Category Archives: gratitude

We are the story, we are the gift

What a gift!

The year has begun and as we move into the pace of fall, we re-gather our community of practitioners in Spirit Play.  Our first story was an introduction to the classroom.  “Let’s pretend that we are the story and let’s hear about the gifts our church has given us”.  In the story we tell the children that being in Spirit Play is like being in their birthday and that the classroom materials are gifts for them and our other Spirit Play friends to use.  This is true.  And it is true that the real gifts are all of us together, learning and practicing wonder, play and love.  Each child brings the gift of their being.  Each adult brings the gift of their being. We come together with intention to learn and grow.  We come to be in relationship.

The sermon in church was about being called and compelled to your vocation.  We each carry within us a gift for the world.  We are called by Life to bring the best of ourselves to our living.  When we live in this way, we create the world in which we are a gift and where life gives us gifts in return.  Where are we called and compelled?  Do we respond with joy or resistance?  Do we hear the calling at all in this busyness that is so much of our day to day?

On Sunday I was aware that these children are a gift to me, that the teachers are a gift to me, that the staff and the congregation at Unity are gifts to me.  I don’t always remember this.  Sometimes I enter the space and just need to get my kids there on time, just need to stay centered when they protest and resist.  Sometimes as I cry in worship, as I do most weeks, I feel a little self conscious and want to hide out and be noticed all in the same moment.  I forget.  I forget my belonging.  I forget that this is my community and we are there to learn and grow.  I am called and compelled in my life to remember this all the time and to remind others.  I want to remember that there are journey guides and helpers to receive my children.  I want to remember that my tears are given space to be and are noticed during worship.

This moment is pure gift, my work is gift, the people I am in community with are a gift, my breath is a gift.  All of everything is a gift.  It’s a little overwhelming to sit with the truth of it; to sit in the grateful knowing that there is so much possible.

I come to class partly to remember.  I come to be a gift and to receive.  I come to practice love, to practice church.  I come to create and experience my belonging.  Listen?  What is your gift?  Where is Life calling you?

 

On the Edge

No edges?

This Sunday I was on edge.  It maybe started even before I began my day.  The service left me in tears several times.  It was just that kind of day.  Janne preached about praying for each other, to be really for each other, not just with each other.  It made me wonder about my place in church.  I do pray.  The formless void silent meditation kind and the kind where I put voice to my intentions.  I hold your children in my prayer, for their joys and sorrows and for the inspiration and challenges they bring me.  Sometimes you are in my prayers whether I know you or not, intending for your great good and the realization of your beauty and wholeness.  I wondered though, who might be praying for me?  And like I said, I was on edge.

The edge for me on Sunday was that feeling of separation that is illusory, but sometimes feels real.  I was the only one signed up to teach and didn’t know who else might come.  I had a strange interaction with my co-parent in the parish hall that made me wonder if I was missing something.  I thought about the worship associate who spoke of friends and strangers helping her in a time of need and wondering why I was so hesitant to ask for that help last year when I was in need.  It was because I was on the edge.

It seemed like it took me the whole day to come back from that edge.  Two teachers showed up to help me practice spirit play.  When I got home I journaled and came up with a list of people in our community who are praying for me, if not in a formal way, in an informal way without a doubt.  A subsequent conversation with my co-parent brought us back into balance and I remembered and was grateful for all those friends and strangers who did show up and help me when I was in need.  I came back home in myself; back into right relationship.

There was a gift on the edge in addition to all the gifts I found when I moved away from it.  We had a wiggly class on Sunday and the children had a hard time listening to the story.  They could hardly make it through the wondering questions.  When I asked them, they would give me answers like, “nothing in this story was the best part”.  And then other kids would parrot that answer.  At one point I stopped and told the class that I was feeling sad that they weren’t participating thoughtfully and asked them to please participate with their whole selves.  When the next child made the flip answer that nothing in the story was important, I looked at her and asked her again.  And her eyes wavered.  And she looked at the story.  And she answered the question.  A small bit of connection.  A small meeting right at the edge.

I am grateful to be a part of our community.  I am grateful to work with adults and children to explore the joys and struggles of life.  I am grateful that I am a part of this whether I feel myself on the edge or not.  It is wonderful to move away from that space and realize it was just something inside of me seeing separation and that the more true story is that I was totally surrounded by love and connection the whole time.  This realization turns this story from separation into invitation.  Who else is on the edge here at Unity?  How do we reach out and remind them that we are connected and not alone?  A potent question for me in this political landscape.  Who is on the edge?  Can we invite them into connection?  What story do we want to create?

Too Tired to Play

These past weeks have been a whirlwind.  Even contemplative minded folks can get overwhelmed by the many demands of life and forget to pause, reflect and simply be.  This has been my last few weeks in Spirit Play.  There is so much to do.  I have found that the change in our curriculum from our regular stories into reading books to the children is both sad to me and a relief.  I feel none of us get as much out of the book reading as we do with our regular stories with objects to act them out.  And, I have also been relieved that I can come with less preparation than usual.  There is no story to try to memorize for another week.  I can just come.  I can just read.

Last week in Spirit Play we were talking again about families.  This time we specifically talked about families who have adopted someone.  I read through the books and wondered with the children and dismissed them to their work.

I had a chant running through me that day so I sat witnessing and observing the play happening around me occasionally humming to myself.  I actually felt very connected to the children and joyful.  And also very tired.  One child used the nesting blocks to stack into a tower.  She found ways to stack large blocks onto little blocks by stacking them sideways making spaces in her tower that were open to one side and into which another block fit.  We stacked together in silence.  I handed her boxes and she handed me boxes and we stacked till things fell and then stacked again, and again.  We made sculptures and towers and nests and spaces.

Inside I was chanting to myself, “Listen, listen, listen to my heart’s song.  Listen, listen, listen to my heart’s song.  I will never forget you.  I will never forsake you. I will never forget you.  I will never forsake you.”  Over and over.  Last week my heart just needed to rest.  It was good to rest.  I found rest in observing the classroom.  I found rest in the silent dance of building and re-building.  It was enough.  It was beautiful.  I am happy to have found for that moment, a place of acceptance in being easy on myself and letting myself simply be.  When I forget that open space and focus on what I do (or more often, what I haven’t gotten done) it can feel like my heart is out of place, like it isn’t welcome.  I want to bring my heart into belonging.  I want my whole self to be like the families we have been learning about…to be all one because of love.  I want to honor my doing and honor my resting.  I want to choose my heart and choose my work.  I want to relish my rest as much as my accomplishments.

I am so grateful to be with our children in a space of openness and exploration where we can listen to our own and each others’ hearts.  That’s one way our church is a family for each other…to welcome each others’ heart songs and encourage each other in the dance of doing/being and belonging.

Practicing Gratitude

This has felt like a long week.  I am tired.  I feel as though I could look back and sigh and simply walk to my bed and sleep.  I feel as if I’m half asleep already.  So I look back instead and re-focus my weary eyes on the week.  I was able to join several other Spiritual Directors and friends from my graduate program for a retreat on Saturday.

2015-07-31 18.19.29It felt good to be surrounded by “my people”.  I experienced inspiration and connection that was sustaining and life giving.  I had enough voice the next day teach my Spirit Play children and  to lead a webinar for facilitators of Lutheran Volunteer Corps who are bringing spirituality programming to intentional communities across the country.  I am grateful I could speak.  I am grateful that I am able to offer this guidance on a small scale in my classroom and a national level to an organization that has been so important in my own journey.

I am grateful that I could spend 3 days this week teaching with the Center for Congregational Spirituality.  Again, my voice held and I had the chance to guide and be in relationship with clergy and other Spiritual Directors trying to bring group spiritual direction into congregational life.  I am grateful that mid week I was able to join a friend in listening to a spiritual teacher inspire and remind us to be our truest, best, most loving self in the world.  Yesterday I was grateful for professional guidance from others as I contemplated finances and my daughter’s cavities.  Today I am grateful that I had time to cuddle my children, time to do a few little projects around the house and grateful that I got to lead a beautiful group experience.

Mostly though, this week, I am grateful for love.  I am grateful that each day I feel love, I know love and I find it in myself to give love.  This is what makes my tired self, here at the end of the day and the end of the week sigh with a smile on my face and a serene trust in my heart.  Things may be intense in this time of transition and transformation.  They may sometimes feel like every cell is being rearranged painfully, but there is life…there is Life through it all and I am lucky and miraculously blessed to be living it.

Being the Door (Teacher)

My favorite roll in my Spirit Play class is that of the door teacher.  It’s hard to explain what to do in this role.  The teacher takes on a particular presence of hospitality and loving witness.  It might not look like the door teacher is doing much during class.  They just sit by the door.

The Sacred Doorway

The Sacred Doorway

But really, they are a living threshold between the known and unknown, between our physical sacred space and the rest of the building, between the Mystery beyond and this tangible eternal present moment.  If I imagined peeking through a key hole into the door teacher, this is what I dream her internal process might be like.

“First a breath for myself -to be fully here and ready.  I open my lungs, my eyes and my heart.  I am ready.

Good morning child.  Wait.  Stop.  You are here.  You have arrived.  Take a moment to catch up with yourself.  There is no rush.  Take a moment to stand here and look in my eyes.  Your name tag and your coat are not as important as stopping here for just a minute so you can fully experience my joy that you are here.  We are here together!

Now that your coat is hung and your name tag on, you can say goodbye to your parents.  Tell me friend.  Are you ready?  Are you ready to walk down that hall and enter a holy space?  Are you ready to listen and to work and to play?  If you are ready, then you are free to enter.  Please go into our room.  Sit on our rug.  Join the storyteller to prepare for our story.  If you are not ready, then please sit here next to me.  Sit here in my safety and love; in the still point between being gifted to us for our class and your own choice to enter.  You can stay with me as long as you would like.

My children are here.  My children are getting ready.  I embody the closing of the door, the creation of our sacred circle of safety and delight.  Our class has begun.

I sit here by the physical door.  If the circle is too much, if you find you cannot get ready, I am waiting to receive you.  Here next to me you can hide if you need to.  You can grow calm in the presence of my calm.  I am serene, beaming my love into our room, witnessing wiggles and miracles and each beautiful being who has joined us today.  I witness unexpected kindness.  I witness conflict.  I witness insight.  I witness the whole human drama played out right in this one room.  The circle of our community is playing within my beating heart and before my wondering eyes.  The children have walked through my open heart door and dwell there for our learning time.  This is meditation.  This is practice.  I am listening with my whole self.

And then the time comes for the children to get centered again on the rug, to end their formal sacred play with us.  I bless this room and say a silent gratitude for each of these souls, present and transformed today.  I open the door, open the seal of our class and resume my post, ready to send you all out into the world again, changed and loved.

Good morning.  Your parent is here.  You are ready to be on your way to whatever your day holds.  But wait.  Stop.  You are making a crossing.  Take a moment to stop in this doorway, to look in my eyes and receive a blessing.  I am so happy that you were here with me today.  My love goes with you until we see each other again.  Your heart and mine have touched today and neither will be the same again.

The last child is gone.  I take another moment, to breathe, to close my eyes and  feel my heart.  I feel the affect of this love, of all the love that moves between us.  I see that we are the same.  I see that we are different.  I practice seeing you as you are.  I practice seeing myself as I am.  We are Light and Glory and we are Muddled and Distracted.  I practice being love and doing church with all that we are.

I forgive myself my inattention, my slips, my mistakes made today.  I dedicate this practice of teaching to the increase of Love and Life everywhere in the Universe.

May it be so.  May it be so!

Open your hearts door teachers!  Feel what it is to be love and be loved.  May the threshold that you are move you deeper into your own integrity, service and joy.

Do I Know You?

Today I had the lovely opportunity to meet a new person who does incredible artistic work.  She obviously pours her soul- her whole self- into her work and the work pours itself back into her, a mutually sustaining practice.

Labyrinth- Holding on and Letting go

Labyrinth- Holding on and Letting go

I find that the more I engage my own soul purpose, more of these people appear in my path.  They inspire me, help me and show me that the life I can’t quite dream up for myself is indeed possible.  I find myself feeling recognition when I meet a soul which has found it’s beautiful and unique expression.  For Marilyn, who I met today, her healing, her medicine, her work is creating Labyrinths.  She spread several out on her floor.  She had gorgeous paper paintings on the wall with beautiful designs.  One of them was a butterfly pattern in a circle of blue and white.  The circle border was the path leading into the contour of the wings.  She stood reverently before this painting, arms upraised tracing various configurations as she moved in, out and around the design.  It was beautiful and sacred to watch her.  It was like dance and worship and beauty reflecting beauty.

As I sit remembering, I am savoring the experience of simply being present with someone as they speak and dream and share about a pursuit which captures them and brings them deeper down into its mystery and our own mystery.  I appreciated her dreaming and scheming and listening as we looked at a design I hoped to incorporate.  I could see and feel the creative spirit moving through her.  She had me walk a new design that was a long rectangle so it could be used in a hallway.  At the end/center of the path, she had drawn concentric arches that invited one into a threshold instead of an ending.  Standing in the several thresholds of that path, I was moved to say, “yes” with every step to remind me that I am choosing to walk into the center of everything.  I am choosing my own dying, my own birth.  And we had opportunity to sit in some silence, a gift for her she said.  The silence is rich.  It is one more threshold.

So tonight I am grateful.  I am grateful to see the Beloved, the Divine Friend in the eyes and the art and the work of another.  I am grateful that my own reflection in their presence brings me into my own holy center, from where my love and my art and my work emerge.  I am not only grateful to Marilyn, but also to the many many countless people who have gifted me with their deep selves.  Some of them have shared their work, their story, some a simple gaze that speaks more profoundly than anything.  We are present here together in this beautiful, difficult, wonderful and amazing world.  We are gifts for one another.  I thank the Universe to be witness to such unfolding Light as it is constantly born among us.  I thank the Love beyond all Love that I can look around and meet so many eyes and think, “Oh yes, I know you.  I recognize you.”

Fists full of Blessings

Last week in my Spirit Play class, one of the children was working with the Celebration of New Lives story.

Blessed by Earth and Water

Blessed by Earth and Water

This has been a popular story to work with in our class.  The baby dolls in the story have been amply blessed with water and dirt making some fantastically muddy babies.  The blessing by beauty takes place with a rose that is gently stroked down the baby’s cheek in our church’s ritual.  We have enough artificial flowers for all the children in our room and I observed this child as she held big bunches of those flowers gripped in each hand and vigorously blessed the doll she was working with.  She blessed the doll so enthusiastically she literally swept it across the floor with her flower bunches.  It rolled over and over being tumbled and swept away by beauty.

I wondered about this encounter with beauty.  Are there ever times when I am that moved by something beautiful?  Would an encounter like that be profoundly disorienting?  Would I want to encounter a blessing like that?  I have also lately been thinking about where in my own journey I am a little too serious and could use a little humor.  Well placed humor can completely change the energy of a tense or sad situation sometimes allowing us to move through those emotions with a little more ease.  So I wondered again what this kind of encounter with beauty might look and feel like.  I remember as a child being in the bright sun and rolling down grassy hills.  The feeling of spinning and rolling and getting faster until I either rolled to the bottom or flung my arms out wide to stop myself.  I remember laughing and being dizzy and enjoying that feeling of, well, of disorientation I suppose.  Not something I tend to enjoy as an adult.  But I imagined that if I was the baby being swept by flowers, that the flowers may even tickle and it might be a great delight to be surrounded by the scent and softness of petals.  I might find it enjoyable to be rolled along.  I might laugh.

I thought about the blessings of that moment in class.  I am grateful to have had the presence to observe this play without getting distracted by the mess of the earth and water blessing.  I am glad I did not try to shut down the active blessing with the flowers.  I could simply delight in the moment and ponder it.  That’s spiritual growth for me!  I also thought about those astounding blessings we receive in our lives like close friends, the kindness of another when we feel alone, the gift of self acceptance and compassion; some are so generous and profound that we hardly have words to articulate our gratitude or their importance to us.  In that profound and ordinary moments where words can fail, maybe laughter is the only adequate response to our blessings.

Someone Should Start Laughing

Today I was sitting with beautiful poetry by Hafiz-

“I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question
What is God?
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening
Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing-
Now!”

Angel buddies

Angel buddies

 I admit that I tend toward the serious.  I tend toward the gravity of “important things” and I have been reminded as of late that humor can be a blessing to move us toward flexibility and love.  

I worked with a couple this week who agreed to try something new instead of having that same old argument.  They decided to use a code word and then to make up a spontaneous song each before proceeding with their agendas.  They decided to take the opportunity to play with the edges of difficulty.

True that my journey right now sometimes feels like prying my hands open to let go and to receive.  And true that my instinct is to buckle down and really let go….to chant my litany again and again.  Tonight I want to remember the absurdity of this habit in me.  

Tonight I want to look at my earnest little self striving to let go well enough, and bust a gut instead. What abundance do I lose sight of when I’m busy working on letting go?  What brilliant lie do I tell myself when I claim it is possible to surrender well enough?  Tonight I can find the humor in my small vision.  I am surrounded by love.  I am love.  I am gifted with an absolutely absurd bounty of blessings.  Maybe all I need is to laugh and say thank you.  Maybe I need to let the Sun and the Ocean be the truth of me without having to do anything at all.  Maybe that is all the generosity I need.

Letting Go

New Year’s Eve I spent at my yoga studio chanting, meditating, practicing asana and reflecting on the year passing and the year to come.  This year has been one of shifting sands, of letting go.  It has

Flower blessing

Flower blessing

been a year of chaos and disintegration.  What am I attached to?  Even after so much falling apart, I find myself in a reflexive grip as I anticipate a deeper undoing heading my way.

I have been struggling to stay balanced and sit with those forces and pressures that incite fear.  I have been realizing another layer of attachment and trying to let go….attempting surrender again and again.

I have added to my meditation each night a short litany of things I find myself fearful about and reminding myself that none of it is mine.  “This work belongs to the Universe.  It is a gift to me in this present moment”.

I know there is truth in trusting in this moment and not getting outside of it.  I know it.  And what a challenge to live completely fully alive in this now.  But tomorrow?  “Tomorrow belongs to the Universe.  I open my hands.”  And my small self wonders just what I am doing…it all seems foolish to let tomorrow worry about itself.  My small self wants to sit in the illusion of safety, plans and control…which are not truth and won’t actually keep me safe, calm chaos or make anything happen in the way I desire.

At the end of our rituals and practices on New Year’s Eve, our teachers brought out the offerings of fruit and flowers we had brought to share.  There were several bouquets, many piles of fruit and we stood in a circle, strangers and friends and picked an item out of the center and gifted it to someone.  This was a beautiful ritual of generosity and letting go.  I first let my fruit and flowers go into the communal collection and then I selected things I had brought, things I had not brought and gave them away to whoever had empty hands.  Someone gifted me a pomegranate, a treat and a gift I had hoped would come to me.  Someone gifted me flowers and a willow branch.  The Universe gifted it all to us, and we gathered and gave it to each other.  My prayer is to let go as gracefully of my own knowing, my sense of security, my vision of what “should” be, my life as I know it now.  All those things I easily put a my in front of because I feel attached to them.  May I gracefully gift the “my” to a Love larger than me.  May I empty and open my hands to receive what I cannot imagine from here.

 

What pent up wildness have you released?

” At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of things that save us.  Sometimes salvation can come as much from freedom and letting go as from creation.  What pent up wildness have you released?  How has that saved you or someone else” -Order of Service, Christmas Eve

Release

Release

Solstice, Christmas, New Years.  All of these holidays turn my introspective self even deeper inwards.  As I sat in the service Christmas Eve and contemplated the questions above, I was filled with gratitude.  I was overwhelmed by gratitude.  I’m not going to lie, it’s been a hard year.  It’s been a year of feeling everything from despair to ecstasy.  It’s been a year of giving up things that once were life giving.  It’s been a year of opening my hands to let things fall apart, flow through and disintegrate.  And it has been the restructuring and nurturing the new wild imagination that has been ignited in my heart. It has been a year of healing.  It has been a year of reunion and connection.  It has been a year of reaching far outside of myself and deep into myself at the same time.

I had a difficult conversation once with my father; one in a string of difficult conversations about faith.  He wanted to know what I believed about Jesus.  He wanted to know if I believed Jesus saved me, was the Savior.  The answer was true for me then and now, but unsatisfying for my father.  I believe that if we take the teachings and actions of Jesus seriously and model our lives after it, we are saved from many many things.  Above all, this year has been about bringing myself into greater alignment with the Source of All.  I have been working and praying and acting with intention to bring forth the unique work that I have been put on earth to carry out.  It saves me every day, this work.  It saves my hope and vision for the world, for my children.  It saves me from giving up in the face of violence, hatred and division.  I have released my heart into the world and this saves me every day.  And it breaks me open over and over.  It brings me to tears in the face of horror and the face of beauty.  It changes the whole world.  It changes everything.