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Posts tagged ‘community’

In Search of Authenticity: Our True Selves and Our Essential Need for Community

How can we be true to ourselves?

And how can we live in ways  that are true to what  we believe?

And how can we mix up our inner and outer worlds, so we are not compartmentalised like a waffle, but rather, more like a bowl of spaghetti?

These were just three of the questions posed to us at a weekend conference I’ve just attended, as one of 80 from my church, St Mark’s in Leamington Spa, at the Hayes Conference  Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire.

our group from St Mark's in the main conference hall at Hayes Conference Centre Swanwick 29 June 2013 (photo credit: PaulMileham www.st-marks.net)

our group from St Mark’s in the main conference hall at Hayes Conference Centre Swanwick 29 June 2013 (photo credit: Paul Mileham http://www.st-marks.net)

And in between enjoying the beautiful gardens in the sunshine, drinking in the bar, wandering by the lakes, going kayaking, cycling or walking, we listened to an excellent speaker, Annie Naish from the Lee Abbey Community.

The theme was Authenticity.

Annie invited us to consider how as members of a Christian community we can be “real” with each other,  our authentic selves, sharing our sorrows and troubles, recognizing we are all wounded people, and that we all need each other.

To illustrate our need for community, she played a video clip from the BBC TV documentary narrated by David Tennant, showing the solitary Emperor Penguin in the icy wilderness of Antarctica, who became separated from his community, but struggled on alone until he reached them again – and the life-saving comfort of their body warmth.

Annie Naish (photo credit Paul Mileham www.st-mark.net)

Annie Naish (photo credit Paul Mileham http://www.st-mark.net)

And just so, said Annie, should we live this out, through our relationships with each other in our community: by showing sincere and practical love; looking for the good in people; putting others first; being willing to be vulnerable; listening; and showing humility and practising forgiveness.

Anybody who ever seeks to understand this life and our place in it, will have to engage with this search for our true authentic selves.

This is the work of a lifetime, and it runs through many religions and faiths, through psychology and philosophy, through psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and counselling.

Annie herself lives as part of the Lee Abbey Community, and every member has to work through their relationship with each other within the community. Churches, said Annie, should be full of wounded people, places where people can weep, and share the tough times they’re going through. The authentic Christian life is  “systematically unsafe”. It’s a risky business, and sometimes it’s like a bungee jump over white water rapids. And she showed us a breathtaking video clip to demonstrate this.

Annie suggested we should be intentional. An authentic Christian faith is a long obedience in the same direction.

And if we are to be authentic in relationships, we have to bring what is hidden into the light. It’s costly, because  we’re vulnerable.

The young people having fun at Swanwick (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

The young people having fun at Swanwick (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

Annie gave us practical guidance. We have to listen and reflect before leaping to self-defence. This applies in many situations in life.

Annie called for us to think of everything we do as a task done through relationship.

And the goal for each of us, as Elrond said to Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings” , is to “Become all that you were born to be.”

the lake at Hayes Conference Centre 29 June 2013 (photo credit: Paul Mileham www.st-marks.net)

the lake at Hayes Conference Centre 29 June 2013 (photo credit: Paul Mileham http://www.st-marks.net)

Dangerous Interpersonal Tensions at The Wheel of Love, Esoteric Spiritual Group

As a novelist I enjoy writing about relationships. I’ve spent years observing people’s behaviour in all sorts of situations – within romantic relationships, family relationships, within groups both informal and structured, at dinner parties or self-help therapy groups or in other group situations such as writing workshops.  In my mystery romance novel “Mystical Circles”, I create a hothouse atmosphere within a closed community, where relationships and liaisons flare and flourish or fizzle out quickly. Much depends on  the undercurrents of motive behind the behaviour and interactions of the characters.

Here is an extract showing the interpersonal tensions that may be found in the hothouse atmosphere of  “The Wheel of Love”.

“Life is but a dream,” Rory said.

“You really believe that?”

“Of course. Who’d have harsh reality when they can live here?” he replied.

Oleg moved within range. “Life’s no different from what it was outside. Still goes badly for me most of the time.”

She glanced at him, bemused. “I noticed you last night in the barn with Beth, Oleg. Didn’t you two sort things out at all?”

He glared at her. “What d’you mean by that? Sort things out? How? And why were you watching us?”

She took a deep breath. “I can’t help noticing how much you care for her.”

“She doesn’t care for me,” he snapped.

Silence fell. She sought words. “Perhaps you’ve misunderstood her true feelings, Oleg. Perhaps you think too little of yourself. Be encouraged by Craig. He says you’re in tune with your higher self.”

“That depends upon what he actually chose to tell Craig.” Rory spoke in a snide tone of voice.

“Rory’s jealous,” said Oleg.

Rory moved as if he was about to strike him.

Juliet, alarmed, quickly stepped between them. “What’s up between you two?” she asked.

Rory looked surprised. “Nothing,” he replied, and sauntered on.

Then she turned back to Oleg. “What have you done to upset Rory?”

“Other way round.” His voice filled with self-pity. “It’s him who upset me.”

“Oh?” She ducked under a low branch. “What did he do?”

He looked dejected. “He asked me if I could possibly love him.”

Juliet took the risk of flippancy. “Didn’t you say ‘yes, as a friend? But I love Beth more’? This is, after all, a wheel of love.”

“No, I’d never tell him that,” he retorted, in a fierce undertone. “It doesn’t work that way. Not with Rory. He gets violent.”

“Oh?” She started. Her heart missed a beat. “Violent? D’you mean he beats you up?”

But Oleg was clearly unwilling to say more.

Juliet now felt a frisson of fear when she looked at Rory. She knew she shouldn’t judge anyone here simply on the basis of what someone else said about them. Even so…  She would treat Rory with just a little extra caution until she knew him better.

But what she really wanted to know right now was: how did Craig mean to deal with all these conflicting desires? Was he really equipped to handle them? Or was this, for him, a dream he never intended to wake up from?

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