Launde Abbey, near East Norton in Leicestershire is one of those thin places where God is close. Set in 450 acres of parkland it has had people praying there since 1119 when the Augustinian Priory was founded.
The Launde Abbey Prayer says:
Father, here may the faithful find salvation and the careless be awakened;
here may the doubting find faith and the anxious be encouraged;
here may the tempted find help and the sorrowful comfort;
here may the weary find rest and the strong be renewed;
here may we all find inspiration, and that peace which the world cannot give: your precious gift to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
For me it is certainly a place of peace and relaxation where you can feel God present. As you enter the Launde bubble you step away from the distractions and busyness of the world – even the mobile signal does not work – and you have the opportunity to rest in God. This special place was the setting for my mindfulness retreat. The 12th Century chapel has a time for contemplative prayer each morning at 7.45am, a great way to start the day sitting in silence before the Lord. This is followed by morning prayer. The place exudes God’s presence.
However, the place were God spoke to me most during by time there was not in the chapel, but just outside the chapel door in the ‘quiet’ garden. I had been taught how to do a mindfulness walk.
A mindfulness walk is walking the same 10-20 steps backwards and forwards, gradually slowing down the pace, at the same time experiencing the sights, sensations and smells around you, and experiencing the sounds and images from around you and within. Its important to experience the moment and to listen to God.
As I chose my path to walk the first thing I saw was the chapel doorway.
The bible reading I had been focused on in morning prayer that day was Matthew 7:13-14:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
As I walked slowly back and forth along the path to the chapel door I felt God saying, “Take the narrow gate, the gate of heaven. The path may not be easy but just trust in me. I will be your strength and your guide. You can do all things in Me. Don’t rely on yourself. Trust in me and refresh yourself as you rest in me and visit my house.”
Then my attention turned to the path.
It was covered in holly berries. As I walked slowly along the path I looked down at the berries, scattered both on the path and on the grass to the side.
I heard God say, “I have chosen a path for you. Each person you touch, you bring a bit of Me to them. Even when you stray off the path I can use you to touch others with my love. Share with them the drops of blood I have shed for them. Let them know that I love them too.”
Berries – a profound symbol of the love of God shed through the drops of blood of his Son. It reminded me of the words of the carol the Holly and the Ivy….‘The holly bears a berry, As red as any blood, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ, To do poor sinners good.’
Then I looked more closely at the holly and the berries, and listened to the birds singing. It reminded me how God takes care of his Creation.
I heard God say, “I am the God of Creation. Just as the holly bears beautiful berries (despite being a bit prickly) and glorifies Me, so do you. I provide the berries to take care of the birds because I love them; how much more will I provide for you because I love you. Sometimes you look so worried, as though you have the cares of the world on your shoulders. Let me carry your burdens. People hurt you, you have become weary. Do not worry, bring your hurts to Me and I will heal you and give you rest.”
As the wind blew that day the trees swayed and creaked, and the cool breath brushed against my cheeks. The leaves were blowing off the trees and dancing across the path in front of me.
God said, “As the wind blows in the trees and has power and force, so do I through my Holy Spirit. I am a powerful God able to act and bring change. Sometimes the storms of life can be a bit scary but trust that I am in control, blowing through change. Just as the wind blows the leaves off the trees and they dance along the path and I guide their journey, so I want you to dance with joy and move through life in my power and strength. Allow me to lift you up, to twirl you around and send you in the right direction so you can do my work.”
Then I saw the lamp post.
And God said, “Realise that I am not just the light of the world but I can angle my light to shine it in the darkest of places. I shine my light through you. Be prepared and open and allow me to use you to light the way for others. And remember, I am your light. I will show you the way. You just need to look and I will light the path.”
Then as I walked away, back to the group I glanced at the gate post. It was covered in ivy and its head had fallen on the ground.
I heard God say, “You are like this gatepost. Ivy, the stresses and strains of overwork, are pulling you down. You have lost your head in the busyness of life. Put me back where I belong as head of your life and I will help you, guide you and help you to guide others on the narrow path to union with me.”
What comfort I drew from these words. And how a realised that mindfulness practice, such as meditative walking, can help me to be still enough to hear that ‘still small voice’ of the Lord.