Category Archives: surrender

And the First shall be Last

Joys and Sorrows

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.

Show up Flexible

Building a yes

It’s a new year.  I have been happily anticipating moving from the storyteller role into the door teacher role.  Thankfully another teacher really wanted to tell the story consistently throughout the spring.  And so when I showed up to class two weeks ago and again last week to absence, I found myself looking at my own expectations.  This is a big part of my journey in Spirit Play and shows up in many different ways.  It’s that moment when you show up with one idea and then something totally different happens.

And so I came to class having not prepared to tell the story and then needed to decide how to meet the moment.  Since I taught the story role all last year, I knew the stories, or at least their basic outlines and after a quick consultation with my fellow teachers, I assumed the storyteller role.  I can imagine another time where this quick change would have un-centered me and where I would have been disappointed.  I can hear the old script in my head creating unhappiness because I wanted something different to happen.  Things didn’t go my way.  But, they did go a way and gratefully, I was able to go the way that the moment was going.  This is that moment of “yes” that improv is famous for.  The rule is to say yes to whatever story line is presented to you and continue on.  This is a spiritual principle too.  To accept the present moment as it is allows one a certain peace and freedom.

This aspect of flow or allowing the fullness of the moment is also an aspect of delightful play.  How many times have we heard our children build a story by saying yes to each other and, of course, heard tears and protests when the action of play is stopped by a no.  How wonderful to be in that opening and surprising place of being able to say yes.  I have a friend who works in a middle school.  There are many times where she needs to say no in her work.  Instead of no, she is trying to say, “yes, and….”.  She says that this sometimes works beautifully, calling both parties into a creative process rather than a power struggle.

In our spirit play class, we try to wonder in the spirit of yes.  We try to gently call each other into respectful speech and action by finding the yes in the situation we’re in.  We try to say yes when we show up to what we don’t expect.  We try to find some kind of yes so that we can fully experience what is unfolding and don’t get stuck seeing everything through a lens of disappointment or resistance.  Where do you find yourself in a space of yes?  When you want to say no, is there a way to play around to find a hidden yes?

All These Alters

This Sunday in Spirit Play we told the story of Many Paths to the Mountain.  It is a story about 5 travelers who are all traveling to the mountain, but are each convinced that their way is the only best way.

The Alter Path

The Alter Path

When they all reach the top, they celebrate and share stories of their many adventures.  This year I have arranged my schedule so that I am able to attend worship and teach so when I came to class I had Rob’s sermon ringing in my mind.  He preached on the story of Abraham bringing Isaac to the mountain to be sacrificed, a difficult story to plumb.

I also could not help but have KP’s words ringing in my mind from our teacher training where he spoke of alters as places of burning, a place where we are undone.  He challenged us to accompany our children in a way that opens our hearts to vulnerability and risk, to be in an authentic place of journey with one another as we engage in the spiritual practice of teaching and learning together.

As I sat by the door breathing and witnessing I found myself tearing up as the Storyteller introduced each path.  One traveler picked the forrest path to face fear, the next picked the desert path to encounter austerity.  One picked the rocky path to test endurance and worthiness, one picked the river path so they would be refreshed for the journey and the last picked a path through cities, so they could have community along the way.  All the paths brought the respective travelers to the destination.  How many times have I picked the path of my journey from obligation and fear?  And still there is something to learn.  What path do I choose now?

And what are these paths?  Maybe they too are alters.  Maybe each path to each traveler is so important that they must give themselves over to it so that the path itself becomes the encounter with the sacred, that the traveler surrenders to it in a way that irrevocably changes/alters the person walking it.  What path do you choose to give yourself to?  This is serious business, this journey.

And then there are the children, our children.  Before our story, we brought the children into the sanctuary to witness the Celebration of New Lives that we had just talked about the week before.  And there was another dedication.  These parents are promising to bring their children to us, to Unity, to our community.  A community which seeks to make the beloved community real.  And we promised to love these babies as they grow.  We have given ourselves over to that path and their parents have given them to us.  And this happens at least each week as we give our children to this community to learn together, to discover our truth and our path, and to walk it with as much engagement and awareness as we can.  Who knows what happens next?

Our youth just won an award for their dedication to Black Lives Matter.  For our youth, participating in this movement for justice is the path that they have chosen.  Whether chosen from a deep yes, or from a place of inner obligation it has brought them into a beautiful and dangerous journey of love.  It has brought them to the 4th precinct.  It has brought them hand in hand into community.  We love these children, our children.  We offer them over and over to this path with fear and trembling and pride.  Their path is the depth of love and the flame in the chalice of our hearts that we cannot resist, that we must give ourselves over to.

When asked at teacher training to name a value we hold and an example of being undone by it, I answered that I deeply believe that all children should be loved and feel a sense of belonging.  I am undone by this all the time and I come to our Spirit Play classroom partly to know and fiercely love our children.  My work is to see them, to notice them, to let them know that their presence is a joy and a delight; and to let them know I missed them when they have been gone.  This is a path I give myself to.  As I teared up in class, one of our children put his hand on my hand.  He put his hand on my shoulder.  On an alter so important, in work so sacred, it is a relief to know we’re not alone.  We are on this beautiful and dangerous path all together hand in hand.

I Would be Fed

After traveling and Easter and spring break, I was back in my classroom this week.  Our story was the “Life Cycle of the Human Being”.  We looked at pictures of people in different stages of life and thought about how we weren’t two any more.  All of us are much older than that now!  We talked about all the many things we can do now that we couldn’t do when we were two.  It’s a lot of things, even for those of us who are only three.

2016-04-21 14.08.50After our story we took time as we always do, to wonder together.  We always ask, “If you were something or someone in this story, who or what would you be?”  One of my children answered that she would be the person being fed.  I had to clarify because part of the life cycle lesson is a baby being fed and completing the cycle by showing an elderly person being fed.  “Which person being fed are you?  The old person or the baby?”  “Both”, she said.

This answer struck me.  Probably it caught my attention because I tend to be the person feeding and not the person being fed.  That was even part of the focus of the lesson.  We can do so much as we grow.  We can keep learning and our hearts can keep growing even when our bodies reach their full height and start shrinking again.  We can do.  We can grow.  I like being a do-er of many things.  I like being the leader.  I like imagining and sharing a new way.  I like growing in my thoughts and growing in compassion as I age.

So, even though I firmly believe in the value of simply being, of simply breathing, I have to admit that it’s very difficult for me to be graceful about being fed.  I am ok at exchange.  I am ok with mutuality.  I can open to receiving most of the time if I know there will be an opportunity to give back or if I have already given something first.  The pictures we witnessed together were of being fed.  Not just someone else setting dinner in front of me which they have prepared with their love and effort, but a human with a spoon in their mouth that they weren’t holding themselves.  I do not desire to be the person being fed.

It makes me a little uncomfortable to think of myself in a position where I cannot manage to get a spoon to my own mouth.  It makes me uncomfortable to think about someone sitting in front of me, loving or indifferent, feeding me.  And this discomfort is not just about the idea of physically being fed, although receiving that with grace must be a challenging practice for those who experience it.  This way of being for me is also spiritual.  It’s difficult for me to be vulnerable and admit that kind of need.  I like leading the group and asking the questions.  I like opening the space, observing and going inward.  And there are spaces in my life where I share deeply and those are a refuge.  However, I don’t often experience the kind of spiritual need that would require the equivalent of someone lifting a spoon to my soul.

I am going through significant transition in my life right now and it has highlighted to me the ways in which I struggle to stay steady, to be confident, to be unafraid and to show that face to my own self and others.  It’s hard to allow feelings of fear and doubt and anxiety to surface.  They sometimes do.  They come when someone asks a compassionate question about how I’m doing.  They come when all that emotion gets so stuck in my body that I’m in physical pain.  But I’m having a hard time welcoming my own feelings of helplessness and despair and brokenness.  When I was two, I could just cry and release every difficult feeling and the adults who loved me would hold and comfort me.  When I was two I could ask for help for everything.  These things seem to be much more difficult as an adult.  So I find that I need to keep doing my work.  I need to continue letting my children teach me what it means to surrender.  I need to remember the love inherent in the Universe that makes it ok to know when despair needs expression and company.  And I need to open, not just to giving kindness to others when they are in need, but to receiving it when I have nothing to give or am overwhelmed by the feelings that seem much bigger than me.

Who or what are you in this story?  Are you the one being fed?

 

Moving in Moving Out

Today I joined a group of women to walk an indoor labyrinth in silence.  I love community labyrinth walks.

Grow Soul Labyrinth

Grow Soul Labyrinth

Not only do you experience the twists of the path itself and it’s movement towards and away from the center, but you also meet fellow travelers, move with them, walk away from them and meet them again.  The moving bodies were a dance, were thresholds and doorways, were eyes filled with love and compassion, strangers or angels coming into presence with me.  The form of the labyrinth itself is truth that I am trying over and over to remember.  We are not lost.  We move in.  We move out.  We move in toward the center of the path, toward the center of our breath, toward the center of love and then back out as we lose our balance, step aside for another, get blurred in the lines and go back the way we came.

This week the darkness has been thick, has left me blinking and reminding myself to breathe.  The darkness has felt reassuring, then terrifying, then peaceful then empty.  I know that there are beautiful things hiding in the darkness.  I know that to sit there I need more than what I know or see.  The next moment is impenetrable.  The next moment may be a cliff edge or a warm bed of leaves in a safe place.  The next moment will change everything whether we notice or not.  The next moment will change everything.  It always does.

So tonight I am sitting in the dark, but not alone.  This transformation is only possible because of love;  because I am held in love, because I reach out, because I open myself when another’s hands find mine groping for something to hold on to.  This is the death I chose, holding hands in the dark with you, with the Universe.  I know that I cannot get lost.  I know that I am not alone.  I am moving in.  I am moving out.

A Great Need

Out
Of a great need
We are all holding hands
And climbing.
Not loving is a letting go.
Listen,
The terrain around here
Is
Far too
Dangerous
For
That
~Hafiz

Tonight I find myself in a still place.  I am pondering how to love.  I am pondering what it looks like to let go.

Letting go Love

Letting go Love

Can letting go be a gift even considering the terrain?  Can letting go as we are climbing together open the way for us to grasp another’s hand more securely?  Is there a way of loving and climbing together with our hands open, without holding on?  Or is there a way to lovingly let go with trust that someone else will be there to hold us?

Tonight I begin with me.  I am feeling grief and sadness.  I am feeling resigned.   I also have the unhelpful script running through my mind that suggests that I should not be feeling any of that.  That old voice would like me to try harder to stop the changing and shifting of life, to squelch the movement of transformation, to just stay put.  That voice is full of violence.  It is a voice of control and shame.  Tonight I choose to hold it’s hand, to tell it that it’s ok to feel all the feelings that arise.  There is nothing it could have done to avoid sorrow.  There is nothing to be done now, but to sit in the stillness with this moment and its emotions.  My total allegiance is to Life.  Come what sorrow or joy follow, it is what it is.  I choose to hold on to my self in compassion and gentleness as I live as best I can into a larger truth with love, always with love.  And today I was reminded that great grief is the truth of great love.  We wouldn’t mourn if it meant nothing, if we hadn’t opened our hearts to possibility.

I bring my intention this evening to the truth of my grief, the truth of my love.  I bring my intention to be fully alive in this moment and the next one.  I bring my intention to keep my heart open, even if it’s dangerous.  What else are we here for?

Walking through the Mighty Waters

As a part of my daily practice, I have been sitting with verses from the Christian tradition in the morning after meditation.  This morning I was sitting with a few verses from a Psalm and one verse from the Signs Gospel.

Psalm 77:17-21  The waters saw You, O God, the waters saw You and were convulsed;  the very deep quaked as well.  Clouds streamed water;  the heavens rumbled;  Your arrows flew about;  Your thunder rumbled like wheels;  lightening lit up the world;  the earth quaked and trembled.  Your way was through the sea, Your path through the mighty waters;  Your tracks could not be seen.  You led Your people like a flock in the care of Moses and Aaron.

Signs Gospel 19:17  So they took Jesus who carried the cross for himself, out to the place called Skull (known in Hebrew as Golgatha).

It always amazes me what captures me when I put two seemingly unrelated things together, how they inform and speak to one another.  This is not the first time I have had reference to the Exodus and Jesus’ crucifixion show up together and I have found deep meaning in reflecting on those two events.  Both are concrete stories illustrating transformation.  The Israelites are led out of Egypt, out of slavery and bondage into a barren wilderness.  It is here that they are provided each day the food and water they need.  It is here where they complain wondering if this wandering is better than the bondage they came from.  Moses himself never realizes the promised land of milk and honey.  I wonder for Jesus as he entered knowingly into the violence that would take his life, what his manna was in that wilderness.  The Israelites had a cloud to guide them by day and a pillar of fire by night.  What guided Jesus and gave him the strength to pass through his own barren wilderness to the cross and then into return to the Holy?  For those who believe in resurrection and transformation what must it have been like to be released by death from Jesus’ body?  Would it feel like liberation into another wilderness?  Would it feel like the fullest essence of milk and honey?

The verses from the Psalm this morning caught my attention imagining the effect on the water of seeing God.  That God was leading through this chaos, this place of creation leaving no visible tracks speaks to me about the invisible forces that move in and around us when the Sacred happens in and to us.  Everything has changed, but nothing seems to have changed.   This is another of those places that I envision as possibly terrifying, but also maybe exhilarating.  It is that same infinite point of life/death.  And in the middle of this chaos, I see Jesus, carrying his cross himself, walking consciously with love.  It makes me wonder, what is my cross?  Is it a burden and a punishment as I was taught or the threshold into milk and honey and liberation so profound that I can’t see it or imagine it?  It may just be a mystery that cannot be put into any kind of words, a way to say yes, a way to be authentic no matter the cost.  Tonight I just want to stand still for a moment, to choose again the mystery I carry.  I just want to be drenched by the waters and feel completely alive in the quaking deep and the streaming waters and the lightening.  Tonight I will let these images and words play in me and dream the trackless path till I rise in the morning to face another day of wonder and challenge.

In the Gap

Sometimes our inner leanings take us to difficult places.  It is extremely challenging to feel led in the exact opposite direction you expected and out beyond where you can imagine.  What am I doing?  Can this be right?  I know that the process of coming clear is not something I arrive at one time.  I move into that space of trust and then I get scared again and move back out.

Clarity

Clarity

This is the middle space of our transformation when we have seen something new, or tasted something that so entices and awakens us that we are utterly changed and incapable of doing what we have always done.  But we are new in this place and have not learned the new ways.  There is no going back.  When you have tasted that fruit, you cannot un-know what is now a part of you.

It hurts to struggle against the new vision; it hurts to try to be who we were.  And yet, we are blind and stumbling.  We are in the darkness trying to adjust.

I have been engaged in conversation with good friends around redeeming our shadows and the monstrous forms they take on when our small selves risk surrender and the invitation into more.  Our shadows, of course, are only broken bits of us begging to come back into the circle of our love and compassion.  I have been working with Scarcity.  She and I have been sitting with one another trying to come to terms.  I am feeding her with every kind of sincere generosity I can muster.  I am trying to let go.  I am laughing.

She is very worried about the path I’m walking.  She is very concerned about my survival.  She is wise.  I won’t survive.  This form is morphing into something else that I cannot envision.  What I know is the inner leading that has tasted something wild and sweet is driving me out of all convention.  I am being led by something much larger than myself and It wants all of me without exception.  And I am consumed with this unruly desire to give all of me to It.

Yes to Life.  Yes, even though I am aware I have no idea the particulars of that consent.  I only know the call and it is taking all of me to follow.

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.