It was a family Sunday last week and the sanctuary at 9am was full of families. My children were off for the weekend camping with their Dad and as I made my way to worship, a parent asked if I would accompany their child to worship so they could go teach our spirit play children who were gathering for class downstairs. “Yes”, I said. And “Yes”, said my heart. This child had been in my spirit play class a few years ago and we talked about that and about how I looked very familiar to him. We sat together and when KP told us a story about the first being last, my friend joined the crowd and afterwards made his way to class. I sat in the warmth of community. This is the community that I want at Unity and I had just been able to participate in it’s creation. So many layers of yes.
I went downstairs myself pondering and wondering about the lesson, the second in our life cycle series. I was curious and excited because one of our teachers had played around with the story and was presenting it creatively. I smiled to hear that the story went well. I listened in a different way.
The moment of class that stuck with me however was the circle time at the beginning. We always sing and greet one another and then we go around the circle to share our joys and sorrows. The storyteller this week decided to begin in the opposite direction of our usual flow. Right away our insightful children reminded her that we usually go the other direction. I know one of them, at least, had picked her seat hoping to go first. The storyteller explained that this time we would go this direction and next time we could go the other direction. Since I had just heard KP’s story, I observed this moment closely. There was some delight on the part of the children who unexpectedly got to share first. There was some disappointment and protest from those who thought they had secured the first spot, but ended up being the last to share.
I identify with both positions. While I hardly ever position myself hoping to be first, sometimes when I have been very excited to lead and share, I too have felt the disappointment of feeling passed over. The practice for me when this happens is to try to stay out of my story about what it means to meet a reality different from my expectations and to trust that everything is ok, no matter when my turn comes. This has taken some practice. Most of the time I can hear the voice in me grumbling about how my insight was so wonderful and it wasn’t honored in the way I wanted. I hear it grumble in anger about how it isn’t fair that I didn’t get my way. And I let it go. This is easier on days where I am rested, secure and calm. It is much harder when I’m tired, hungry or cold. It takes practice to let go. I want to practice this skill because those voices block out my ability to listen to whoever is going first. The grumbles remove me from the present moment. They definitely aren’t supporting me in living my life in integrity, service and joy. And so I practice gracefully letting go so I can stay here inside what’s happening and witness the life that is always emerging.
While I frequently find myself going last, I occasionally find myself first in an unexpected way. This can feel just as disorienting as its opposite. I have sometimes felt put on the spot or unsure when I have been invited into the first place. The practice for me when this happens is to try to stay out of my story about what people expect of me when I’m first and to trust that everything is ok, even if I’m surprised. This takes even more practice. I far more often get swept away by these voices who push at me and tell me that I need to be quick and wise and step up. They tell me that others are watching and listening and so this better be good. I hear these stories and I try to let them go. On good days I can do it, on challenging days, sometimes not. I have learned to take a breath and take extra time when I’m suddenly first. I give myself permission to pass. I want to let go of the voice because, again, it blocks out my ability to be present in this moment with all it’s invitation and openness. I practice gracefully letting go.
I am playing with this idea lately about the relationship between the world as it is and my response to it. I am striving for that place of non-attachment, or active indifference which finds center and opens to life unfolding as it is. It is an attitude that attempts to remain in the present moment no matter what that moment offers. How can I rest in being primarily and be first or last secondly? How can I rest in being primarily and be present to what is surprising or unexpected? How can I be grounded and joyful, first, last and everywhere in between? I’ll keep practicing. When I do it gets easier and I build the trust that I am ok in every moment and it’s ok to be really present here all the time.