

“It’s gorgeous… I’ll take four,” is a phrase that doesn’t come out of my mouth very often. Nor do I exult in shopping sprees. Except, unless… I am in the Kamthieng Market, a blocks long garden market in Chiang Mai. Basically, shop after shop has the most gorgeous plants and trees and flowers for sale. It is a hippie’s paradise. We could have spent days there, but we limited ourselves to a few hours, roasting in the hot sun, (Leaf and I bought sombreros to keep our heads cool) while Brendan kept the kids in the air conditioning at the Tesco Lotus nearby. He watched as the kids played in the playground and stormed the arcade. We, meanwhile, stormed the garden market, determined to make the garden of our dreams.

“Avocado trees?” 

“Yes, let’s take more of them!” 

“What about these wildflowers?”

"We have to have pomegranates!"

“Let’s get three kinds of mango tree.”

“What are lamyai?” “Oh, they’re small fruit, really good. Let’s get one!” 

The enthusiasm was crazy. I quickly took photos of all the little trees, labeling them in my phone so we wouldn't forget which was which.

We are planting trees at Shekina Garden, and for the first time ever, all of us in our little community got on the curvy, sick-making bus ride to go to Chiang Mai so that we could buy trees together. We piled into the back of a song taew, which took us through the city to the market. Plants. Flowers. Heaven. We bought a lot of fruit trees that will take years to bear fruit. We bought climbers and ten crepe myrtle trees to stretch along the front of the garden, blocking the view of the new resort that is being constructed directly opposite us. (One day—the crepe myrtles are still pretty short.) When we got home I found a nursery in my yard, trees upon trees. We have planted many of them and every Friday, during gardening time, we plant more. Planting trees is always good, always right, and doing it together is a lot of fun. And a lot of work, but what beautiful work. 

(This post was cross-posted at Journey Mama)

A Thin Layer

The evenings have been otherworldly, lately. A drape of thin cloud hangs over the valley, and as the sun goes down, the clouds pull the light into them, refracting a golden glow onto everything you can see. An extra bit of brilliance just before the light disappears, like a thousand invisible lamps being turned on at once. We were sitting in the sala at Shekina Garden yesterday, finishing up with meditation, bamboo leaves rustling in a strong breeze. Brendan began riding Nay’s bicycle in circles around the garden, testing it or something, I never did find out.  “It’s like the Wizard of Oz,” our friend Beau said. “And look, he’s riding a bicycle out there.” Brendan did make quite a sight, green and golden in the weird light, cycling on the grass. 

We were drinking kombucha and I felt the kind of happy settledness that meditation brings me. We lingered, the light keeping us there, our little conversations blinking on and off. We talked about light therapy and skateboarding, and then I told some stories about the Catholic shrines in Goa, out of nowhere, related to nothing. Snippets of memories. Leaf and I walked back over the bridge together, then lingered longer beside the river, talking. We meant to head in different directions, but we were caught there, talking by the river, as the light got dimmer and dimmer and finally it was gone before I even pulled away, my headlights guiding me along the narrow street. 

Earlier in the day we had looked at land, dreaming of a future with a bigger retreat center in it. Chinua is recording everything lately, every moment, so I drove while he held the video camera and we followed Brendan and Leaf on their red motorbikes, which are forty years old and aptly named Big Red and Little Red. It was all ridiculously photogenic—Brendan with his waist-length dreadlocks and Leaf with her brilliant hair on these old, beautiful bikes. They drove side by side and chatted. Chinua filmed it all. (Filmed? Is there a different word for that these days?) 

I left quickly when I realized I was late for my afternoon tea with my friend Rowan Tree. Ro and I ate cake. We ate too much cake, the pieces were twice as big as we thought they would be. I offered Chinua some when he wandered into the café later and groaned that he couldn’t go anywhere anymore without bumping into us. He looked at me suspiciously. We are competing to reach our weight goals, (people still ask me if I’m pregnant, nearly every day) and we have been known to offer each other food as a weapon because we both want to win. But I really just wanted him to enjoy the cake with me and eat it because it was too much. He took a bite and disappeared. Ro and I talked about learning Thai and how it can be an obsession, words tumbling over each other in your brain until you think you will go crazy. I was nervous about guiding meditation because I’ve been using up a lot of my courage lately and it seems to be finite, though rechargeable. I’m not usually anxious about guiding meditation but this time I was and Rowan Tree set me at ease as she clutched her stomach and groaned “I ate too many snacks…” 

We went to my house and I finished making dinner so it would be ready while I was away and Josh was watching the kids. Once the salsa was made and the lettuce was cut, we rode off to sweep the floor of the meditation space and put the mats out. Our friends began pulling up one by one on their scooters and the sunlight slipped further along the red floor as we settled in a circle and began. 

God is our refuge and strength.

Sometimes there is difficult work to do in community. I think this particular group of friends has fooled me away from my firm belief that community is a kind of suffering. I start thinking it is all fun and games and playing in the mud and get careless. But in talking about what really matters to us and digging to find each other and dream together, a wild fear of being seen or unseen, changing beyond recognition or being misunderstood can rear its head. 

A very present help in trouble.

Past days, memories and fears and stumbling, clumsy love can make me retreat into myself, can tempt me to isolate myself. Maybe you are the same. But as soon as we try to run from the knife of suffering, the iron of community, we give up on the depth and truth of love. It is the same in marriage, in parenting. We flinch away from pain, but suffering guides us to new depths of understanding. We learn more of what God is doing as he writes his story among us. 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God…

We sat in the circle together, our minds close and far away, and birds sang above us, and one shrieking cicada tried for all our attention. 

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.

The evenings have been otherworldly, lately. A drape of thin cloud hangs over the valley, and as the sun goes down, the clouds pull the light into them, refracting a golden glow onto everything you can see. 

*From Psalm 46

This post was cross-posted at Rae's blog: Journey Mama.

Building Walls Together

 Everyone gets into it, from big to small.

Everyone gets into it, from big to small.

I finally borrowed some photos from a new friend who is visiting for a few weeks, so all but this first one are Josh’s photos- thank you so much Josh! When I went to look at what Chinua had taken of wall-building, I found, egad, that it was all video. On the unedited video I watched I saw myself make this statement: “I’ve never been happier than I am building these walls.”

What can I say? It has been a lot of work for a lot of days, and I have made mistakes and floundered a little, but sitting there in the afternoon at our beautiful garden space, the trees on the hills in the distance slowly turning red, using our hands to grab mud, smoothing it in between the bamboo lattice of our wall—oh, I am truly happy as I tell the wall that I love it and the wall tells me that it loves me too, somehow in Ro’s creepiest voice.

(There is a cast of characters that has come riding into our lives on white horses, singing loud songs. We are smitten with them, and their names will litter these pages from here on in. Get ready.)

But the mud, the mud. We take earth, beautiful red earth, and we add water to it, smoothing it and stomping it with our feet until the hard bits are gone and it is the loveliest soft mud. The kind that Kenya desires to swim in, and does. Then we add a lot of straw and rice husks and stomp more and more and more until we all fall over because mud stomping is very tiring. But what we end up with is something very pliable and soft and buildable, with long strands of straw that catch on the bamboo lattice and hold the whole thing together. 

And then we build, taking handfuls of it and moving up the walls. Neil coined the term “poo-shaped slug” to describe the shape of the mud that we form to push into the wall, and soon after the words poo-shaped slug came into our lives, a song was created, and that song worms its way through my mind for days and hours on end.

 Sometimes Little Gem and Leaf come along to brighten our lives. One time Leaf stomped mud with us and it sucked two of her toe rings off, so we have silver in our walls as well.

Sometimes Little Gem and Leaf come along to brighten our lives. One time Leaf stomped mud with us and it sucked two of her toe rings off, so we have silver in our walls as well.

Travelers come to help us build and we initiate them into the methods of building. There is a lot of laughter. And the golden light moves across the hills and our hands are in the dirt and it’s rather hot in the middle of the day and the sun feels good on our backs. And I feel so blessed to be doing this work— I wake up thanking God for it- this work, this community, the hills and the future garden plans and the wide sky that surrounds us. 

(This post was cross-posted at Journey Mama)

A light has dawned. (Late Christmas Post.)

On Christmas Eve we had gatherings in two countries. Miriam and the community in Goa made a beautiful circle and dinner there, and here in Thailand we made a circle as well, and we ate and sang and shared together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We passed a light around the circle, which has become a tradition, lighting each candle from the candle next to us and sharing what has been a light to us in the past year. The kids joined in and some of us scrambled to keep everyone safe, but it was beautiful.

There was so much food, there was music, we sang carols, and many travelers found their way to us throughout the night. I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas, I love to welcome in those who don’t have a place to celebrate, and it's beautiful to eat and sing and be together. 

I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas. I’m excited for this gift of a New Year! Who can tell what it will bring? 

A Day in the Circle

We have many people who have joined us here at Shekina in Thailand, friends who live the same dream: to practice following Jesus in a way that embraces those who want to learn more about Christ centered life. These past weeks have been a blur of joy and adjustment as we have welcomed two couples, and some adorable children who will stay here long term, as well as four pilgrims and beautiful family friends who are visiting for a month.

Morning. We sit in a circle and listen to the words of the day’s meditation guide, slowing into breath and the waiting, quiet expectancy for the Spirit of God. Some of us are new at this, some have been working in meditation for years. We are all the same together today though, this morning with the birds singing around us, a buzzsaw going through metal in the distance, a washing machine nearby whirring. The fields are full of flowering weeds or garlic. The hills are blue. God’s word pierces like a sword, washes like a gentle cloth on a hot face. 

A pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. 

All of us from different backgrounds. There are three children in the circle, two of them my own, grown enough now to join a grown-up (sit very still) meditation. Some people in the circle are emotional and even in tears. Some are more at peace, resting with familiar words that challenge and embrace.

The pharisee thanked God that he was not like the tax collector.

Josh is leading today. He speaks the ancient words slowly and with care. I find myself deep in the story. I find myself, as he guides us, sitting across from Jesus at a table. Jesus grips my forearms and speaks the words to me. 

The tax collector begged God for mercy. He knew his sin well. 

Every meditation is different. If all is well with the world, we may hover gently over the scripture, hearing the words as song. If life seems harder, we may dive down so deep it is hard to come back up. How many ways are there to hear a word? Certainly as many as there are people in the circle.

The humble will be exalted, the exalted will be humbled. 

A breeze picks up and it is chilly in the shade. Sharing time is deep, as we hear from one another, stories and hearts, minds full of questions. We do the work of faith, no matter where we are on the path to Jesus. We hear truth and and dig in, and the same story moves each of us differently because the Word is alive, though unchanging and Eternal. 

A meditation on Psalm 104

Recently, at Shekina in Pai, Chinua guided a meditation on Psalm 104,  introducing it as a hybrid meditation between Lectio Divina and contemplation of nature. He read the Psalm through and then we each chose something in the world around us to focus on and absorb, asking ourselves about how this piece of nature spoke about the attributes of God. 

First of all, what a Psalm!  It’s really long and I encourage you to read it. Here are some snippets:

He makes the clouds his chariot

He rides on the wings of the wind

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly

The cedars of Lebanon that he planted

In them the birds build their nests

The stork has her home in the fir trees

I will sing to the Lord for as long as I live

I will sing praise to my God as long as I have my being

May my mediation be pleasing to him

For I rejoice in the Lord

 

Sitting with the greenest fields and mountains all around us, with birdsong in my ears, these words washed over me like water. I felt lifted, as I always do, by scripture in this quiet setting where we only hear the words and don’t share our opinions on them (at that moment). The words themselves are full and strong and pure.

Then, for my contemplation of nature, I chose a small, purple set of flowers that grow on one of our trees. In thinking about what this flower spoke about the heart of God, I was filled with the strongest love. Flowers! I pictured flowers springing from the heart of God in all their delicacy and color. That he made these things which serve such a practical purpose (to spread pollen and attract bees and butterflies) and yet our eyes love them, that he made this partnership between us and the beauty of the world speaks of a great tenderness and love for beauty that goes beyond any of my own love or desire to create. How could I shrink in shame from a being who made flowers? He reveals his love for me in feeding the longing for beauty with something as lovely as a flower. How can that not fill me, enclose me? 

In our contemplation of nature mediations at Shekina, we often think of how the piece of nature that we are contemplating is like God and unlike God.  As we sat in silence, I thought of God, this eternal love and being, and how being eternal means that he is eternally young and eternally ancient. The flowers I held in my hand would only ever be young, then die and wither. But God, though his heart is young and rejoices with the blooming of each flower, also is ancient, with the wisdom of the ages and the understanding of every single happening on the earth and beyond it. The flower is not God, the flower did not make God, but something of who he is springs into the world every time a flower blossoms, and this blooming speaks of him, all around the world, every day. 

No cause for stumbling.

Every time we have a meditation circle, different thoughts and images come up, and I often write my experiences out. I'll take time to share some here, as we continue in meditation--both my experiences and the thoughts of others. The meditation I want to share about today was guided last month by Chinua at our space in Pai. It was a Lectio Divina meditation from 1 John 2: 8-11.

At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because he darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

While in silence, I had a very clear picture of walking in darkness. It was from 2006, when I was at the National Rainbow Gathering in Colorado, walking through the pitch black woods with a flashlight. I had a flashlight! But it was only a maglite and the little beam of light it produced wasn’t enough to distinguish a path from a non path in the woods. I very badly wanted to get to the Pop-Corner kitchen to eat lemon flavored popcorn but eventually I had to admit defeat and simply turn around to go back to my camp. I couldn’t get through the woods in the dark. The next morning, the path I had been seeking was perfectly easy to find. The sunlight made the forest a perfect place to be, I saw the way I needed to walk and I also saw the beauty of the Colorado aspens.


In meditation it became so clear to me, through this picture, that hatred blinds us. In hatred, perhaps of a difficult person, we cannot see the way forward, we can’t help but be lost. The love of God alone allows our path with a person to be illuminated, to truly know the way to walk, to walk in the light and not stumble around blindly in the wrong section of the forest entirely. Have you ever viewed someone with bitterness and found that every single thing that they do is distorted to be the worst possible thing with the worst possible motive? Likewise, the same actions viewed with love receive the benefit of the doubt, the person is seen clearly as a child who is loved and needs love, no matter how broken or misguided their actions may be. This verse is not about punishment, but about what hatred versus love does to the human soul. God sees in perfect love and wants us to see the same way.

Chin in America? When does that happen?

Here is is. I want to share Shekina Meditation, with as many people who will receive me, in the states, soon.

I just put a post on Facebook about how I want to go home to the States to do our practice with people. Doing a facebook update about something more complicated than "OMG, my cat just sneezed!!” is not as always easy so I also posted here.

Simply put, I want to demonstrate and encourage Shekina meditation with all who want to benefit from it. In my mind it's small groups, churches, bible studies, kirtans, gatherings, any place people have the open intention to further their spiritual growth. We have somtheing valuable to share.

If I get a robust response from facebook, emails and such I will make it a priority to be there. After all, it’s expensive to come all that way. I’m hoping for four weekends and some midweek time too.

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A photo I took way back in the 90s. Did I really live here?

But why would I come all the way there, literally half way around the world? I want some of you to do the smae honestly. We want people to come here and help us do this. It would be crazy, and wonderful, to imagine returning to Thailand with a 10 people wanting to come help us at some point.

I want people to be thinking and dreaming about it, but how can anyone even begin if they have no idea what we even mean by Shekina Meditation? Experience is the best teacher. We have brochures and blurbs, but you know everyone is selling something. Like good fruit, you have to really take it in to benefit from it.

Honestly it's a good moment, our center here is almost ready to open and the high season is coming. I want to inspire as any people to move more deeply into their spiritual life through meditation as possible. I want to build some momentum so that when my whole family comes in the spring, we can be taking the next natural step rather than the first.

Its easier for me to zip around when its just me, although almost infinitely more sad (insert heart wrenching pining sound) to be away from them. Rachel can manage with support, although it’s a stretch for us all. We really think it will be worth it.

I’m hoping to connect with people in Southern California, Northern California, and up in the Pacific Northwest. I have a mind to come to the Midwest as well, since Michigan is my home state, and we have a smattering of good people that we know in the region. Asheville is a natural stop too.

What are we offering? One hour sessions at a location of your choice. Rachel and I and the Shekina Center in Goa have been doing this for years with the help of many amazing people. It could be after church or during a mid week gathering. I will give a short but clear introduction into the practice and we will jump right in. I’m open to everything from circles of old friends to YWAM groups to your church cafeteria and everything in between.

So what do you say internets? Is this a meh or a woo-hoo? So when do we see Chin and Shekina Meditation together with you in the States? That’s easy, when you want it :)

Let me know in the comments!

What Goes On Under a Bamboo Hat



Rice Paddy Portrait Posing-8004

I was chatting with my new neighbor at the almost-fully-formed-but-not-quite-ready Shekina center just two days ago, when something happened, something i get all the time.

My resourceful hill tribe woman neighbor complete with her magnificent conical bamboo hat was commenting on how I could just throw up some bungalows and make some money, seeing as how i had land like her now. I explained (all in Thai, crazy huh?) that we were building a center for meditation. She smiled and said meditation was for Buddha.

I said yes but also we happen to be Christians. Her brow furrowed and she said nothing for a second. Christians? Yes I said, Christians. I could see that Christians and meditation did not go together in her head. But she humored me.

It’s still a minor shock to many people. That can't quite take it in, like when you ask someone for a football bat. There's a double take. It should bother me at all, but I find myself explaining a lot.

But this double take really doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. Why should the two not go together? The truth is Americans, and especially American Christians don't meditate enough. We don't value it. We are even alarmed by it. I feel tht just about any kind of meditation would help our frantic lives have moments of peace, and that would be beneficial without a doubt.

And for clarification, devotional time or quiet time, something millions of people do, is not really meditation. I'm all for it, because its good. Devotional time has many meditative aspects (quiet, listening etc...) and can be incredibly benificial.

But its generally too mixed in with other things, like prayer and worship. It's too generally shapeless to stand up in comparison to a developed meditation practice. I don't know, you'd have to do both to form an opinion. True Christ-centered meditation? Those us you place a high value on the Bible and Jesus words haven't gotten our heads around this incredibly valuable discipline, for the most part.

But its very visible in this original book that should be a guide to our faith. Just crack open the Psalms and you'll see it too, it’s everywhere. Commands to meditate and evidence of a rich meditative practice in the life of the writers.

Cant live without a cluster of references? Got you covered. Ready? Psalms 1:2, 4:4, 27:4, 63:6, 77:6, 77:12, 119:15, should I keep going?.

Isaac even has a practice himself in Genesis, "Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming." Evidently the biggest threat to your meditative practice in those days was not being accused of being an outsider to the faith but of random interuppting camels.

You should look into it if the very idea of Jesus alongside the word meditation is shocking to you at all. Christians have practiced meditation in many forms for centuries, all the way back to out roots with the ancient Hebrews practicing Judaism. Listen, no one can really own a particular practice of discipline. Christians don't own prayer, Buddhist don't own meditation. Those practices belong to all of us. As humans, we do them for many reasons.

More often than not it just comes down to fear, plain and simple. Doing and talking about meditation feels foreign to too many people. It should be a natural part of any spiritual discipline. It only feels foreign because it is. Just like a lot of things we believe deeply in, just like Jesus himself, for example. Foreign and valuable. I think we should get back to it, like it was in the Psalms.

Shekina meditation is all about meeting God in modes that may seem unfamiliar. In silence, in listening. In fewer words, in more time. In being still and knowing There is a world of health and peace to be discovered in those kinds of spaces. Do you know how to get i?

 

Lights On

There’s something powerful about first light.

After days of constant rain, the sky cleared. It happened just as the electricians got done wiring everything, so that the first look I got of the lights turned on was amazing, lush and magical. It was one of those seemingly orchestrated moments that make you think what you are doing is somehow über-important. It's silly and self indulgent no doubt, but who can deny that its fun to dream like this? This time I just let myself dream.

 


Some advice. When you are building your meditation center in Thailand and you are on a budget, I suggest just putting your light in baskets and just stringing them up. Basically, magic is cheap.


In Shekina meditation, we don’t try very hard to block out our surroundings and go completely inside ourselves. A lot of the practice is about cultivating awareness and openness as a door to welcoming the spirit of God.

I sat for an hour or so, thinking about all the amazing meditation times we would have looking out on this humble and beautiful little mountain range, listening to the sounds of nature, taking it all in. I can't wait.

 


Also, I can’t thank the workers enough, who slept in the center for three days because the rain made the roads unusable. I carried the refrigerator in by hand (with my newfound delivery-man-buddy-for-life) slogging through mud and getting soaked because the delivery truck got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out by another truck, which barely escaped the same fate. We had fun in the mud guys! Thanks for everything!