Category Archives: prayer

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?

We Practice Listening

Last Sunday I got to tell a story about listening.  The gist of the story was that Love/Truth/God is something that is always available to us if we stop and notice and listen.  2016-10-09-12-34-49We experience this in the depth of our hearts, in relationship with others, through the gifts of nature, through stories, song and poetry and through the gathered community when people come together for service or worship.  Each way to experience had a section of underlay all it’s own separated partially by popsicle sticks.  After introducing each I said the refrain, “We practice listening.  We listen with our whole selves”.

Listening seems simple enough, but, like meditation, it’s harder than it seems to truly listen.  This is because it asks of us the same quality of presence that we use in meditation.  There is a person here speaking.  As soon as we start composing our response or associating about when that happened to us, we have ceased to be present.  I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of listening to another and missing what was just said as our attention wandered off to our own thoughts.  We maybe even appeared to be listening, but we weren’t really there.

I know from my work as a Spiritual Director and from my experience with friends and family that truly being in a moment by moment listening presence is  rare.  When we find those rare people who can simply be with us, listening, to whatever comes, it is a profound gift.  That moment requires receptivity and acceptance that isn’t found easily in daily life.  Most of the time we listen to others and they listen to us in order to try to teach, help, fix, analyze and advise us.  These interactions can be helpful, but how often are we allowed and offered the space to be exactly where, who and what we are in the moment?

And if we have such difficulty truly and deeply listening to each other, how can we listen to/for that Infinite Mystery we sometimes call God?  Where is the presence of Love in our beloved community?  Where is the presence of Truth in our sacred stories about people who have tried to live in faith and love?  Where is God in the gifts of the natural world that touch us through our body?  Where is the Mystery in our encounter with any other person, with our own deep heart?  And how do we come close with that formless and unimaginable Beyond that always just is?  When we start listening in any of these arena’s, when we come into awareness or silence to simply notice and look for Love/Truth/God, we start to find it everywhere.

When wondering together, many of our children decided the best and most important part of our story was the gathered community where we come and listen for God together.  2016-10-09-12-35-32In our story, that special place of community is where we turn into God’s presence for each other and the world.  I reminded them that our Spirit Play class IS the gathered community.  They were amazed.  It was beautiful for our children to understand that this story is our story too, right now.  Our last question is always if there is anything we can take out of our story and still have all the story we need.  This question is especially hard for this age group, but in this class, one child said the dividers between the ways we experience listening for God could be taken away.  How wise, I thought.  Yes, truly that could be taken away and we would still have all the story we need.

At the 9 o’clock service we came to the part of the Embracing Meditation when we are invited to offer aloud or hold in the silent sanctuary of our hearts, the names of those we want to hold in worship.  The usual low mumble of voices faintly rose and one very loud clear voice saying, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t quite catch that.  You’ll have to try again”, issuing from someone’s cell phone.  Since listening was on my mind I wondered about this seeming random occurrence.  Since the embracing meditation is usually the only place in our service where the whole gathered community is invited to use their individual voices I wondered how we are listening to each other in that moment, how we are listened to by the presence of God we embody for one another?  I wonder today what it looks like in our lives to remove the barriers between our experience to make our encounter of Life seamless and focused on listening for the Love/Truth/God in each moment in everything.  What if our personal practice, our worship, our family time, our commute, our activism, our teaching was all one experience of listening for Love/Truth/God and then speaking back into the world as the Presence of that Love/Truth/God?  In our story when we stop to listen and connect with Love/Truth/God, we gain clarity on who to be, what to do and how to love.  It starts in every moment.  It starts now.  We practice listening.  We listen with our whole selves.

Give us this Day

This has been an intense season of change in my life.  Last spring I started studying with a meditation teacher after a synchronistic meeting.  I had already been engaged in a meditation practice- survival meditation as I thought of it.  I did not start meditating to enhance my life, or because I thought it was something I should do as a spiritual person.  I started meditating because I felt like if I didn’t, I might just lose myself in the Universe and be unable to manage being alive.  And my practice deepened further when my healer/teacher withdrew from my life.  By last spring I was ready to get some guidance and focus to stabilize and enhance what I was already doing.  The method I studied was a hindu/yogic style practiced and taught by Paramahansa Yogananda.  As soon as I began the techniques of this path, something happened that surprised me, but maybe shouldn’t have.

Daily Bread

Daily Bread

Jesus returned to me.  I think this happened for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I had not engaged in devotional prayer for a very very long time and praying that way brought me back to practices I had engaged in many years before as a serious disciple of Jesus.  Secondly, well, Jesus and I had a thing.  We had a deep and committed relationship until I up and left him in the late 90’s.

Since Jesus came to me again, I have found myself closing a large circle in my life.  I find myself feeling comfortable thinking of myself as Christian….almost.  I have found a few Christian mystics who feel like my tribe and my people, something I searched for with very little success early in my life.  I find myself reading the Bible again with eyes opened in a very different way than they ever have been.  Jesus and I made up.

I am in the midst of transition where I cannot see what will happen next and it seems terrifying at times.  I would never ever have thought I would find myself praying something as traditional as the Lord’s Prayer, but I seem to be profoundly coming back home in an alive and authentic way that has included saying and appreciating this prayer….almost.  Some things about Christianity still chafe.  The almost exclusive referencing of God as male, the literalism that sometimes dominates reading of biblical text, and especially the institutional atrophy that has reduced some churches to rote supporters of a social status quo.  All of that feels dead.  However, there is a reason the Lord’s Prayer is said so frequently.  I incorporated it back into my personal prayer mostly for the line, “Give us this day our daily bread”  which I feel is another way of recognizing that the whole Universe is a gift running through my hands and doesn’t belong to me at all.  And yet, in this moment, I have everything I need and so much more.

It is hard for me to pray this prayer without modification.  It holds powerful truth, but for me it also holds some pain.  So, what does one do?  Retranslate.

Here is my Lord’s Prayer that I’m trying on in the morning and evening:

Source of all Love, in this eternal now,
may your Presence be honored.
Align all life with your Life and bring us all into awareness of our belonging as we realize the truth of our oneness with you.
Gift us all the resources we need each day.  Transform our brokenness with the generosity of your healing love as we extend healing love to one another.
Please do not keep us in darkness, but redeem our trials with new life.

This practice is breathing new life into me that I could never have imagined for myself.  I hope as you read along, it offers you an invitation to new life as well.

What are the resources you need this day?