This afternoon’s field trip is an experiment in urban spirituality. You will spend a couple of hours in Manchester city centre following a particular spiritual exercise. The aim is to see if and how the urban setting might become a doorway to spiritual insight.
At the heart of each of the exercises is the need to attend, in other words to became aware by giving yourself to a particular aspect of life in the city. The art of attending is a core element of classic spirituality. This applies whether we are thinking of one of the Christian spiritual traditions, the traditions of other faiths, or more broadly spirituality by way of aesthetic experience.
To discern we must attend, give ourselves to the object of our attention. The question that you will each be asked to carry with you at all times throughout the experiment is, “What am I experiencing?”
In other words the retreat was essentially an exercise in meditation. We sought to attend to various aspects of city-centre life - the artefacts, the built environment, the people. Judging by the feedback most of the participants appreciated it.
I'm blogging about this as a way of offering the resources that I developed for the retreat to any who might be interested. If you happen to live in the Manchester area they will provide you with all you need for a semi-structured afternoon of urban meditation. If you are not fortunate enough to live round here they might provide a template for doing something similar in your own neck of the woods. Just drop me a line.
Others offering urban retreats include The Church Urban Fund and their Retreat on the Street. Sounds well worth checking out.