Saturday, September 01, 2012

fasting+spiritual reflection

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to experiment with the so-called 5:2 diet – which involved eating normally 5 days a week, then two days a week limiting one’s food intake to 600 calories. I’ll no doubt post some observations on this in due course.
However, I was also keen to use some of my fasting days for spiritual reflection. I’m very much a novice at this (advice VERY welcome, please!) and so yesterday was my first “proper” day of combining the two.
Frankly, I didn’t think I would have sufficient will-power to hide myself away, essentially without food, for a day of quiet contemplation. Instead, I decided to use my “fasting day” for a walk around the city (of Bristol).
Strange as this may seem, but I actually used Jane Bentley+Neil Paynter’s excellent book “Around a Thin Place – an Iona pilgrimage guide” as a resource for my “journey” (as well as references to places of spiritual and historical significance, it also has some excellent readings, reflections, poems and prayers).
Essentially, I decided to break my walk around the city into twelve sections or stops – and had duly highlighted twelve reflections/readings, in advance, that I would be using at my stopping points. I didn’t plan my “Bristol route” in advance – but I did know I wanted it to include both quiet+noisy places and both urban+rural(ish!) locations.
Well, I have to say, the experience very enjoyable (and rewarding)(and it was sunny!) … and I even started relating many of my stopping points with pilgrimage stops on Iona! The Nunnery equated to the old Bristol docks (I sat on a harbourside bench); On the Way/High Point was Brandon Hill; Columba’s Bay was St James Priory; I found Loch Staonaig in the heart of Cabot Circus shopping centre(!); the Hermit’s Cell was some paving beside the Benjamin Perry Boathouse; and St Oran’s Chapel was the Mud Dock Deli building…
This all sounds a little silly, but it actually worked rather beautifully!
I certainly intend to use a similar format for some of my future fasting days and have already identified some other books that I think would work equally well (eg. Ian Adams’ “Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living” and Peter Owen Jones’ “Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim”) – but I would certainly welcome other suggestions.
Photo: spiritual reflection at Cabot’s Circus, Bristol!
PS: I scribbled down a few one-line observations at each stopping point and found some of the book’s poems particularly insightful and helpful (and will certainly use them again in other circumstances).

1 comment:

just Gai said...

I don't think it sounds at all silly, quite the contrary. It may require more imagination to derive spiritual insight in Cabot Circus than on Loch Staonaig but all the more rewarding when it's achieved.

I think there's the possibility of a guided trail in here Steve.