Thursday, January 12, 2012

WEIRD LITTLE WAYS. 14 weeks in...

By Pema Chodron


"Although it is embarrassing and painful, it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself. It is healing to know all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways. You can know all that with some sense of humor and kindness. By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether."

(Start Where You Are)
From Shambhala Heart Advice of the Week

I like to organize things. This is what I did with Seth's LEGOS (most handed down from Casey, Colin & Marje). They are organized by size and shape (not color...!!) I guess you could say this is one of my weird little ways. Is it a virtue or a vice? Like SOOOO many things (thinking, for example) it can be an important component of a healthy, balanced life, but it could, if taken too far, overwhelm your life, your time, your family... and be a self-defeating behaviour.

Also, I have learned that it is impossible to organize UUs and/or UU congregations.

What Pema Chodron is talking about is what happens to us when we dedicate some time each day, each week, to meditation and endeavor to live a life of mindful awareness and HONESTY.

She is so right.. it can be PAINFUL and EMBARRASSING.

This is Seth and Eric watching TV and eating popcorn.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying food and nothing wrong with watching a bit of TV. But Buddhism teaches rightly that TV (especially certain programs), addictions, especially alcohol, drugs, and food, and certain kinds of technology are ALL ways that humans escape our true humanity, and hide from our true selves.

Meditation and mindfulness are so helpful when it comes to managing, not necessarily eliminating completely, these sources of shutting down.

So, one goal of a sabbatical is to create the space and the time to be truly uncomfortable, to face and move through the painful realities of your own weird little ways, to become more human.

Below is our Nativity scene as it looked when I put it away (organizing!). Where was Mary going? She looks like she is creeping away from the manger. I can SO identify with this! Mary will NEVER be anything other than Jesus' mum. At 14, all of her dreams were pre-eliminated. I took the picture because it really triggered a strong reaction in me: Get outta there, Mary! Go while you can!

Now everyone who knows me knows how devoted I am to my children. On Feb. 1st, Casey will turn THIRTY and Seth will be seven. I will have been a mom with kids dependent upon me for 30 years straight. Ministry has been such a gift to me, because it has given me a way to be someone else, too, and to serve and give to people beyond my own four children. But sabbatical has been a time to step back from THAT identity, to ask who/what else am I in addition to being a UU minister?

When my days as a parish minister end, will I be just a mom, waiting to be a grandmom? How will I use the gifts and skills that ministry has helped me find? These questions can be answered most cleary and HONESTLY with a regular meditation practice and a TEACHER/Guide.

I have been thinking a great deal about eggs  because we are finding about three a day, courtesy of our chickens.

We hatched the chicks and roosters in July from eggs, so what a miraculous and yet simple event it is to see the cycle come full around. Life is such as this. We take on these identities and facades, but as we quiet down in our later years, we come back in some ways to who we always were.

Who I have always been is still within me, improved and burnished, I hope, and cleared of a few of the worst of my flaws, but nonetheless quite clear. I am a reader and a thinker who absolutely loves to study. I am creative and my creativity mostly leads to writing and cooking. I love children and old people. I love stories. I am a collector of history and family photographs. I love to travel and meet new people even though I am by nature extremely shy. I am optimistic, too honest at times, faithful, a caretaker, moody, reclusive, and slightly impulsive. I have a well of joyful expression that likes most of all to dance and cavort outside. I am happiest away from crowds and with easy access to trees and flowers and rocks. I am passionate about honesty and truth-telling. I LOVE to laugh.

Below is a house that I adore, not far from our farm.

If/when we sell our house in Lexington, we will build a house on our farm, and making the plans is a true opportunity to assess what is of value and to prioritize the remaining years of your life.

When I was ordained, I was told by a mentor that ministry is the only job where you are paid to be a human being. Sounds easy? It ain't! To be fully human is very hard, and the work of a lifetime.

Finally, a question that arose: Did I disengage from the congregation in order to conduct this experiment in being human? I would say yes and no. Not a day has passed that I did not think with love, pride, concern, worry, fear, or delight upon members of our church. Yet, when I was called to return rather quickly to my minister-identity in order to help with Nancy's memorial service, I found it a strangely disorienting experience to put that persona back on. It was like trying to find a path back to the main trail when hiking, or like trying to come up from a dream when in a deep sleep. I realized how disengaged I had become, not from the people but from the ROLE. What that tells me is that my return to being human is a success, and I only pray that I can carry its lessons back into my ministerial duties!