Like many others, I’m waiting (and dreading) the outcome of the American Presidential Campaign.
Like many others, I fear a Trump triumph.
Like many others, I have reservations about Hillary Clinton.
Like many others, I struggle to find a politician here or abroad to admire, or who gives hope for the future of a peaceful world.
Like many others, I despair at the suffering of wars and natural disasters, the world refugee crisis, global warming… so much to overwhelm, destabilise, destroy any sense of wellbeing or being in control.
So to chill out, I remember a wonderful find, a haven to be accessed physically, or if unable to transport to Melbourne, accessed virtually via the web.
I stumbled on Mingary, the quiet place when I Googled ‘serenity’ for another blog post. Up popped a link to Mingary, ‘a quiet place’, a haven on the west side of St Michael’s Church, corner of Collins and Russell Street, Melbourne.
I’ve received a lot of strength from my upbringing but classify myself as an agnostic and bookmarked Mingary as a place to visit. The idea of a calm oasis in the busyness of the city appealed to me. Somewhere to go, rest, recoup energy, reflect on life.
The website has photographs and explanations but if you visit physically (a must!) pick up the booklet prepared by Dr Francis Macnab, which includes his poetry.
In addition to his duties as a minister, Dr Macnab founded and is Executive Director of the Cairnmillar Institute which has been at the forefront of counselling, psychotherapy and trauma therapy for more than 50 years.
His commitment to psychological health is rich as he also runs The Big Tent Project which provides therapy for kindergarten children as well as his S.A.G.E project aimed at people 55 – 105 years of age.
Dr Macnab frequently puts pen to paper and has published more than 25 books and is an internationally renowned public speaker, having spoken at several international conferences.
He is the former president of the International Council of Psychologists and a one-time research fellow at Aberdeen University.
**Mingary is of the Gaelic language, which is regarded as the second oldest language in Europe. With origins in the Middle East, the Celts brought it along the Northern Mediterranean, through Western Europe to Ireland and finally to Scotland.
This place is FREE in every sense of the word, non-denominational, spiritual, not religious, no sales traps or conversion techniques. You take what you want from the visit and can go into the foyer of the church, where there are explanatory brochures and booklets, notices of lunchtime concerts and lectures.
Mingary, The Quiet Place
Dr Francis Macnab
The gates are open.
You stand in the doorway, your foot on the Welcome Stone.
The walls reach out and enfold you with the softening lights.
The large table rock is held in position by two upright rocks – the need for more than one support.
The table rock itself has a deep crevice depicting life’s deep traumas.
Water flows down the rock and falls into the bowl of peace and quietness.
In the bowl are two small rocks –
The red rock is the gift of descendants of the Aboriginal tribe, the Wurundjeri, who once knew this place as theirs;
The green marble rock is from the Isle of Iona, off the coast of Scotland.
Arising from the table rock is the wind of the dove, the ancient symbol of new life and hope. It is turning towards the east wall where a glow of light signifies the beginning of a new day – the hope of all who are going through times of stress or sadness.
As you leave, notice the granite rock at the doorway.
Water run gently over it as a symbol of the flow of life by which we are constantly renewed.
Let there be silence in this place.
In the silence there is strength. And there is healing.
Come in silence – leave in silence.
**Iona means dove. It is the place of the dove. For many years thousands of people have travelled to Iona for reflection, learning and inspiration.
While I was growing up in a Christian household, I often heard the name Dr Francis Macnab. My Father was an elder in the Church of Scotland, and later when we came to Australia became an elder in the Presbyterian, later Uniting Church, at Croydon.
Mum and Dad were involved in the church in many capacities: Mum in the Ladies Fellowship, later the Women’s Guild (the name change could be the other way around!), and she also bottled honey and raised funds for the Ecumenical Migration Centre for more than two decades.
Mum’s faith was unquestioning but Dad struggled and sometimes lapsed in attendance, hence his interest in the work of Dr Francis Macnab who was unafraid to explore and challenge the traditional church regarding teachings, rules of behaviour, social justice issues, peace, dying with dignity, gender roles and the position of women.
Not surprisingly, Macnab a trained psychologist specialises in helping people cope with the pressures and stress of life, but also seeking to guide us towards a more equitable and peaceful society.
My father was often deeply troubled and struggled with inner demons and I wish Mingary had been available for him to visit, perhaps it would have helped him to sit in silence and reflect, absorb the serenity, contemplate.
The Mingary Prayer
Dr Francis Macnab
Restore in us
A peaceful mind.
A strengthened spirit.
Restore to us
A new pathway –
a new hope, and a new purpose.
Restore for us
The courage to let go of what is past.
The readiness and strength to walk,
towards the future.
Restore in us
A union with the energy
of this sacred place
and a union with the
soul of the universe.
As we touch the Rock
help us draw strength from the stone.
Needless to say, ‘the road to heaven is paved with good intentions’ and months passed, rushed trips in and out of the city. Mingary forgotten – until the anniversary of John’s death in September.
I had to attend a seminar at the Hyatt Hotel, which happens to be opposite St Michael’s Church, host to Mingary. September 21 always emotionally challenging and despite fourteen years having passed, a switch inside clicked and nerve ends tingled: I felt on edge, teary, couldn’t concentrate… sadness and grief weighed on my heart, a flat, cold stone.
I floated out of the Hyatt adrift on a sea of sadness, looked across the road and remembered Mingary.
In the foyer of St Michael’s I heard wonderful orchestral music and joyous voices accompanied by the strains of a magnificent organ. A crowd of happy, engaged faces filed from the lunchtime concert expressing their good fortune at hearing one of Melbourne’s finest musicians.
An elderly man busied himself, and I interrupted his tidying and checking pews.
“How do I get to Mingary?”
Kindly eyes smiled. ‘Normally, you can go through that door,’ he pointed to a door blocked off ‘For Renovations’. Apologetic, he asked me to follow and pointed outside, ‘You go down the stairs, turn right at the bottom, walk a short distance and up the stairs round the corner.’
‘Thank you, ‘ I said and fled, suddenly embarrassed. I’d picked up a brochure about Mingary including details of counselling services. Was everyone seeking solace depressed? Would he think me mad? What did he see when he looked at me? Were my indecision, worry, and fragile emotional state obvious?
Within moments I sat in the serene space of Mingary. I was not alone.
A young man sat in the corner shopping bags on the floor beside his chair. His eyes closed, hands clasped in prayer.
I too closed my eyes.
I concentrated on the trickling water as sounds of the city: footsteps, voices, trams, cars – all faded. Conscious of movement, I opened my eyes.
The young man stood up, stretched, walked back and forth with deliberate steps, moved his arms into practised shapes – Yoga, Tai Chi poses? He then sat down and returned to prayer.
I examined the sculpture in the centre of the room, watched light dance with shadows, thought of the stone connecting the place with the First People and the stone from my birth country.
St Ninian came from Iona and the church we attended in Scotland bore his name. Memories of childhood and adulthood. Of being John’s friend, lover, wife, of the birth of my children, the death of my parents, and John, my ill-health, cancer, fears for the present and future – nano thoughts, nano seconds…
Dr Francis Macnab
Breathe out the airs of grief and sorrow.
Breathe in the airs of healing and consolation.
Breathe out the airs of guilt and unforgiveness.
Breathe in the airs of freedom and release.
Breathe out the airs of uncertainty and anxiety.
Breathe in the airs of hope and courage.
Breathe out the airs of solitude and loneliness.
Breathe in the airs of self-soothing and restoring strength.
Breathe out the airs of being here.
Breathe in the airs that bring solace
and strength to the way you will live.
The young man left. I walked around the sculpture, touched the sacred stone, marvelled at the artist’s vision and talent.
I sat and contemplated some more. I listened to the quietness and took the time to refocus.
Contemplation of birth, life, and death.
Counting blessings not depressings
Calmness about the future
Courage to accept the past
Celebration of the moment
A joy and gladness and thankfulness
for the vision of people like Dr Francis Macnab
Gratitude for my Father’s questioning, seeking and
acceptance of my freedom of thought
my Mother’s unconditional Love and acceptance
Love for John, his gift to me of Anne and Mary Jane.
Restored. Renewed. Reasonable. Replenished. Refreshed. Refurbished. Revitalised. Relaxed.
Time can heal.
I remembered an old writing task:
5 things that make me happy:
**Yes writing is on my happy list because I love words with a passion.
- Nature: Birdsong and watching birds cavort in the garden – especially the wattlebirds feeding on the grevillea and the magpies searching the ground for worms or carolling to each other from the electric wires.Birds with attitude.
- Clean sheets:- I love getting into bed between clean sheets, the smooth feel and fresh smell.
- Family: I’m happy when my daughters are – Mary Jane’s witticisms her infectious laugh; Anne’s smile lighting up her deep blue eyes and when she shares stories of her travels.
- Writing: I’m happy when the words come and I can finish a writing project.
- Friendship: I’m happy when I get a phone call from friends to chat, catch up over a coffee, drop-in for a visit, or walk along the foreshore.
In these tumultuous times, it takes increasing effort to remain positive, even more, effort to remain serene. In Life Stories & Legacies we did a writing exercise and discussed comfort and comfort zones. How much wellbeing is linked to what makes you happy:
What or who brings you comfort? Why? In what way? How often?
- A hug, (from whom? or who do you give a hug to?)
- the low vibration of a purring cat,
- the warmth of a dog
- the chirping of birds
- the smell of fresh flowers
- fuzzy slippers and a favourite housecoat/dressing gown,
- special socks
- a favourite cardigan/jumper
- a special rug/pillow
- ice cream,
- money in the bank,
- Johnny Walker or perhaps a Vodka and Orange?
- A cup of tea
- A latte/expresso/flat white/long black
- a special song on the radio/record player/CD player
- a special prayer
- quiet time in a special place – a church, a temple
- a special friend
Why do certain things make you feel comforted?
- Have you any advice for people who are stressed or may need comfort from sadness, grief, loneliness, or separation?
- Can you recite a prayer, a poem, an extract from a book, a proverb – some useful mantra?
- Have you always been able to find some comfort or was there a time when serenity was too difficult?
- What colour represents comfort to you? What sound? What taste? What place or thing?