It was a great pleasure to attend the 2023 conference. The opportunity to meet up with fellow meditators, brought the realisation, yet again, of how much our lives were impoverished and curtailed by the necessary restrictions of recent years. It is sobering to reflect that the lives of too many are continuously curtailed by poverty, ill health, war and unjust social systems.
The conference with its theme of “How the light enters, contemplative wisdom for flourishing in our broken world”, provided a welcome opportunity to step back from our experience of individual and collective brokenness and to consider possibilities for acceptance and flourishing in the midst of our vulnerabilities in the face of life’s difficulties.
Rev. Dr. Mark S Burrows’ message, delivered with gentleness, humour and compassion was one of acceptance of our imperfections in the knowledge that God’s love for us does not depend on “perfect offerings”. We are known and loved by God who sees the Divine spark in us, alongside our limitations. This message, based on Mark’s understandings of the writings of Meister Eckhart and Julian of Norwich, was illustrated with music and poetry, weaving together old and modern voices. Mark’s deep knowledge of medieval history and theology shone through his presentation and made it all the more interesting and engaging.
Mark’s insight that God lives in all of us and delights in our divine spark which cannot be extinguished no matter what we do, gives us hope to persevere in getting to know our deepest selves. Mark calls this the great mystery of love and our task is to discover this and help others discover this too. Accepting and sharing our brokenness and vulnerabilities in the face of life’s difficulties and challenges, allows for the possibility of hope and healing. Mark pointed us to the words of Leonard Cohen “There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in”.
The workshops gave us the opportunity to expand and share our knowledge in different ways. The workshop facilitators generously shared their knowledge and experience with us.
High Leigh is a comfortable conference centre in a lovely setting and the good weather allowed for strolls in the grounds and chats with people along the way.
This was the first conference to have online participants and it was lovely to see our fellow participants on screen and to share a wave to each other.
Regular meditation sessions daily brought us together, as well as the opportunity to join the Oblates for their morning and evening prayer.
The contemplative Eucharist, celebrated by Rev Mark Ball and enhanced by beautiful music, brought together the themes of the conference and gave us an opportunity to quietly reflect together and to give thanks for our time in the presence of God and with each other.
A big thank you to all who worked so hard to make the conference such an enjoyable, challenging and contemplative experience.
Books cited in Mark’s talks:
- Mark S. Burrows & Jon M. Sweeney, Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart (Hampton Roads, 2016); ME’s Book of Secrets (2018); ME’s Book of Darkness and Light (2023)
- Chelan Harkin, Susceptible to Light. Poetry (Soulfruit Publishing, 2020)
- Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates. Entering the Mind of Poetry (Harper, 1998)
- Julia B. Levine, Ordinary Psalms. Poems (LSU Press, 2021)
- Kei Miller, There Is an Anger that Moves (Carcanet, 2007)
- Pádraig Ó Tuama, Readings from the Book of Exile (Canterbury, 2012)
- Mary Oliver, Red Bird. Poems (Beacon Press, 2009)
- William Stafford, The Way It Is: Selected and New Poems (Graywolf, 1999)
- Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, All the Honey. Poems (Samara Press, 2023)
- Simone Weil, Waiting for God (Harper, 2009)
For those who didn’t attend the conference Mark Burrows’ four talks which were greatly appreciated are now available to view on video. One option is to watch them next year on WCCM+,(see wccm.org for details) which is a subscription service currently allowing one to access 300 hours of WCCM presentations.
However, if you are not a WCCM+ member and would like to view the talks we can forward a personal link to you. The videos have been professionally edited and the suggested donation is £40. The talks including the Q&A are approximately 4 hours long and would be an excellent resource for sharing with group members at meetings.
Please contact the UK office to arrange – firstname.lastname@example.org.