This week I am offering a meditation from Monday’s FaceBook (FB) page A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program. I have used these FB daily meditations, and the Rabbi Yael Levy’s Jewish Mindfulness web page, Mishkan Shalom, for my own use for some time now. I wanted to share with you the beauty of their posts and suggest you explore Rabbi Levy’s web page as a resource for mindfulness and meditation.
Let today’s meditation be your reminder to look for the Divine in all of creation.
Fulfilled is the person who knows that in each moment she dwells in the Divine presence
Fulfilled is the person who knows that in each moment the Divine presence dwells within her.
Always she offers praise.
May we have the strength and humility to look for the Divine within ourselves.
May we have the courage and faith to recognize the Divine in others.
We are all Homo Sapiens sapiens but we will never be Human Beings until we stop just surviving and begin to live in harmony with each other and all creation.
I have been trying to comprehend the shootings in South Carolina at the First Emanuel AME Church. Just as the acts in other mass shootings I simply can’t get my mind around a hatred that produces such evil. I have listened to the prayers for comfort and supplication. I have listened, unwillingly, to the NRA and other public speakers who blame the church pastor and members, or minimize the acts of the shooter. I can’t, or won’t, believe that 9 innocent people were the cause nor can I believe the shooter acted without encouragement.
You see, I believe we, you and I, are to blame for what happened in South Carolina. You and I, and everyone else regardless of skin color, privilege, ethnicity, or any other cultural classification are equally responsible for pulling the trigger and this is why I believe this.
We refuse to stand against acts of injustice, violence, discrimination, or the use of degrading speech. We listen politely and shake our heads and tell ourselves that offering a prayer that people will change is enough. We are afraid of what others might say about us if we stop someone in mid speech and tell them NO, I will not listen to this. We look the other way when someone abuses another. We tolerate public servants who degrade people of color, are poor, elderly, or have a religion they don’t follow. We have tolerated public servants who have spoken as if they are the only ones who matter, who have verbally abused our President and anyone else they disagree with or disagree with them.
We have created this atmosphere of hate and violence found in country today. Yes, I admit I am right there along with the rest of us. Have I stood up and defended someone being abused, sometimes yes but not always. I do it when it is convenient for me and that is not what we are called to do. We, you and I, are called by the Divine to be better than that.
This week I am recommending a spiritual practice of standing up and defending the voiceless. I am asking each of you to speak up when you hear someone abusing or degrading someone else. I am pleading with each of you to stand and be counted when you see injustice happening. As you go through this week remember this:
“8But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 The Message (MSG)
Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
‘Resting from our labors’, this is such a lovely phrase. Even God knew when to rest and let his new creation be. He even made it a sacred moment in time. While scripture identifies the seventh day as a time of rest for most of us there is no real strict rule as to when to take a day of rest, a time of Sabbath. Nor is there a set time limit for how long our rest should be.
Today is Tuesday and most likely you are in the midst of your busy lives. But, even when we are at our busiest we need, yes need, to take a moment out of our day to center ourselves in order for us to be the people of the Divine. So I am offering you those few moments. Take a few minutes and using the Visio Divina instructions below, let yourself rest in your quiet place. Find your center and spend a moment of rest with God.
Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, places and things. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges?
Respond to the image with prayer. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet center. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.
Mark 4:26-29 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
This past spring John and I were on a 6½ week pilgrimage of sorts. Unfortunately 2 hours before we were to be picked up by Shuttle Express I fell in my office and tore or badly bruised the calf muscle of my left leg and also I refused to go to the emergency room because we would have missed our flight. Well, along with back issues, that fall meant I spent our holiday with a cane and walking as if I was 250 years old.
The fall and my, seemingly forever back problems, meant modifying some of our activities and learning to depend on the graciousness of people in New Zealand and on board our cruise ship.. I was helped by strangers I would never see again to walk up hills, across sand dunes, into cars, buses, and boats. All they asked for was a simple thank you and a smile. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to these angels in disguise. They made our visit to NZ and back to the states a trip of a life time.
Now many of you may also have noticed that I often have a motor mouth (in the case of blogging, motor writing) and when I offer thanks to someone I will chatter on nervously for 10 minutes. It took 6½ weeks for me to figure out that saying ‘thank you’ or ‘you are a blessing’ was all that was needed.
Learning to stop talking and listen has always been hard for me but what I have discovered this late in my life is when I stop with a smile and thank you I SEE the face of the angel who helped me. It doesn’t matter what nationality, or skin color, or language they speak, the light shines through. It isn’t just their job anymore it’s that they have been recognized for who they are. If I am not speaking or thinking of more to say, I see them for who they are.
You have also probably noticed I have just as much trouble, maybe more, in receiving gratitude. I am self-deprecating to the extreme. Probably because I was taught that nothing I did was to be done for any expectation of thanks. But on this trip I was more aware of not just offering thanks but of receiving the gift of graciousness and help. You see to offer thanks you have to have received something and that gift is hard one for me to accept. But I learned to stop explaining that I fell, or have a back giving out on me. I learned to simply take someone’s hand and lean on them for help without explaining how independent I normally am.
The scripture of Mark is one of giving and receiving. It is giving your time to sow and the harvest is the receiving of God’s blessing (didn’t think I’d work that in did you). What has finally sunk into my rather thick brain is giving and receiving God’s blessings comes in many forms and I am grateful for the giving and receiving of all the blessings from God’s hands I have received not just on our trip but in my whole lifetime. It may seem like a small thing but graciously accepting the assistance from a stranger gives me a gift of love and the giver a gift of grace. The Importance of keeping the ‘thank you’ short and sweet is that it focuses on the gift and the giver rather than my own ego. It works the other way as well. Keeping assistance I give to someone else also focuses on the gift I give and the receiver of the gift instead of me. The giver and the receiver receive the gift of grace and love. That is a beautifully thing and passing that gift on grows the grace between me and you and opens wider the door of the Kingdom of God.
To all of you, Thank you for being who you are, and many blessing on your many journeys.
Psalm 126:2a our mouths shall be filled with laughter,
our tongues, with songs of joy
Last Christmas Day my gift from Santa was a pinched nerve in my back. Apparently our dear Santa thought that was either funny or I was really bad last year. Actually the problem is due to the fact that we humans stand upright. If we still walked on our knuckles like other apes we would have fewer problems. But then we wouldn’t be able to see over the tall person, in the tacky Uncle Sam hat, during the 4th of July parade would we.
Any way I digress. What I am trying to say is in order to deal with the pain I have rediscovered the value of laughter as a spiritual practice. Like the little mouse above I have learned the grace of sharing my joy at being alive instead of being the grouch my beloved John says I can be. After all what does he know he only lives with me?
Spending time finding joy in all that is around me, offering that joy as prayer, and letting the response of joyful light to enter deep within does much for my own spiritual well being and for the life of those around me.
I am not the first to promote laughter as a spiritual practice, remember I said I rediscovered this practice. But it is one we forget when life overwhelms us. Taking ourselves seriously is important but it is also important to not go to the extreme. No matter what we do, how we feel, or how badly things have gone there is always something to laugh at, even if it is just ourselves.
Before you all get your knickers in a knot I want you to know I am not making light of those who fight depression every day of their lives. Because depression isn’t a choice it’s an illness that needs to be addressed. Caring for and helping those who fight mental illness is also a spiritual practice and an important one and something we all need to do.
However, for those of us who are fortunate not to experience depression learning to laugh, to find joy in life, and to bring joy to others is a spiritual practice, a spiritual practice that helps us all to not take ourselves too seriously. For me laughing at life in general and discovering the joy in simply living each day brings me closer to God, who, I am sure, is laughing along with me.
Today I challenge each and every one of you to find something that brings you joy. May your joy be your gift others and may it be a door to a deeper inner joy where you and the Holy Spirit have a good laugh.
Psalm 131:1-2 God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
2 I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content. (MSG)
One of the benefits of a sabbatical is having the time to stop and let the world go by. In fact I have begun to practice an extension of stopping that I call “what will be, will be.” On my trip I would wake in the morning and intentionally decided to let the day unfold as God intended for it to happen, making few plans, being open to opportunities to meet people or visit a place I hadn’t been before, taking the time to really listen to the person I just met, stopping and really seeing the world around me and the hardest of all, trying not to control my days events. What I discovered was I was more relaxed and rested at the end of the day than this normally anxious introvert is.
This is more than mindfulness or being in the moment. It is letting the Divine control the day, opening my eyes to the Good in each person I meet and greeting them with the Good within me. This is an intense letting go of my expectations of how things ‘should’ be and seeing how they are/can be beautiful and insightful.
Of course I couldn’t do this every day. Sometimes we had already made plans in advance so those intentional days weren’t every day, even on a vacation. But I did make them happen often, and probably more often than I will be able to do now that I am home. However, I do wish to maintain this spiritual practice and hope my ability to let go and let God control my days increase. Here are a few suggestions to help you, and me, get started. As I get better at this, or you, we might add suggestions or take some away, we will just have to wait and see how God unfolds this practice.
Begin the day with silent prayer ending with a prayer for patience and openness
As you start your day and continue through your tasks really notice what you are doing, see the people you are with, taste the food you eat, notice your surroundings, even the ugliest of areas has beauty if you look.
As time allows stop for a moment and breathe deeply, if possible sit and let God into your day, your heart
Let God into the moments of confusion and frustration, breathe deeply, say a prayer, let others express themselves and be aware of their hurt and pain, or joy and celebration. Recognize they too have the Divine within and welcome them. (This is the hardest part, so do not be surprised if you fail, just keep trying)
At the end of your day, sit again in silence; let your heart and mind reflect on your day, the good and the bad hold those you meet that are hurting in prayer, and offer gratitude for those who are celebrating.
End by offering your own prayer of gratitude.
We all can’t take 6 weeks or even a day of sabbatical, but we all can let the Divine into our daily lives. We can offer one of our ‘normal’ busy days to God, and changing how we see our tasks and the people we interact with helps us change how we see the world. It costs nothing to offer praise or condolences, or to sit and listen to someone’s story but the gift is priceless.