Mid-month meditation in the Wychwoods

Page 25 Ascott church rdAs the evenings grow lighter you may be tempted to venture out towards the end of a busy day – or call in after work – to seek out the solace of half an hour of peace in a silent church. You might want to sit and reflect, or put some distance between yourself and the week’s events; others may practise mindfulness, or meditate, or pray; most will no doubt experience a combination of all of these. That will be up to you.
It is a little known fact that the Wychwoods do offer a period of silence in one of our historic and serene local churches, with a minimum of structure and few if any interruptions. So you will find a small number of us sitting quietly in Ascott Church from 6.15 p.m. to 6.50 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. In the summer the door is wide open and you can hear the birds in the churchyard singing or a train passing on the Cotswold line.
There is a lot of interest in mindfulness these days. Mark Williams, who has done so much to introduce the practice in Britain, drew a large crowd at Milton Village Hall last year, and Mark Vernon, a psychotherapist and writer who also caught his audience’s attention at the Wychwood Circle just recently in a talk on Plato and Freud, has written about practising his own version of what he calls Socratic or agnostic mindfulness. One way or another, we will all have our own way of being quiet in a purposeful way – whether listening or waiting or just breathing.
At Ascott, we usually begin with a poem about nature or a few sentences from a spiritual or contemplative source. After that there is silence unless someone chooses to break it. Borrowing from the Quakers, the event is an informal one and if someone feels inspired enough to break the silence to share a thought, then they are free to do so. It is a shared silence and a shared meditation – but more often than not there is 30 minutes of uninterrupted silence.
It is a space which you too may want to create in your life; a sort of shared discipline in fact and, like physical exercise, an essential and rewarding one. In time, we hope to expand the frequency of our sessions so that they happen every week.

David Soward

April – May 2017