The task within the task


At first I thought this mallard was mad bringing her young up the weir


But she led them off…


…. to safer water

I had the impression there hadn’t been many nature sightings this month but as I loaded my photos onto the computer, I smiled. There was a multitude of images of new life – mandarin ducklings, teenage goosanders, and mallard ducklings at all stages of growth.

I’ve also seen an otter this month, but as usual was too excited to pick up my camera, it was all over in a flash. Most of these sightings are on my early morning walk down to the river with Selkie, where sometimes she hinders rather than helps the process of observation – as today bounding into the river to chase the ducklings. But it’s a lovely time of day when few people are around, and I never quite know what I will see. The morning routine of walking before breakfast and the first Centering Prayer meditation practice of the day is a beautiful start to the day, trying to do it before checking my ipad for the latest in our national drama.


The next day she was back, and I realised that she had brought them there to feed


And here they are, looking very precarious but enjoying the spot


4 “teenage” goosanders resting at the head of the weir


Watched over by their mother

One local friend wrote an email to a group of her friends about her distress following the referendum result. It pushed me into asking myself, what do I think beyond all the pros and cons, ins and outs, ups and downs of this surprising situation we find ourselves in here in the UK. What is my response at a deeper level than being a “remainer”? After watching an awful lot about it in the media, with interviews up and down the country, preparing to write this piece I was reminded of Richard Rohr writing  about the importance of the “task within the task”.

An interviewee in Hartlepool struck me as crazy at first, saying all recent immigrants should be “sent back”. But this is her world, in a place where unemployment is high, re-employment unlikely, and low income the norm. Her fear was of what little she had being taken away. It’s taken me a while to admit that there was some fear behind my decision to vote the way I did. On the surface I have very little in common with that person, but both of us in different ways were hooked by the fear-mongering that was rife on both sides of the argument. The important thing here is  knowing when we are hooked.


Spot the lone mandarin duckling – she caught up with the rest soon after

If we are on a spiritual path, and believe in the unity of all beings, we have to find a way to live with and embrace difference and that takes honest self-reflection especially at a time like this.  It is that which enables us to understand difference in others. So, whilst being deeply engaged with the process that is going on, mind and heart, I think the “task within the task” is to also find a way to let go, detach from our strong views, and find a way into the space beneath all that, which is a place of centredness and unity within. That is what we can take to the table in listening to the debate that is going on, rather than our entrenched position.  It’s a slow, sometimes painful, but most necessary process.


A family of 8 almost grown mallards, (before Selkie sent them flying this morning)

The way I’ve discovered to do this is through Centering Prayer, which is simply an exercise twice a day in letting go of my small mindedness, my egocentric views, my outraged feelings, in order to sink into a wider, more spacious, place. Some would call it  a God space, whatever name you give, it’s the place where I and all that I’m attached to, takes a back seat and allows something else to be present. That something is not another feeling or image or experience to attach to.

Richard Rohr said “Contemplative prayer is the change that changes everything. It’s not telling you what to see, but teaching you how to see…. When you move to the level of the divine mind, the mind of Christ, you know it’s not all about you. In fact, it’s all about God. And you will soon find yourself loving all that God loves – which is going to be an ever widening circle of realisations and love”.

I don’t think this negates action, and I’m not advocating a passive approach to injustice wherever we find it – there are plenty of examples going on currently. But loving all that God loves is what enables us to move beyond “them and us” (brexiters and remainers, aswell as all the subtle undertones of immigrant and resident). The “task within the task” is to find that place within us.

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