ECS Wellbeing: Bishop Martin’s Awareness Practice- Week 1
Welcome back to my little attempts to provide you with practical and, I hope, accessible approaches to meditation and prayer.
Obviously, I come from a Christian perspective, which after all lies at the heart of ECS life. However, please see that perspective as inclusive and expansive.
To remind you, I’m assuming you will have ‘a go’ at these exercises. So, I would value some feedback from you on them. My email address is:
Prepare yourself for this!
Here’s my confession! I enjoy gossip and sometimes resist it – but Oh! Dear! I slip, all too frequently! As the spotlight of criticism is falling on someone else, I feel better about myself, but only for a while. There’s a hidden and destructive element in gossip. St Paul warns against this by calling it the ‘murmuring Spirit’.
To become aware of occasions when I’ve indulged in this ‘murmuring’ gossip is not about giving myself a hard time, which can be just as destructive. The exercise is about loving and strengthening my ‘true self’ that doesn’t need to murmur. The trouble is that gossip can be addictive. It has the danger of gathering pace and sucking others into the same ‘poisonous waters’.
Peter’s Denial. Peter, one of Jesus closest friends, while Jesus is held for trial, finds himself among some gossiping. Jesus had told Peter that he would deny him three times before a cock crowed twice. “Me? No…” I’d be scared stiff of being dragged into the same fate as Jesus. [You can remind yourself of the event in Luke 22:54-62.]
Gerard Seghers [1591-1651] a Flemish artist, deeply influenced by the great Caravaggio, painted this powerful: ‘Peter Denies Jesus’. Look at the detail. There’s a game of cards, but the players are enjoying the chilling fear in Peter more than the cards. Notice the man in the striped tunic and wonderful hat. He’s looking into the near distance, where Jesus is going through his trial. Trapped! As the woman on the right accusingly glares into Peter’s face: “You’re one of his!”, Peter’s eyes give away his desperation as his left hand is against his chest in disclaimer. “Me? No…” The relishing in another’s suffering. A constant disease, sadly, in the history of Christendom. But Peter, the liar, becomes the foundation stone of the Christian Church! Soon, as the cock crows for the second time, he’s brought face to face with the truth. Thank God for the weakness of Peter. You and I are included!
You might find it helpful to jot down occasions when you’ve got caught up in gossip, particularly when it involves being negative about others not present. There’s a challenging rule that a friend of mine passed on to me: ‘Martin, don’t write down your negative feelings and comments about someone, in a letter or an email. If you can’t say it to the person’s face, it’s better not said at all.’ Hard isn’t it? There’ll be many slip-ups… Just smile…
This challenging practice helps to build trust in a community, whether it is in school, at home or in working environments.