Friday, June 30, 2006

Meeting for Worship

For those who haven't seen the article in Saturday's Guardian yet about Meeting for Worship (and so I don't lose the link!)

He says it so much better than I could.... and once you get past the guy who obviously doesn't get that the whole point of the 'Face to Faith' slot is religion there are some good comments underneath it from readers too. Good outreach =)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

meditation (or not...)

I've read a few books over the last few months which have had meditation exercises at the end of each chapter with some really interesting stuff to them but I've yet to manage to do any of the meditations 'properly' - ie following the instructions. Instead I just read through it all, have a wee think about it, maybe jot down something if that is what it suggests then head on to the next chapter.

You see every time I do the full relaxation thing and try to meditate, be it on my own or as part of a guided meditation I drift off into a hypnogogic state (how chuffed was I to find there was a proper word for it!!) or even to sleep and go to the land where the Wild Things things live, where the bong trees grow, off the top of the Faraway Tree ladder through the hole in the clouds... and by the time I come down the slippery-slip to reality there isn't a hope of me having been where or done any of the things I should have which somewhat stuffs up the point of the exercise.

I do try honest, but it's been like this now for over 20 years and I never seem to be able to focus and relax, it's always one or the other. I can pat my head and rub my tummy, I can even just about get my arms and feet co-ordinated (as long as I don't think about it too hard!) at salsa, but meditate? It appears not. Ho hum...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

truth & integrity

I was flicking through the Britain YM book of Quaker Faith & Practice and going through some old handouts last night looking for useful quotes for a Children's Meeting session. We were looking for examples of speaking truth to power and using integrity and it led to quite a long conversation which we came back round to a few times over the evening.

Earlier in the day I'd been put on the spot with regard my own truth and integrity. I was filling in a form for the Inland Revenue in Britain which will hopefully result in a tax refund before too long. Two of the questions I really struggled to answer. In the end I put what I knew I had to with regard to my current visa rather than what I would like to - 'do you intend to return to live in the UK, if yes what date? So with a heavy heart I ticked 'yes' and put October 2007 which is what I'd originally told the immigration people here.

They didn't have an 'only if I have to' box and 'when the money runs out' didn't fit their nice little DD/MM/YYYY boxes either.

Was I telling the truth?

Well sort of. As yet I don't have the means to do other than what I said on the form, and being the Inland Revenue they want definite answers not wish lists. I'm not deliberately trying to mislead them and as far as I know it doesn't defraud them in any way or set things up to my better advantage - I just have to remember to write to tell them I guess if I get to extend my stay. 'Dear Inland Revenue, Having a lovely time here, not coming back. lots of love Anna xxx' Hmmm....

But it felt like lying. It felt like lying at such a deep seated level that in a way was reassuring. There simply wasn't room for any doubt that the box I should have been ticking was not necessarily 'No' but more 'Not for the foreseeable future' at least.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Another case of joined up thinking over the last few days and nothing to do with the World Cup (sorry for any disappointment Kate! Altho' whilst on the sporting train of thought I am currently rather relieved to have just missed the England v Sri Lanka ODI cricket series - I think leaving the country post Ashes was a good move...).

Ministry this morning focused around 'why are we here' in it's various forms - why are we: in this room, Quakers, alive - and how the first two can help answer the third. It all started out from someone referring to Leith's WGYF report (which has just been finally published in our YM Newsletter) and how Leith had felt accepted within the community there as a Quaker even as a minority (atheist Friend) within a minority (unprogrammed Friends) and why it felt right to be there.

People spoke about their various reasons for being amongst Friends, as fellow seekers, as a support group working towards common ideals etc. In the last piece of ministry Jonathan spoke about how he sees god as taking a personal interest in him and using the silence to find what god wants him to do in life.

Having sat there for almost an hour meandering around (but not managing to be very focused) trying to make my mind up about something it was a gentle reminder for me not to be worrying about what I want to do about it but to seek guidance as to what route I should be taking, and just because I'm feeling tugged along in a particular direction it doesn't mean I know what I should be doing when I get there.

Compare and contrast... oh how I used to dread those words!

On Friday I was helping out at a workshop and at the beginning the example was given of a bunch of students who set out goals for themselves, some of whom wrote them down, and those who didn't and what they went on to achieve in life afterwards - the gist of it being if you have goals to aim for you can do better (can't remember the finer details - was too busy preparing resources for another part of the day!) - a link back to Pete's post about having a big enough dream?

It got me thinking about when I was a student, what might my goals have been - and wondering if I wrote them down or not (quite possibly in my journal - not as a set of goals as such but more likely as several pages of waffle! However my old journals are 12,000 miles away and safely locked up so I can't check). Had I been asked in a 'you can say anything you want it doesn't have tbe realistic' way then the chances are I would have come up with something along the lines of the work I've been doing with Quakers over the last few years - being paid to organise YF events, host travelling Quakers, networking etc etc etc - I just don't think I would have believed it possible! So do they count as goals? Does this mean I've achieved them?

So where does this leave me now?

You've got to have a dream, 'cos if you don't have a dream, then how you gonna have a dream come true?

OK, I have a dream... (nothing as laudable as Martin Luther King's and definitely not for public broadcast... yet!)

I guess you could say part of which fits into 'goals' - like being able to stay here.

But. There's always a 'but'.

How do I balance following my dreams and goals with, to use Jonathan's words, seeking 'what god wants me to do'? Especially when I'm feeling decidedly short on the patience front and want an answer 'now' (well ok, the next few weeks will do but don't leave it any longer ok?!)

Whilst I've been typing this up the song
'Wait, wait, wait in the silence,
Wait, wait let the gathering unite'
has been persistently going through my head. Ok, ok, ok - I submit... I'll wait. But that doesn't mean I want to!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

quotes for life

"The trouble with resisting temptation is that you may not get another chance." - Edwin Chapin

"One must live the way one thinks, or end up thinking the way one has lived." - Paul Borget

I found these on someone else's blog that I'd discovered randomly one day (Charley - if you ever stumble across this I'll miss your pics of South Island!) and they appealed... the second one seemed to fit in with Pete's post too which I'd really liked.

There is a lot to be said about them all but I've got a bus to catch so I'll leave you to do your own thinking about them!

Friday, June 16, 2006


I've uploaded some more photos to Flickr, there's another film almost finished which should be appearing soon(ish).

This country is so photogenic; the light, the colours, the scenery... so often tho' you just can't capture it all on film and just have to accept that and admire the beauty around you whilst you can.

There are a few photos taken at various dinners held here - somehow what often starts off as a couple of people coming for tea turns into half a dozen; last night being no exception as it was going to be Emily, Fran and me - there were 8 of us in the end... I think the most we've squeezed around the table is 10! Being so central here makes it an obvious meeting point and no-one can say they don't know where it is =)

It's got to the point where Julian feels more like a Welly YF than a visitor due to his work bringing him up here so often, but we still manage to have a fair few other visitors passing through - Beth & Susi somehow escaped the camera though last week along with Margaret & Robert and Co back in April/May, as I think did Daniel (will have to wait for the next film to be sure...). I must admit it was rather odd going to Christchurch YFs with Fran, Charlotte & Julian - and it still being at 'my house', ie a room just off the Resident Friends flat, not where I'm used to seeing them at all!

out of the mouths...

...of babes and sucklings

Or in this case a 5 yr old!

Julian has been keeping us entertained with the latest words of wisdom from Xavier for some time and as a result Xavier has acquired quite a fan club within YF circles here - now you can see why!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Why is it that Brits pronounce tomato tomah-to rather than tomay-to, like those Stateside, but pronounce data day-ta when the rest of the English speaking world seems to say dah-ta?

But then English is hardly a logical language no matter what your accent or national variation...

I spent a day earlier this week helping out with some notetaking and handing out post-its and flip chart paper etc at a data management strategy workshop (as one does...) and found by the end of the day I was saying dah-ta along with the rest of them - yet another kiwi-ism creeping in?

What is slowly starting to sink in from that experience (the workshop that is not the pronunciation!) is how many of us who have been trained up through years of Quaker events, training sessions, workshops and what have you have facilitation skills that are actually highly sort after in the outside world. Methods that are second nature to us for collecting and working with ideas, getting full participatory involvement, drawing out the quiet ones and letting them get a word in edgewise, using a multitude of methods to maintain interest and bring out individual strengths and appeal to varying people's thought processes - these are seen as unusual and innovative! What's more people pay silly money to get someone in to do this...

I don't think many of us from Britain really recognise the value of the investment in us that has been made by our Meetings, Summer Schools etc. The training I've had over the years from the Travelling Team and the NFPB etc over the last 20 years has been invaluable in terms of the Quaker work that I've done but I've never applied it beyond that sphere. Crazy really now I think about it.

It also strikes me that half of Britain YM's financial problems could probably be solved by hiring out it's staff and the Travelling Team if only for one day a year each to other organisations. Bringing our methods and practice, especially the more specifically Quaker aspects, into the outside world could make a huge difference to many orgaisations - and if we're prepared to be open about where we've come from it could be a huge form of indirect outreach.

Next week I get another chance to see the outside world of facilitation in action, I must admit though the idea of keeping a bunch of teenagers entertained for a few hours is a lot less scary than enabling a real life science strategy and funding prioritisation to be put together! But I guess it's just the fair trade chocolate or paper bag game with different players...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

the waiting game

At YFs on Sunday Michael & Merilyn talked to us about 'life as Testimony' and about some of the things they'd done in the earlier years of their married life. The concept of being 'led', of 'calling', came up and it hit me that the sense of being pulled along in a certain direction that has been growing is very like that which I've felt before, or is it?

I'm now at the frustrating stage of discernment - where there isn't actually anything you can do about it all apart from wait, let it sit, see what unfolds and ask for guidance... bah humbug.

Meanwhile there's a Summer Gathering to be planned, a whole heap of notes to type up, several loads of washing to do (no change there...) and a busy few days ahead (no change there either!) - oooh, and if I'm quick an early night to be had =)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

guiding light

I sat in Meeting this morning with the Julian of Norwich prayer 'All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well' running through my head.

I'd just spent half an hour or so with a friend in need of a chat and I found myself, not for the first time since getting here, feeling like I was filling someone elses shoes - another Julian, Julian of Darlington! It might be three years now since she sat me down and put into words what I had been trying not to see because seeing meant doing something about it and that was scary, but it is still as clear as if it were last month.

Without Julian crystalising things for me I don't know how long I would have remained bumbling around in the dark half looking for answers but scared of what I might find. But what gave me the courage to act on it all was a strong inner sense of it being the right thing to do along with the loving support of my friends. It was a leap of faith, but one which helped me realise that faith isn't a last resort but the main thing holding me up - recognising that has changed my world, literally.

back home

One of the great things about going down to Christchurch is how warm it feels to come back north!

I'm back in Welly now, catching up with myself and life in general, more photos should be appearing on Flickr in the next few days - one of the films goes back to YF camp so I'll finally find out whether it was my camera or Mel's that the Kissing Game photos were taken on! (that's Ratchet Screwdriver/Wink!).

It was a busy time down south, lots of people to catch up with. Altho as Fran and I spent the evening catching up with each other it did seem a bit bizarre to be doing so in Christchurch rather than Welly! In fact apart from a very small handful of people most of those I spent time with I'm used to seeing elsewhere, either in Wellington, at Quaker residential events or as in Grahame's case in Dunedin.

I stopped off to visit Carole & Brian (mum's rellies) on the way home and actually managed to visit them for a second time in the same house which given the last few years is quite an achievement - despite assurances that they'll stay put for a while now they still keep an eye on the Property Pages...

There are all sorts of things I'd planned to blog about whilst travelling; like seeing the man with the ironing board on the coach to Christchurch and then finding a book on Extreme Ironing in the RF flat (I kid you not - try Googling it!); the ferry south being from the Portsmouth - Cherbourg route (but built in '95 so no chance of me having been on it coming back from the Channel Islands); the ferry back north being from Spain but feeling decidedly like a CalMac ship (and about as sophisticated...); the moonlight on the water heading home; visiting Lyttleton where my rellies arrived in 1879 and much more...

...but they'll have to make do with a quick mention and/or wait as it's Sunday morning and lots to do

Friday, June 02, 2006

postcard from South Island

Well, all those things I said about not being sure about living somewhere with only really 3 seasons and how I'd miss winter... I'm wondering if I should take them back! I'm in Christchurch and someone has turned the heating off.

It's a bit strange - kind of like going to Northern Ireland from mainland Britain. You know that technically you are in the same (political) country but it feels like a completely different place and you have to cross water to get there. I guess not that disimilar to going to the Northern Isles too for that matter (they sound almost Welsh in Orkney, tis most disorientating). Why so different? Well on the way down there was snow on the Kaikoura Ranges - not a lot admittedly and yes there's snow on North Island too - I just haven't seen it yet, but the biggest difference for me is the trees. There are sooo many more deciduous trees here, to the extent that I was hearing comments yesterday about how sad it was that the lovely autumn colours had been blown away now, and most of the trees in the park by the Meeting House are bare skeletons rather than the native evergreens I've become used to in Wellington.

I came the slow way - ferry and intercity bus which meant it was a 12 hr trip from leaving my front door to arriving at Julian & Bridget's for my tea, but which also meant I saw far more than a blanket of cloud on the way not to mention it being far kinder to the environment. Somewhere north of Kaikoura there is a roadsign of a pedestrian crossing the road - someone with a sense of humour and probably at least 30 years under their belt has added a halo. The signs here are far more like stick men then in Britain so 'The Saint' walks on...

The usual stop in Kaikoura gave me time to nip along to the beach and take the same photos as last time - I'll upload them when I get back, but it all looked somewhat less blue than last time! What's more the beach was deserted apart from me and some rather cold looking seagulls who didn't even look as though they had the energy to cry 'mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.....' (if you haven't seen Finding Nemo then sorry, you'll not get that)

It's great getting a chance to catch up with Friends and family again. It feels odd how familiar it feels down here yet how little I know my way around, passing through in both directions for Summer Gathering added on to my stay here 2 years ago means I recognise a lot - I just don't know quite where I am! Nice as it is to be here and see everyone it has reinforced that Wellington is where I'd rather be living. I don't do flat very well. I need my hills rather than distant mountains altho' I must admit is is tempting to get Ali's bike out and see if I can still remember what to do. I don't think I've ridden since borrowing Emma's bike in Orkney in '94 and that was the first time I'd ridden in years! Ah well, you never forget how to fall off a bike do you...

If I get chance I'll write again whilst I'm here but no promises.... busy weekend ahead including dinners with Charlotte and Fran - well no need to go getting homesick for Welly is there?!