her Body releasing its last exhale in the wee hours of September 12th. She was 58.
Her death-day marks the beginning of what is typically a difficult series of weeks for our family; September also holding the anniversaries of my brother’s death, and the would-be birthday of my father who died almost two decades ago now.
Of course, the dark season has grown accustomed to stretching out, often initiating Its appearance before August’s end and extending its visit through, and then past, Samhain.
Today, may we also say a prayer for the many names that do not appear on any memorial and the ones that remain unspoken aloud due to the fear that exists in our country. May those grieving the loss of such loved ones find warmth in the embrace of those they can trust with their truth. May our planet usher in a time when all are safe and welcome and free.
A colleague in one of our collegial Facebook groups asked this week:
1- How do You pray? 2- How in your mind does prayer work?
My response to the thread:
As a theist, prayer for me means intentionally connecting with and experiencing that which I call Holy. Daily I do so in stillness and silence, extending deep gratitude for life and the gifts therein. Also as a practice through reciting the Aramaic version of Kabbalistic Cross aloud as the vibration of the mantra brings me into full presence with the divinity in me and around me.
Gregg Braden’s book “Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer” really resonated with me a few years ago. As does the philosophy of Laura Day in The Circle where she demonstrates how the power of a single wish can transform one’s life.
I turn to prayer in gratitude and also in surrender when circumstances are beyond my control. Sometimes my prayers manifest in writings and visualizations; oftentimes the simple act of touching my hand to my heart and humming (kind of like the Om) places me in conscious union with the divine.
There is holiness in quiet and in sound, in stillness and in movement.
I believe that prayer can be as diverse as that which we call Holy and can be made manifest through words, thoughts and deeds, such as daily acts of grace and gratitude.
“Move Your Body!” This is a message I believe most of us need throughout out each day, and especially during stressful or worrisome times. And, most critical to those among us who cope with degrees of depression and anxiety.
Human minds innately have a universal mode of working overtime keeping us focused on what is paramount in our hearts. When new love or excitement about an upcoming adventure is in our hearts, we focus on that. When financial burdens or circumstances out of our control are weighing on us, we focus on that.
While the first scenario can be quite welcome, bringing with it boosts in healthy hormones, the latter can become debilitating in the chemical and emotional states it places our bodies in as we find our thoughts in repetitious patterns, looping over and over the circumstances taking precedence in our hearts and minds. We can spiral downward, and critically so.
The Move Your Body mantra can become a life-saving tool to turn to to snap yourself out of the congestion of our minds and help achieve moments of homeostasis. When we notice we are in mental gridlock, if we cultivate a new pattern of Moving Our Bodies, we can condition our hearts, minds and bodies toward a new kind of self-regulated equilibrium. Like any new skill, it takes commitment and practice.
Special Thanks to my friends Heather Bond and Beth Amine for both emulating and demonstrating this life-saving conditioning for their clients!
This sermon on The Spiritual Practice of Right Relationship by Rev. David A. Miller is one I’ve referred to on more than one occasion over the past couple of years. It is ever important, especially when conflicts or misunderstandings arise, for those in positions of power to establish a place of safety and trust. It is important too to be mindful of our assumptions about each other and to respectfully work from a place of gentleness and compassion towards reconciliation and to overcome challenges so that our relationships are loving, and that we may all flourish.
What if hospitality was the pillar of our Faith?
If coming together created sanctuary?
If sharing Joys and Sorrows was the path to enlightenment?
What if our sacred texts were our sermons, poems and songs?
If our principles were our doctrines?
If our covenant was the Hope that binds us?
Whenever I watch an interview or read an article where people are expressing views and opinions that are counter to my moral compass (and catch myself judging others’ moral compasses) I am reminded of Jonathan Haidt’s book:The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.
Last autumn through this spring I was part of a UU group of community and parish ministers who met via Zoom video calls to study and discuss the book.
The premise of the book, and our conversations therein, was that humans are highly intuitive beings who act first, and justify later based on our moral predispositions. Regardless of where we are religiously/politically, our beliefs, convictions, and values are far less “rational” than we imagine. But because they are built and supported by our tribal/societal norms, they have the appearance of being rational. This trait is seen beyond politics and religion, as it remains true for all group/class subsets we are part of as we “rationalize” with self-interest based on the preservation of our group and/or our group’s ideals.
Understanding this helps create the kind of empathy that can open doors and build bridges. The other good news, as Haidt concludes, is that:
“we all have the capacity to transcend self-interest and become simply a part of a whole. It’s not just a capacity, it’s the portal to many of life’s most cherished experiences.”