Dear friends of Temenos,
I would like to begin this Christmas newsletter by once again expressing my deep appreciation and gratitude to those of you who have lovingly supported us in so many ways this past year. Bless you for accompanying us through stormy waters and for ensuring that this Garden of the Beloved has been able to keep her gates open. On behalf of all our staff, a huge, heartfelt THANK YOU.
Thank you as well, to those of you who have kept earnestly in touch with me not only by encouraging us but also by sharing the wisdom you have gained from these last extraordinary months. I thought, at this Christmas season to pass on, as a gift, some of things friends have learnt and discovered and shared with me, which might resonate with you or even open a new window going into the new year.
Certainly a return to the earth is top of the list. For many friends, rediscovering the joys of gardening during the pandemic has been a joy - pruning old hedges, planting flowers and preparing the soil for vegetables. Some of you have even managed to share your bounty with those less fortunate in your communities. I walk around our village and smile to see the splendid rows of sunflowers and spinach and rocket and artichokes.
I have also discerned a return to reading and writing. Many of our friends have completed the books they longed to write and, in spite of all the challenges we have faced, our Poetry Competition this year was a great success. So many of you sharing your poems with us about Love in the time of Covid. Thanks to generous support, we will be printing this anthology in the new year.
An acquired love for simplicity, stillness and solitude. A return to being in the moment. The precious present. Listening to the stones. Holding the hand of stillness. Nothing to say. These are just some of the other unexpected joys that many of us have been experienced.
Yet another shift for some of you has been the re-emergence and deepening of a sense of spirituality. Several friends have shared with me how quite unexpectedly, long-lost elements of their “growing up” religion has suddenly become meaningful to them again. These are people who, for various reasons, have gradually outgrown or consciously rejected the faith of their early life. But in the past months, stories, images and rituals from their spiritual heritage are touching them in emotionally powerful ways.
I recently read of a Jewish man who, every year, found himself ‘just going through the motions’ at Passover. But this year, gathering with his family over Zoom, he choked with tears when he tried to pray aloud. “I say these words every year, ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the earth,’ and I never cry. But this year I couldn’t get them out.”
A woman raised Catholic, who now describes herself as’ spiritual but not religious’, found herself feeling a renewed connection with the Divine Mother as represented in Mary, the mother of Christ. “I haven’t thought of her for years but ever since I started staying home alone, I’ve been ‘feeling’ her with me. And I’m not sure why. All I can sense is that she knows in silence how to bear suffering.”
On the subject of prayer, watching the news can become an act of prayer and service, a witness, like Mary, to suffering. We can so easily find our nervous systems battered by the bombardment of endless bad news. But we don’t have to open the screen of our laptops or televisions in a compulsive way in order to fill our minds with more and more information. We can, if we choose to, read or watch the news with an open heart, allowing ourselves to feel the challenges and pain of others. Buddhists have a beautiful practice called tonglen (giving and taking) a way of breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out whatever might benefit them. In this practice we sense a connection with other human beings and send them loving-kindness. If more of us did this, watching the news can become an experience that contributes to the healing of our world. By opening ourselves more to the miracle of being truly present in each moment, we will also begin to marvel afresh at the beauty and goodness of people and the Mystery that animates us.
Anne Hillman writes these beautiful words -
We look with uncertainty beyond the old choices for clear cut answers.
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment at the brink of death;
For something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway, awaiting that which comes…
Daring to be human creatures.
Vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to Love.
At this Christmas time, may the Beloved come to you in ever deepening and meaningful ways.
Bless you all and your loved ones, and thank you again for your friendship and love.
Billy, the gardener
The Festive Season at Temenos
We are also offering a Pre-Christmas Special on the weekend of the 18th, 19th and 20th. Come and enjoy your own quiet retreat before the busy Christmas holidays.
On New Year’s Eve we will still be offering our candlelit spiral for those who wish to welcome 2021 in a quiet and reflective way.