Be.Hold. JOY (& my 2014 manifesto)

Be.Hold. JOY (& my 2014 manifesto)

 

I find ecstasy in living — the mere sense of living is joy enough.

– Emily Dickinson

I took some time on New Year’s Eve day to be thoughtful about my 2013.  What was I celebrating?  What was I just as happy to be leaving in the year’s wake?  And in what ways was I preparing myself to be open for what 2014 has in store for me?  I paused at that one.

 

Can you relate to this?   I can become so consumed by all that I’m about that I forget to clear myself out for the unexpected.  And so often, the unexpected is waaaaaay better than anything I could have planned.  In my experience, the unexpected comes in the form of Joy.  It’s often a bit startling, nearly always spontaneous, and fully embodied.  Realizing this, last Tuesday morning, I began to smile, and then I began to laugh…and then I began to really, REALLY laugh.  Loud.  For about 5 minutes.  It felt so good and hearing my own voice only prompted me to laugh more.

 

And when the laughter slowed and subsided, the words on my lips were, “Be Joy.”  In this New Year, whenever possible, I want to Be Joy.

 

I will forget this desire.  I will forget it for moments – or days – at a time.  I will, once again, become consumed, or I will be overtaken by fears and anxieties that compete for my attention.  And so, considering this on New Year’s eve, I thought about all the people in my life who, through their own practice of Being Joy, remind me that I, too, can make that choice.  AND, that even when my own Joy feels far, far away, I can Hold the Joy of another.

 

You’ve noticed this, right?  The delight that comes from tasting the joy in the story of a friend, a child’s face walking down the street, or recalling something funny that happened the night before?  (If not, please watch this and let me know what happens – and I mean it: I want to hear from you!).  SO, if we can’t Be Joy, we can Hold Joy.  And then, Behold!  Joy abounds.  Why am I on a New Year’s jag about Joy?

 

Because things are dire, that’s why.  Because the world needs us and it needs us to show up in our Joy.

 

In the final days of a year, as is my tradition, I created my Vision Board for the year-to-be.  This manifesto created itself, with zero prompting. It was revealed in Joy and it offers a string of instruction that, to me, feels timely and perfect to share in the dawn of 2014.

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

Be.Hold. JOY! And from this place, let’s make some good change roll!

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

 

The Intimacy of Texting

My Dad and Juanita (his wonderful wife), came for a visit in February.  They were here over Valentine’s Day and to celebrate, I had some friends over for a dinner party.  One thread of conversation at the table that night revealed varying opinions on the cost-and-promise ratio of text messaging.  “I think it’s making us stupid,” said one friend.
“Nah, just less verbal,” said another.  “It’s about dopamine,” someone else suggested.  “I think it’s about intimacy,” I said.  “Interesting…,” stated a voice; “…Depressing?” floated another.  And then, those of us willing to reveal our affection/addiction for texting, mentioned that several of the “Valentines” we’d received that day had been via SMS.

 

Photo Courtesy of J. Maccherone

I set out to do some research, and in a nutshell, here’s the deal:

  • Initial studies  suggested that dopamine controlled the “pleasure” systems of the brain, but newer studies reveal that dopamine causes seeking behavior – it’s what makes us desire, want and seek.  From a survival standpoint, we can be grateful to dopamine for keeping us motivated to move, learn, find food, etc.
  • A compliment to, but different from dopamine, is our opioid system, the stuff that makes us feel pleasure.  In short, dopamine makes us search, and satisfaction (pleasure) helps put the pause on our seeking practice, and find rest.

Guess which system is stronger in most humans?

  • Yep, we seek more than we are satisfied.  AND, with finely tuned and insanely accessible seeking instruments at our fingertips (literally), we can actually put ourselves into dopamine-induced loops: seeking, being rewarded with a new prompt, and seeking more.  Interestingly (…depressingly?) the dopamine system doesn’t have satiety built-in.   [Reminder: clicking the hyperlink WILL induce your dopamine system.]

Ah-ha!  I’m well acquainted with the aforementioned “dopamine-induced loop.”  Are you, as well?

 

A few days after the dinner party, I was riding my bike home on a dark, crisp evening.  My headlight was flashing, the cool breeze was finding my neck, my nose and my cheeks.  I felt happiness in my chest, exhilarated as my pedaling legs pushed me through the darkness.  I thought, suddenly of my brother, who’d been feeling sad recently, and how I wished I could text him what I felt in that moment.  I wanted somehow to share this feeling of contented aliveness.

And this is what I meant when I suggested that texting was in some way a bridge to intimacy (“in to me see”).

 

I’m a bit of a luddite; call me a (really) late adopter. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I LOVE to see the text message icon smiling at me from the screen of my smarter-than-me phone.  “Who wrote?” I wonder, and, “What will the message say?”  Sure, often it’s practical details, logistical instructions.  There’s a sexy satisfaction in the highly efficient delivery system of texting or looking something up on google – but it’s short-lived and it doesn’t sate my opioid side.

 

Where, when, how do you practice Pausing?  Where, when, how do you practice resting in satisfaction? Resting in Pleasure?  I’m not talking about hedonism; I’m talking about simply experiencing what is and tasting it in its completeness.  Intimacy with the moment.  No striving.  No seeking.

 

Image: flickriver-com.jpg

 

I couldn’t “text” the rush or the joy of that evening ride to my brother’s phone, perse, but I did send him an attempt, and he texted back.  And the sentiments conveyed in these messages?  I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  They’re the messages that trump the dopamine-loop.  They’re invitations to love, revel and rest in the appreciation of,  “in to me seeing” with another.

 

What if we were to make a pact with ourselves and those we love, to temper our dopamine tendencies by leveraging our information-fueling devices to send pleasure in equal or greater amounts?  I’m not even sure I can appreciate what this means, but I know the taste of relief and sweetness that comes when I step off the seeking-cycle for a spell of satisfaction.

 

May a dose of enoughness find you…and may you spread it lavishly to others.  And if this post has filled you with a desire to seek, check out these Valentines (belated) that I SO wish I could text to you!

Nature_heart.jpg

What is the Power of Your Love?

[I delivered the following homily in the summer of 2007 at my Renewing Ceremony.  The ceremony was created as a ritual to both renew my 1999 Ordination vows as an Interfaith minister and profess myself an Eco-chaplain.  Similar to a minister whose Call is healthcare ministry or prison ministry, I had come, through uncomfortable discernment, that my calling is to care – very intentionally – for the Earth and all Her inhabitants.  With my seminary’s endorsement and the blessing of my spiritual communities, I stepped into this new “office” on June 23, 2007. The ceremony began with an invocation by Jane DeCuir, of the Cherokee Metis Nation…]

 

Jane's Invocation

 

In seminary I was taught that Interfaith ritual should begin first by honoring the land on which you are gathered and the people to whom it belongs.  Thank you, Jane, for your presence here today.

I’ve heard that when the Europeans began arriving in America, they confused the Native People by asking them to translate “God” and “nature.”  In many indigenous languages, of course, the two words are the same. It’s the newer languages that felt a need to distinguish the God we know in nature as different from the God we know, perhaps, in the train station.

Looking for God, seeking the Holy in a variety of settings, is the work of a chaplain. Just as the chapel is separate from the church or temple, a chaplain resolves to create sacred space in the complexity of hospitals, war zones, city streets, Wal-Mart… At first glance, these intense places may be perceived as separate and God-less. A chaplain’s call is to bring some light; to prophetically state, “Here, too. No matter how horrid, the Source of our Breath abides in this place, too.”

A year ago, I began to see that my work was changing. Caring for the Earth had become my deep love in ministry. I’ll admit I’ve been making it up as I go, but I’ve been calling the work “Eco-chaplaincy.” I say it with love and dread because, after all, what does it mean when our Earth is so ravaged that it too, like a prison or the Iraqi desert, needs a chaplain?  And what, exactly, does an Eco-chaplain do?

Offering Homily

One of my favorite movies of all times is Mary Poppins. I love how Mary Poppins finds magic in the mundane. I also love her fastidious tendencies. For a good long while now, I’ve wished badly I could snap my fingers and—just like the toys in Jane and Michael’s nursery—have the environment return itself to a lush, forested, healthy planet. InMaryPoppins’ world, it’s fine to use what’s around you and to play with vigor, so long as you put it back…each article in its right place.

I went through a dark, troubling period last Fall. In the world around me, nothing was being returned to its right place. I saw 1-person-per-car idling on the freeway, an endless supply of Styrofoam cups and plastic bags being used once and tossed. Then one day, walking down University Ave., I saw a “SALE” sign in the Goodwill store window!

What does it mean when a thrift store has so much stuff it requires storewide liquidation?!?  We are clearing the Earth’s forests to the tune of 69 acres per minute, so we can drive to the store and buy stuff, to give to Goodwill, so they can send it to the landfill, some of it contaminating our soil and water for a millennium or more.  What is going on???  The whole scene had me feeling desperate, judgmental and angry — a pretty undesirable litany for a minister.

Blessing of Earth Worms

 

I knew that blame was pointless and staying mad felt miserable, so I did what one is wont to do when feeling sad, afraid, and misunderstood: I turned toward what I love. I spent a lot of time alone, turning toward the rocks, the trees, the smells of nature. With some kind coaching and encouragement, I got strong enough to ride my bike into these hills so I could sweat and breathe Mother Earth’s theology. It’s Her theology, after all, that gives birth to all the others. The miracle of our 13 billion year story on this planet is what, for me, truly makes sense.  We are this soil, this water, one great breath, breathing together.

 

As I connected again with all that I am and what I so dearly love, I began to thaw. The anger melted to grief, and the words of Eco-philosopher, Joanna Macy comforted me: “The grief you carry for this world comes from your love for it. It is high time we tasted the power of your love.”

My work as an Eco-chaplain, I’m coming to see, lies in the very heart of this question: What is the power of your love? My guess and my hope is that there are more Eco-chaplains out there.

I’m not at all certain how this work will continue to evolve, but I would like to close by sharing my present intention for what I will do in this role:

What is the Power of YOUR Love?

  • As an Eco-chaplain, I want to remind us all of our True Nature.  We are inextricably connected and linked to everything in this universe.
  • From this awareness, I want to act and serve on behalf of all species, advocating eco-justice.  I want, likeMaryPoppins, to teach that the magic is in the mundane. I want to celebrate the abundance inherent in simplicity.
  • In the face of adversity or despair, of which I know there will be plenty, I want to practice not closing down, but rather, “allowing in.”  I’ve heard this practice described as “poor man’s equanimity.”  With the stakes so high and the enormity of the crisis so deadening, “poor man’s equanimity” frees us to move and act without the guarantee of success.  After all, I have no clue how this story ends. The Divine invitation for each of us is to bring our creativity, our compassion and our Whole Self to each moment … one at a time.
  • And finally, the biggest secret: I want to do this work with joy!  An Eco-chaplain’s work, though wrought with a sense of urgency, is wonderfully Joyful!  I believe this is so because in caring for our interconnection to all and with all, I can clearly recognize—at least for brief, ecstatic moments—that there is no end to our mutual belonging.

If we humans want to live sustainably on this Earth, we have our work cut out for us: BIG time. As an Eco-chaplain and fellow human, my vote is that we get busy. And I invite us, like Mary Poppins, to find the magic in the mundane—to draw deeply from the wellspring of joy and love.

The Divine is ready, willing, awaiting our next act.

What is the power of your love?

 

The Making of an Eco-chaplain

The Making of an Eco-Chaplain

A year ago, I began to see that my work was changing.  Caring for the Earth had become my deep love in ministry.  I’ll admit I’ve been making it up as I go, but I’ve been calling the work “Eco-chaplaincy.”  I say it with love and dread because after all, what does it mean when our Earth is so ravaged that it too, like a prison or the Iraqi desert, needs a chaplain?  And what, exactly, does an Eco-chaplain do?

I found my answer at Walmart.

Lauren visits her first Walmart

My Eco-chaplain livelihood found its groove when I joined the founding team that designed and facilitated over 200 day-long sustainability workshops for the 1.2 million associates of Walmart Stores, Inc. Traveling across the country in the Spring of 2007, speaking with the faces of America at hundreds upon hundreds of Walmarts—a place I had been taught to oppose and avoid—I turned toward love. With a necessary naiveté and “beginner’s mind,” I entered corporate America to invite change, to be changed, and to provide space to consider a new operating practice.

One of my all-time favorite movies is MaryPoppins.  I love how Mary finds magic in the mundane.  I also love her fastidious tendencies.  For a good long while now, I’ve wished I could snap my fingers and – just like the toys inJaneandMichael’s nursery – have the environment return itself to a lush, forested, healthy planet.  InMaryPoppin’s world, it’s fine to use what’s around you and to play with vigor, so long as you put it back…each article in its right place.

There is no "away!"

In my work with Fortune 500 employees, I facilitate retreats where we talk about, “nano-practices.” It sounds technical, and it is based on a great deal of theory, but its essence is exceedingly simple: small actions result in big impacts.

Take, for example, a participant from the retreat at Frito-Lay Headquarters – I’ll call him Mark.  I askedMarkwhat one action – one behavior change – he wanted to exercise regularly to bring greater sustainability to his life and the planet. Marksaid, “I’d like to spend more time with my family.”

“That sounds great,” I said intrigued, “How does it help the planet?”  “Well,”Markschemed, “….one night a week, we’ll turn off the TV and go for a walk, as a family.” I nodded, liking where this was going, “We’ll save electricity and spare CO2 emissions by not using electricity; we’ll be out in the park getting exercise and enjoying nature together…AND!”  Markwas getting pretty excited, “we’ll also pick up litter while we’re out walking. Any recyclables we collect, we’ll cash in and give the money to a charity.”

Small actions; big impacts.

Through this work, I’m reminded again that a chaplain’s call is to bring connection; to prophetically state, “Here, and now! No matter how set apart, lost or beyond-love this place may appear, the Source of our Breath abides here, too.” Looking for God or honoring the mystery in a variety of settings is the work of a chaplain. Just as the chapel stands apart from a church or temple, a chaplain endeavors to create sacred space in the free-standing complexity of hospitals, campuses, military bases and, yes, corporations (even Walmart).

A Joy-filled moment during corporate retreat at the Houston Zoo

 

Furthermore, an Eco-chaplains’ calling is to serve and act with Joy.  I feel strongly that activism is defined as much by the peace-marching, protesting activist as by the devoted nano-practitioner who experiences a ripple over time— and that it works best when our actions bring us joy. Mother Earth wouldn’t have it any other way; it is written in the scriptures of every Faith Tradition I know.

Eco-chaplains, unite! The planet has made her aches known and the scientists have let humanity know we have a limited amount of time to act. May you be moved to act boldly, and to live and serve from the place of your deepest joy.