Tag Archives: contemplation

A review of the book: “Sanctuary – the discovery of wonder” by Julie Leibrich

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A winter virus gave me “a space”, Sanctuary, to read this book from beginning to end. Prior to this I had dipped in and out of it and had thoroughly enjoyed titbits and contemplating the photographs.

But this big book of 226 pages and 172 references is a rich, deep, satisfying and stimulating read. It was a decade in the writing and covers much of the author’s life experiences.

It is a well ordered book that circles from the first section: “Wondering about Sanctuary”, to “Illuminating Sanctuary”, to “Protecting Sanctuary” to “Wonderment of Sanctuary”.

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I doubt there was a page in Julie’s book where I was not drawn in, encouraged to wonder, to absorb or marvel or question.

Her home on the Kapiti Coast is where my newly widowed mother sought sanctuary, in her new home and environment for the remaining 15 years of her life. The beach, the sea, the birds, the sky and the looming guardian of Kapiti Island are strong links to me and my understanding of this special environment.

The section of Julie’s book where she writes about a poetry course she ran for people suffering from the effects of stroke, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease, I found particularly poignant. No matter our age or physical condition, our soul remains a sanctuary.

Not only did I find this immensely reassuring but also a wonderful example of compassion. To take time, to give careful attention to detail and to offer attentive presence, gave rise to illuminations from these peoples’ spirits.

The book is full of detail, research, images, references, journal entries, poetry, anecdotes, peoples’ thoughts and experiences. Julie’s writing skills are exemplified in her in-depth exploration of words, concepts, beliefs and experiences.

The thoughts and contributions of Julie’s friends and acquaintances sit easily among those of influential writers and thinkers across the ages. Sanctuary is not the domain of the highly trained, specialised or profoundly learned and wise; it is for every one of us as human beings.

Sanctuary (from the Latin “Sanctus” meaning Holy) can be found anywhere and in limitless ways. It is not limited or definitively prescribed. As the title “the discovery of wonder” indicates  – discover what works for you, what gives you inner space. The cover of the book is a contemplation on this very issue.

I found this book to be one I want to own so that I can return to it again and again for my own personal and spiritual understanding and development.

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Note: For an in depth review of Julie Leibrich’s book that I enjoyed reading go here:

Eyes, cameras, explanations

Matthew Johnstone asks this in his calming book “Capturing Mindfulness – a guide to becoming present through photography.”
“What grabs you visually that you can’t fully explain?”

This photo that I took on Saturday, from a high vantage point above the Pauatahanui Inlet has the potential I discovered for some observers to wonder aloud about what they are seeing in the image.
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When I was allowing my eyes to wander on Saturday there was something about the kowhai tree that grabbed me. When I loaded the photo up on to the computer I thought I could easily explain what I had seen with my eyes and what the camera had recorded.

But another person offered a different explanation of the image and suddenly I saw a whole new utterly intriguing and evocative possibility.

Matthew Johnstone speaks of being “photopresent” and in the main, this is exactly how I approach going about with my camera. I allow my eye and sometimes my heart to notice and for the action of clicking the shutter to flow from that space. It is a restful, easy space that has that soothing quality of flow most of the time.

The end result is an image which can occasionally have an inexplicable quality to it offering further contemplation and I really like that.

As a postscript: Matthew Johnstone has written the “Black Dog” series and “Quiet the Mind, Capturing Mindfulness”. He has a website here:

Blue on blue

The aftermath of a biting cold southerly can leave the air crystal clear and the outline of our neighbouring South Island much more visible. Today was such a day and so we rugged up very warmly and spent some time back at Karehana Bay where the Shore Plovers were resting on the sandy strip behind the storm- piled seaweed. (There are approximately 200 of these birds left so seeing these 5 again became even more special today)

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Then we wandered along the sea front and sat on a seat and gazed at the sea and the views of the sky that was so strongly blue after so many grey days. The horizon seemed to be a meld of blues, the island in the distance yet more blue hues.
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And so with all our senses sharpened we returned to the warmth of the house refreshed before the promised icy chills of the evening.

An offering of Hope on Wednesday

I was reading through some blogs last evening and came across a reference to “Reasonable Hope,” a concept from the work of Kaethe Weingarten. Google helped me learn some more about Kaethe and provided some links to this concept she has developed and which piqued my curiosity.

I followed this link and read about this organisation which had begun to explore and work with these aspects of “reasonable hope”

Reasonable hope can help us build a bridge to creating more authentic hope in our lives even in the midst of challenging circumstances, uncertainty and even despair.
Weingarten identified five characteristics of reasonable hope, which we are understanding and interpreting in the following ways:

Relational. Hope happens between things and in relationships. It is held, shared, communicated, birthed. It shifts and moves, waxes and wanes, as we interact with ourselves, each other and our environment. It can be likened to the African concept of “Ubuntu,” which Archbishop Desmond Tutu described as “being enveloped in the community of other human beings, in being caught up in the bundle of life.” Hope is like this, caught up in bundles of shared experience.

Is something to be practiced. Hope is a verb more than a noun. Rather than an internal feeling we have or we don’t, hope is a quality we can actively cultivate through the choices we make. Hope is an ongoing process, something we practice in the here and now—not something we passively wish for in the future—that makes us more “hope” prone.

Sees the future as open, uncertain, influenceable. An uncertain future creates space for change, growth and transformation. It opens the door to possibilities beyond our current expectations. Hope is a process where “the soul turns toward a light which it does not yet perceive, a light yet to be born,” as is eloquently described by the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel.

Seeks goals and pathways. Reasonable hope is both practical and fluid. It looks for what goals can be accomplished now (and identifies ways to get there) and adjusts as new possibilities and pathways become available.

Accommodates doubt, contradictions and despair. When understood as a dynamic, moment-to-moment practice, hope can be messy and spacious. It can hold the whole of our lives with all of its losses, joys, setbacks and surprises. Instead of closing our eyes and making a wish, we can open our eyes wider and turn toward a light that may not yet be born.

Reasonable hope is only one of many ways we can bring hope into seemingly hopeless situations. A bridge from what is true now to a place where we can dream and hope again.

Hope has been a word on my lips so often lately that this expansion has proved to be both comforting and illuminating to me. Sharing ways to become more “hope prone” is such a positive gift to us all.

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