Enlightenment In the Crowd

We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

 

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.

– Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Hope is like a road in the country: there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.

– Lin Yutang

 

Consider a recent moment when the crowd woke you up.  Remember that split second when a sound caught your attention,

people on bus

the smile on another helped you notice your own furrowed brow,

dog cafe

or the movement of a child or dog brought a warmth to your chest?

Where did you come from?

Where did you come from?

And remember how any one of these instant happenings called you into the perfect okay-ness of that moment, the aliveness of you in that fraction of a second.  You alive, awake, capable and present.

Whirling in Konya with Rumi

Whirling in Konya with Rumi

I love these moments.

Their simplicity always catches me by surprise.  The contrast I feel within myself is startling: the before moment (when I was “asleep”) and the now moment, when I’m my being knows it’s alive.

I can spend great chunks of a day in the guise of awakeness (typing at my computer, plowing through a to-do list), only to have a moment like one I’ve mentioned, jar me into a much higher state of appreciation and gratitude.  And here’s the thing: I rarely bring this about by myself.  It happens in the crowd.  It happens because consciously, and inadvertently, we do it for each other.  It’s a team sport, this collective act of calling each other to attention.

It’s a vulnerable thing to admit.  We’re in the age of do-it-yourself, each to her own, and be social (but do it alone, communicating with your hand-held device).  Who wants to make eye contact and risk being ignored, rejected or accused.

And then, that flash of humanity surprises us.  Our simple, fragile, resilient, miraculous humanness is reflected in the same fragile, silly, strong miraculousness of another.  Friends, one another is what we have.  Our togetherness is what will save us.

Remember this?

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(It’s the 2014 Sacred Activism manifesto that “appeared” as an addendum on my vision board for this year.)   My posts over the last 10 months have explored certain lines: Express yourself, Begin Again, Build Intimacy.  And now?

Get Cheeky.  Grow a Movement…It takes a Village.

All signs suggest we have done it.  We have created the “Climate Movement.”  At last.  And the Movement, despite opposition, has galvanized enough support, representing enough diversity to actually steer the conversation.  After months of speaking up, sitting in, calling, writing and acting out, the Climate Movement impressed upon the US Senate that, for all sorts of reasons, the Keystone XL pipeline is a very bad idea.

Climate March

Climate March

So many voices were at the table for this conversation…and there are so many conversations happening right now, on so many levels where your voice is needed.  You, me, all of us.  So, the next time you’re in line for your coffee, or sitting on the train, or feeling shy in a conversation with the one who might have a different opinion, invite enlightenment!

Now’s your chance.   Please…

Get Cheeky (optional, but often quite fun),

Grow a Movement.  We are a Village.

Why are We Here? What are We Doing?

[This post is the homily I had the great privilege of delivering for the three individuals called and ordained to Interfaith Ministry on September 22, 2012, by the Interfaith Congregation for Creative and Healing Ministries.  Thank you and Congratulations, Reverends Bob, Elaine, and Hanna!  ALSO: for another version of this post, please visit my friends at Lumunos, a very special Christian organization, focusing on Call and Relational ministry.  I’m delighted to share that, for the next few months, I’ll be joining the Lumunos blog as a guest!]

 

A few weeks ago I sat with Bob, Elaine and Hanna to talk with them about this day.  I asked them what they were hoping to have conveyed in this segment of the service, and one of them said, “In a nutshell, Lauren, we want you to explain ‘why we are here and what we are doing.’”

GRAND questions!  Why are we here?  What are we doing? 

First, Why are we here?  I have three ideas:

  1. For starters, as family and friends who love you, we’re here to honor and celebrate your sense of clarity.   Any person who comes to know his/her Right Work in this world deserves, at a minimum, recognition and more appropriately still, a ritual to proclaim it and to bless your way forward.
  2. As a spiritual community, we’re here to honor the practice of Interfaith.  I’m using the word, “practice,” very intentionally, because the word, Interfaith and how it is defined carries multiple truths for many people.  As a community, we’re here both to engage with and to celebrate the dynamic tension and stimulus invited through our Interfaith practice.
  3. Also, as individuals within the greater human family, I will boldly suggest we’re here because within each of us, there is a hunger or desire for things to be other than they are; for the Big Picture to look and feel different.

 

A day ago, I fell into a conversation with a handful of women I barely know.  We were reflecting on a local news headline that had us all distressed. Sighing softly and – I thought – inaudibly, I uttered, “We need to do something different.”  The woman across from me, put her hands to her chest, “Oh my gosh; that’s it!  We need to do something different.”  And this segues into the next question…what are we doing?

In Sanskrit, there is a phrase, “Neti; Neti.”  Translated, it means, “Not this; neither that.”  When something isn’t this…and it isn’t that, what remains?  This question actively informs our studies at The Chaplaincy Institute, and our spiritual practices as an Interfaith Congregation.  As a first step, we endeavor to better understand the “this” and the “that,” in their unique wholeness.  For example, we study the core teachings of Christianity, and the core teachings of Sikhism.  We strive to appreciate the light and the shadow imbedded in all the Wisdom Traditions.  And then, as Interfaith Ministers or Chaplains, we venture on, a little further.  Valuing the completeness of two ideas, what happens when we actively lean into the space that’s in-between? 

Photo source: mootee.typepad.com

We all have experience with this concept; most commonly, it appears when we try to resolve a conflict, but it also shows up when humans are trying to do something different.  The work of interfaith ministry is not only about this, nor only about that, but about tending the possibility, as it arises.

I won’t lie: this work is DICEY.  Doing something “different,” means living unrehearsed.  It means responding to uncertainty; it means speaking truth when the stakes are high; it means searching for justice and embodying peace, it means sitting with others and allowing our powerlessness — our inability to fix painful situations — to be the offering of suffice.  Is this work reserved for clergy?  Heck, no!  In these times, it’s all hands on-deck.  On behalf of all species, the human family world-around; our resources, businesses, cultures and support systems all in flux and varying states of innovation and break-down, we are ALL being invited to engage in this practice.  AND, we need support.

And, this is why we’re here and what we’re doing.  Today, Bob, Elaine and Hanna are heeding a deep sense of Call.  Responding to their faithful belief, their trust in the Divine, they are offering themselves as resources of support.  In co-creative practice with the Divine, these three are signing-on to companion and witness the rest of us in the holy, unpredictable patterns of life and death, joy and sorrow, coming and going, growing and grieving.

And on this day, the Interfaith Congregation is both celebrating your Call and recognizing your accomplishments.  Your studies have strengthened you to do this work as authentically as each of you – Bob, Hanna and Elaine – can vulnerably-bravely-resiliently-wisely-and-compassionately muster.

March 2011 Ordination, Laying-On of Hands. Photo: V. Weiland

Each of us, responding to our hunger for greater connectivity, more intimacy, deeper understanding has arrived here today to bless your way forward.  Thank you for your courage; thank you for saying “Yes!;” thank you for inspiring the rest of us to ask if there’s, perhaps, something out there that might just be refreshingly, soothingly, soul-shiftingly different.

To close, I bless you with the words of Rumi and his poem, Always You:

First when I was apart from You, this world did not exist, nor any other.

Second, whatever I was looking for was always You.

Third, why did I ever learn to count to three?

Photo source: ignitionjournal.com

RITUAL: A Journey from “Infertile!” to Choosing “Child-Free”

RITUAL:  A Journey from “Infertile!” to Choosing “Child-Free”

 

I have been on a 6-year odyssey to make a baby with my husband. This included all the usual

methods(!), as well as fertility treatments like taking the drug Clomiphene. We were not

successful in our quest and last year we decided to “stop trying.” While my husband more or less

happily moved on to start his new business, I felt stuck. I had poured my whole heart and soul

into making a baby and now that we were done with that chapter of our lives, I realized I had no

idea what came next.

-Tristy Taylor

 

Sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us.

 – Unknown

 

Tristy’s Ritual: Grief, Shiva, and the UN-Baby Shower

March 3-11, 2012

 

Needless to say, Tristy’s grief began long before March 3rd.  And her extensive efforts to move beyond her grief brought her to my home one morning, early in February.  She began the conversation with a wise pronouncement: “I get it now – and it’s hard to ask – but this requires a ritual.  My grief isn’t going to leave until I ask for help from my community, and from a deeper source.”

 

Why was it hard to make this request?  Why, when women are so quick to shower one another with advice and gifts and mothering tips for those pregnant with little humans, have we not also found ways to celebrate, tend and care for the ones who incubate ideas, gestate projects, birth artwork, tend gardens, rear nieces, nephews, neighbors?

 

Maybe it’s because we haven’t first acknowledged the sadness that comes from attempting and failing at one’s birthright: making a child.  Infertility is a shame magnet, and choosing to live and love in ways that doesn’t include bearing children often mystifies.  And so began an exploration of acknowledging the grief, honoring a time for transition, and celebrating a willful choice.  Here’s how Tristy’s ritual went.

 

Saturday, March 3rd: Giving Up the Grief

Like giving up the ghost, the women who gathered late Saturday afternoon were there to support Tristy in fully expressing the sorrow, disappointment, and rage she’d been holding as a result of her six years of trying and failing to conceive a child.

Tristy in the Oak Grove

In the safety of twilight and with the guidance of Tristy’s talented priestess and friend,Lila, who offered her comfortable home, Tristy and a handful of wise women gathered to meditate, drum, and mourn.  The women, each in turn, invited her uterus to speak – and Oh, the stories!  Details of the night were held in sacred confidence by the ears that listened….and ultimately each one was surrendered to an Oak Grove, where it was understood the trees could transform it all. When it was over, Tristy’s husband,Justinretrieved her, taking her home for a week of resting in what was, and in what would become….

 

Sitting Shiva

For the next 7 days and 8 nights, Tristy sat Shiva, a Jewish custom following death.  To experience more of this part of the ritual, you may wish to read Tristy’s blog.

 

Sunday, March 11th: Tristy’s UN-Baby Shower

The flock of women who arrived at Tristy and Justin’s home Sunday morning arrived in precisely the fashion women do when they are showering a loved one — uproarious giggling and cooing, one arrival after another — alive, vibrant and a flourish of feminine chaos.   As the gathering, greeting and welcoming continued, Chef Justin wowed everyone us with a delicious brunch, featuring eggs (of course!!!!) and other bounty!  Settling in with a round of introductions, the women were asked, and consensus was found: it was everyone’s FIRST  UN-Baby Shower.  In short order, unanimous agreement resulted: it was an important event.  There were mothers and non-mothers in the room, each of them so grateful to be included, so moved by their friend’s courage, so willing to support Tristy in her choice to begin a new chapter as a child-free woman.

 

Hand on Heart

 

Each guest was asked to bring a quote from a woman who had not born children.  Quotes ranged from Dolly Parton to Julia Childs to Whoopi Goldberg; and as the quotes were appreciated and celebrated, so too was Tristy’s body, with colorful body paints – not just her womb, but her back and her chest and each appendage.

Artist's at Work

We called upon each facet, capable of imagining, making and mothering new creations.

 

 

Justin's Finishing Touches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tristy’s friends showered her with creativity-inviting gifts: art materials, plants, libations and recipes!

Gifts for Bearing Fruit & Creativity!

Gifts for Bearing Fruit & Creativity!

 

To finish the ritual, we asked Justin to join Tristy.  Encircling them both, we acknowledged Justin’s role and voice as co-creator and co-parent both in what had been and in what will be.  With hands upon Tristy and Justin, the community set sacred intentions for the couple’s next chapter.  We prayed for surprise and delight and adventure in their choosing to be child-free.  And then, we told them how much we loved them.

 

We Love You, Tristy and Justin.

 

Flower Exchange Ecstasy

 

The UN-Baby Shower ended with some frolicking in the sun and a flower exchange (each woman brought a bouquet of flowers that were co-mingled and redistributed in bouquets to take home and enjoy.)  Brilliant!

 

Lauren & Tristy, Frolicking (lightly)

 

What just happened?

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]

 

Oceans

byJuanRamonJimenez

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing. 

And nothing happens!  Nothing…
Silence…Waves… 

Nothing happens?  Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly
in the new life?

 

It’s been one week since my 320 mile journey from Fortuna, CA ended safe and soppy at San Francisco’s City Hall.  Since then, with all of you in mind, I’ve been trying to piece together a synopsis of the event – a couple of cleanly written, succinct and inspiring paragraphs to summarize the success of our activism and the mission we accomplished.

 

Much to my own confusion, I can’t.

 

It’s not that there wasn’t success, which I’ll get to in a minute.  But last Thursday, upon leaving the 124 other cyclists and walking my bike towardBART, I was weighted-down by more than my backpack.  I was feeling an unwelcome sense of anti-climax.

 

Day 1, POURING

 

In ways I could never have predicted, last week’s Climate Ride was epic: Northern California’s rainy season began the evening of day one, and day two featured a winding 12 mile mountain descent in a downpour.  The fourth night delivered a midnightstorm so severe tents were ripped apart. On a brighter note, the week also included miles of coast-side pedaling, paralleling pelicans flying in formation.  And, the fortitude of the group was astounding! Individually, each of us admitted we wanted a warm bath and dry clothes, but as a group, we surprised every doubter within by showing-up to breakfast each morning, bedecked in spandex, ready to ride.  I am no longer afraid of cycling in the rain, even when my shoes are squishing puddles and the raindrops are forming a waterfall at the end of my nose!

Sun for a second, Day 4

 

 

 

 

There is a lesson here, right?  It’s about meeting adversity, and digging deep into the reservoir that’s created by community.  It’s a success well worth mentioning since climate change forecasts include perfectly lousy weather and natural disasters likely to have us wishing for a warm bath, but pushing us instead to ban together and to respond as best we can.  And, THIS, I think offers insight to my mood following the ride.

 

Did we, as Climate Riders, accomplish our mission?  We did!  Do you know that of the 325 of you on this list, more than 100 of you gave money to my Climate Ride?  A 30% response!!!  And together, we raised $6500 of the nearly $300,000 received for this year’s Climate Ride beneficiaries.  Thank you so, SO much.  Your generosity has been incredible.

 

Was our activism successful?  I don’t have an answer because I’m now seeing, it’s the WRONG question. JuanRamonJimenez‘s words above describe perfectly how I feel about “activism” in today’s world.  Like you, I like my life to flow easefully along with humor, beauty and love.  Death, heartache, and fear are messy and inconvenient.  Riding every mapped mile of the Climate Ride did not bring an end to the grief I feel toward what could be a future none of us would wish for, nor did it immediately change the decisions made by CEOs and political leaders around the world.  But this doesn’t mean that “nothing happened.”

Dear CEOs of America...

Arrived!

Cycling through the hush of the redwood groves, riding high above the white caps hitting the jagged rocks below, attempting to mimic those incredible pelicans in flight, I was reminded to soften (my grip), to relax (into the downhill), and to love (in the face of uncertainty).   And, like it or not, you were all there with me!

Last Thursday morning, preparing to ride our final 40 miles into San Francisco, the rain showers grew louder and louder upon the make-shift meal tent.  One of our pack  reveled fervently, “Harder!  HARDER!!!!”  And the rest of us, heads thrown back, joined-in, howling hearty invitations to the pouring skies.  In the face of life’s inevitable hurts, inconveniences and uncertainties, a practice of “inviting in” might be the best plan there is.  Did nothing happen?  Did everything happen?  I’ll let you decide.  Thank you, all, for taking this Climate Ride with me, and for showing me, again, this ever-anew life.

City Hall, San Francisco