Personal Stories: Rachel Sharpe, UK

On day one of a mindfulness course in January 2012, I didn’t realise what a journey I had begun.
Leading up to this point, life was pretty good but hectic. I was balancing a demanding career, my second Master’s degree, a calendar of social events and it was all becoming a bit much.  I’d been interested in meditation for a while but had thought that reading about it was sufficient. However, in a search to find a panacea for my increasingly stressful existence, I signed up for the mindfulness course in the hope that actual practice might help.
On day one, I was rather underwhelmed. The Japanese lady who was running the class took us through various techniques, enabling us to pay attention. The language she used seemed rather vague, the techniques too simple and I wasn’t that interested in acknowledging my chaotic mind and rapid heartbeat – didn’t she realise I had come to distance myself from these?
A couple of weeks later, I remember brushing my teeth and, rather than leaving water running down the plug hole, I turned the tap off. When I was in the supermarket, I bought less than usual. Whilst on the phone, I wasn’t multi-tasking, I was listening to the person on the other end. It was as if I’d been wearing dark glasses and they’d fallen off. With my fresh eyes, everything seemed illuminated – the so called ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This was inextricably linked to a greater awareness of God, who seemed present in everything. As the weeks progressed, it seemed to me that what I was learning only made sense in a spiritual light.
After the course finished, I decided to investigate the Christian position on meditation.
My pre-conceptions, having had limited contact with the church, were that neither would sit well together but personal experience indicated otherwise. Googling ‘Christian meditation’ led me to a WCCM young meditators’ retreat on Bere Island four weeks later to learn more. In December 2012, I was part of the Way of Peace pilgrimage to India. 
This lead me to my work today – the Director of Development (WCCM) – a position which is funded by two donors, who wish to help the community become more sustainable so its work can continue to impact lives within future generations. Over the coming years, my focus is to develop relationships with people who share the WCCM’s vision and wish to support its mission.  Every person who gifts their time, talent or financial resources helps to create foundations for the global community which ensure we are able to support the needs of poorer countries and extend our outreach to the wider world.
It seems to me that the WCCM has something very special to offer everyone.
The course I attended promoted the benefits of meditation but, in my experience, the fruits which manifest when you practice meditation in a spiritual context generate infinitely greater value. After an eight-week course, it would have been very easy for me to stop meditating. However, being part of a community has enabled me to sustain my practice over the long term whilst also developing deep friendships with people of all ages and backgrounds.
From a donor’s perspective, it’s wonderful to know that every investment in the work of the community has an ongoing impact – from the person who learns to meditate, the people they are connected to and the other ripples we may never know about.  When I visited India in 2012, I raised money for a school in Kolkata slum where I taught for a few weeks.  Being able to fund their school meals for over a year gave me, my family and friends an opportunity to directly help the world’s poorest and we were very grateful for this.  However, I couldn’t help feeling that, when the money runs out, the same situation would arise again. 
The wonderful thing about the gift we freely pass on is that the teaching remains with a person for their lifetime, whatever their circumstances, and goes to the very root of many social problems which we’re facing. 
‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’ – CS Lewis
This quote perfectly captures my experience which began two years ago. Being able to see more clearly isn’t always pleasant – I’ve never been more aware of my faults and failings. But, with the grace of God, I don’t feel these uncomfortable aspects are for me alone to resolve – I know that a much greater power is at work in my heart. I am extremely fortunate to have encountered Christian meditation at a relatively young age and am excited about life, now that it’s firmly rooted in what matters most. What’s more, I feel privileged to be spending my time working to help others receive this truly life-changing gift.
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