Lessons in Harmony…

2016 05p1Recently, I went to a classical concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. One of the pieces of music was so beautiful, I cried… musicians and instruments in perfect harmony with each other, drawn together by the skill of the conductor. They made the music seem effortless, instruments in tune with their bodies, each musician acutely sensitive to and respectful of each other and the part they each played in the whole movement. ….but of course perfect harmony doesn’t come easily…it takes years of effort and practice and hardship, with times of wanting to give up. It takes discipline to continue when it would be so much easier to quit….


This experience, has yet again, led me to consider the harmony or rather lack of it, in my own life…..When I am very busy, particularly with work deadlines, I tend to function by closing much of the rest of my life….by blinkering myself to anything that will prevent me from reaching the target; singing my own melody with my ears closed to what else is going on around me. It is a detachment strategy to avoid looking at the muddle and mess in my own life, creating an illusion of coping, both to myself and the world. This works for me, in extreme pressure and for a short while …but it is inevitably at the expense of harmony in my life.

Unsettled imbalance…

Consequently, I have been increasingly unsettled by my imbalanced lifestyle of late, watching the piles of clutter amass and the dust settle deeper both in the physical dwellings of home and studio and in my bodily spiritual abode. I have watched the accumulating symptoms of disharmony with unease and started to wonder how much longer I could go on like this….

I am increasingly recognising that in doing this, I am pushing aside opportunities to make my life and all its difficulties resound through all the octaves of life; forgoing the privilege to play alongside the notes of others and for God the conductor, to work in and through my messy life.

Lamentations on life…

So, as I think of each separate part of the orchestra, creating harmony together, I am saddened by the lack of tuning in my own life, lamenting my lack of discipline at living harmoniously; lamenting my life not being a beautiful song.

Rhythm of Spaces…

As I draw to the close of those deadlines that have led to such disharmony in my life, I have come across a way of looking at the spaces we inhabit in our lives, that aim to balance our dwelling in this world.

It is called the Seven Sacred Spaces, and is taken from a booklet of the same name by George Lings that explores the questions ‘What makes a healthy Christian community?’ and ‘What contributes to being fully human?

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Seven Sacred Spaces…

The Seven Sacred Spaces refer to the monastic wisdom of holistic spiritual living, and really struck a chord with me….I would thoroughly recommend a closer look…

They are about developing spiritual practices in our lives; consciously choosing to dwell in different areas, so that as people growing into Godly living and growing towards Christian maturity, we may be made more whole; released into a lifestyle of melodic harmony.

The section titles reference the physical spaces created by the architecture of a monastery yet are equally relevant in our lives today. Though the physical spaces we inhabit may be different, as God’s people we are all called to create structure and harmony in our lives through the disciplines of dwelling in each of these seven spaces…

2016 05p3Cell… This space represents our personal spiritual life; where we nurture daily the stillness of spirit that deepens our relationship with God; the space where we may dwell in silence or wrestle uncomfortably with our inner troubles. It is a space of safety that acts as a balm against the noise and busyness of the world.

Chapel… a place of communal, collective prayer and worship that often offers patterns for our praise.

Chapter… representing the importance of coming together to make decisions prayerfully and allowing respectful “discussion, debate, disagreement”.

Cloister… referring to the monastic “sheltered connection between the other places” but representing now any meetings planned and unexpected; encouraging us to act with humility towards each other.

Garden… “shared work to sustain the community” which may involve the world of work for the service and benefit of others…as well as meeting with God through nature & experiencing the healing of nature for our world weary bodies

Refectory… arguably, the hub of Christian living; any place that offers physical nourishment, social gathering, mutual serving, conversation, silence, hospitality…a place of shared stories and laughter… a place of safety that nurtures community and offers “relational & authentic missional hospitality” (George Lings)

Scriptorium… the space where we learn, wherever that might be, with the intention to specifically bless and pass on to others as well as the space where we dwell for creative expression …

Orchestral Praise…

So back to the orchestra…. Perhaps each of these “spaces” might be seen as a different section of an orchestra; complementary yet overlapping sounds that combined, create a beautiful whole, a life song; a hymn of praise to and conducted by, the Lord of Life….

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I would so like my life to be like that, but it’s going to take a different way of living, it’s going to take a lifetime of practice and effort and there are going to be times when I want to quit, times when I am discordant; a cacophony of disharmony…but, spiritually, it feels as if I need to combine the solitary practice of the musician with the discipline of orchestral rehearsals together , so that in harmony, under the guidance of the One true Conductor together we may play the symphony of God’s love to the world.

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