“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back…always ineffectiveness.”
– W. H. Murray
Have you noticed how hard some people are working to make you afraid about the election this year? Every time I see a headline about this, I think of the “fight, flight, or freeze” responses that arise when we’re afraid.
None of those three responses are helpful when it comes to voting. We can’t begin to heal as a country until we’re all crystal clear about what matters to us and we communicate that with our vote.
To counter the fearmongering, I invite you to make a plan right now. Whether mailing in a ballot, early voting, or casting your ballot on election day, find out key dates, locations and times to vote, make your plan, and put it on your calendar.
In the September 24th daily summary of the news, The Morning, by David Leonhardt of The New York Times, Leonhardt reported “Social-science research has found that people who make a specific voting plan — exactly when and where they will vote — are more likely to do so than people who vaguely promise themselves that they will.”
Let your voting plan and any effort to encourage others to vote bring you peace, knowing you are doing what you can to make a difference.
And, as Paula D’Arcy and Craig Hella Johnson so beautifully reminded us this past Sunday, there is kindness and goodness always being revealed in the darkest moments and “love is always holding us.”
May you remember the power of your choices, choose to vote, and call upon the love that is holding you when you feel afraid.
“I am listening to the wheel of the year turning, to the cycle of the seasons, to the call for harmony and balance. I am listening to the circle of life. I am listening.” – Joyce Rupp, from The Circle of Life
Sometimes we miss the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox in Central Texas because it often still feels and looks like summer. As if she knew we needed the reminder of this day of harmony and balance, Mother Nature brought us cooler temperatures and hints of fall this year.
Guest Reflection by Elota Patton
Today, I am filled with gratitude. But that has not always been the case since the pandemic began. For 25 years, I have done Nia, a mind/body/spirit dance practice, with groups ranging from 3-50 people, two to four times a week. I have taught Nia for 10 years, in a dance practice that is physical, spiritual, and communal. When people move together to music, it creates a joyous bond – and we hug a lot before and after class. Now the classes I take and teach are online, through Zoom or Facebook Live; we are dancing small. There is no touch, and I feel the loss. I’m sure that people who regularly attend religious services feel the same; praying or meditating together in person is a powerful experience.
” …race is constructed, negotiated, discussed, and remade daily, through housing law and policy and through so much more. It requires bravery and openness to to reflect on these moments, with the support of mindfulness and compassion practices. We can learn and teach one another about the largely invisible, generally under-acknowledged dynamics that hold the structures of racism in place.”
– Rhonda V. Magee, from her book The Inner Work of Racial Justice
There is something different about the movement in 2020 to address the systemic racial injustice in our country. You can feel the focus, the energy, the commitment to stay “on it” until this scourge is dismantled in every area of our lives.
To be contemplative includes the often challenging work of truly seeing the world as it is and holding space for the beauty to emerge.
For me, the beauty in the ugliness that continues to be revealed during this time of the pandemic is the rising call to action to effectively address racial and other forms of injustice. One of the strengths of Eremos is our ability to hold space for healing and peaceful change for our community and the world. Yet, there comes a time when this powerful endeavor needs to be accompanied by education and action. This feels like one of those times.
I am reminded of Stephen Covey’s wisdom to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” As a white woman who wants to be part of this change, I am actively in the “seeking to understand” phase, so I can intelligently vote and engage in efforts to make a difference.
If you feel a similar call to actively participate in addressing systemic racism, please join us in our fall book reflection of The Inner Work of Racial Justice, listen to Rhonda V. Magee share her wisdom with us in our conversation with her on October 8th, or read other great books on this topic. We chose Ms. Magee’s book because she so beautifully articulates the necessity of contemplative practices to hold us and give us the resilience we all need to address, change, and heal the painful beliefs, practices, and laws that have kept racism in place for too long.
May you find the bravery and openness to do the inner work, so your light can shine bright in the movement to end systemic racism. And may you remember that any effort, no matter how small, makes a difference.
” In your heart may there be a sanctuary
For the stillness where clarity is born.”
– John O’Donohue, from his blessing For One Who Holds Power
A sanctuary. Doesn’t that sound life-giving right about now? Even though I’ve been more isolated than I care for in the past six months, the intensity of these days has me yearning for a safe place away from worries about the future.
John O’Donohue reminds me that this beautiful place of healing stillness can be found within the heart simply by placing our attention there and sitting in silence. And, in his guest reflection below, Rich Lewis speaks to the blessing of silence in Centering Prayer.
This image from the Thracian Sanctuary in Bulgaria spoke to me as a place to rest in stillness surrounded by the wisdom of the stones and trees. I’ll be imagining myself there in my meditations. What does the sanctuary in your heart look like?
May you find the sanctuary in your heart and may it bring you peace and clarity.
P.S. Speaking of sanctuary…I know Sharon Dunn will co-create with attendees a space of soul-nourishing sanctuary this Saturday during the Women’s virtual retreat. Please consider joining her. Click here for Details.
An excerpt from Rich Lewis’ new book, Sitting with God: A Journey to Your True Self Through Centering Prayer
I cannot imagine a better start to each day than a silent sit.
Silence is not empty. It is filled with God. When I practice centering prayer, I respond to the invitation to sit with God. When I center like Jesus, I say, “Not what I want, but what you want”. I sit in silence to be loved and healed by God. Silence creates a space for me to heal. The space created by silence and stillness helps me find my equilibrium, my center of gravity.
I sit in silence because it is a safe place to let go of my anger—and my guilt for this anger. I sit in silence to let go of jealousy, which is an obstacle to the release of my God-given potential. I sit in silence to let the Creator create through me, to let go and trust God. I sit in silence because I love God. I sit in silence to enter a journey that God and I travel together. Silence teaches me how to live.
Silence is not often thought of as a teacher. Most often our society refers to silence as “dead time.” What, if anything, can be special about silence? This is where a transformation has taken place in my life. I have come to see how precious silence is, how silence is God’s first language. As Thomas Keating and a number of other mystics before and since have stated, “Silence is God’s first language and everything else is a poor translation.”
Words do not always need to be said. In contemplative prayer we float in the ocean of God. You can’t sink because God will hold you. Thomas Keating wrote, “Contemplative prayer is the world in which God can do anything.” Our job is to enter and see what happens. We maintain a “beginner’s mind”—an openness that allows all our expectations to drop away. As Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki wrote: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the experts mind there are few.”
The heart of centering prayer is “consent”— consent to the presence and action of God in our lives. That is it! We do not need to make it complicated. Like the myriad contemplatives before us, we open to the presence of God in silence. We let God do the work. When we center, we let God take action within (Luke 17:21). If we open to God, God will become present, and when ready, God will act within. And we will take this action into our non-centering times of the day.
In a radio interview, Amos Smith mentioned that he has chosen his well and will dig there (as opposed to digging in several wells [traditions]). I feel the same way. I have chosen my well. It is centering prayer, and here I will dig. The silence of centering prayer is not escape from this world but rather prepares me to engage and fully live in this world. The deep well of centering prayer provides a foundation, which gives me the stability and solidity to carry out my life mission.
About our Guest Author: RICH LEWIS is an author, speaker and coach who focuses on centering prayer as a means of inner transformation. He teaches centering prayer in both his local and virtual community and offers one-on-one coaching. He publishes a weekly meditation, book reviews, and interviews on his site, Silence Teaches.
He has published articles for a number of organizations, including Contemplative Light, Abbey of the Arts, Contemplative Outreach, EerdWord, In Search of a New Eden, the Ordinary Mystic at Patheos, and the Contemplative Writer.
Rich has been a daily practitioner of centering prayer since June 1, 2014. Centering prayer has been so life-giving and life-changing that he feels compelled to share his journey with others who wish to learn more. Rich resides with his family in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Learn more about him at www.SilenceTeaches.com.
” Every time you love just a little
Take one step closer, solving a riddle
It echoes all over the world.
Every time you opt in to kindness
Make one connection, used to divide us
It echoes all over the world.”
– Dar Williams, partial lyrics for her song, Echoes
Dar Williams’ song, Echoes, reminds me of how powerful small acts of kindness, prayers, and simple steps to make a difference are in creating a better world.
What if there were more positive things happening around the world than you can begin to imagine or that the news would or could ever choose to report?
My heart fills with gratitude and radiates hope as I imagine people I’ll never be blessed to meet speaking kind words to strangers, watering parched trees, saving abandoned animals, working to make sure everyone has a chance to vote, or offering a prayer for peace.
May you remember your small acts of kindness and justice echo around the world and inspire more acts of kindness and justice than you can begin to imagine.
P.S. The image above is of Echo Point in New South Wales, Australia. What blessing or prayer would you shout out into the world from that place?
“To awaken is not about staying in the same place and seeing, from there, new vistas. Nor is it about having enlightened insights or realizing new thoughts or ideas. It is to find myself in the new vista, looking back at my former life with an entirely new set of eyes. It is, literally, to be changed; the spirit within becomes my sight.” – Paula D’Arcy.
When I come home from a trip to new and inspiring vistas, I see my home and life differently. As if I have a new set of eyes, I find myself more open to the beauty and wisdom I could not see before. And, I have more compassion for myself and others.
While my travels and spiritual practices have not brought me fully to the awakened state Paula D’Arcy describes, I know these experiences have moved me closer to having the spirit within animating my gaze, hearing, and other senses. Not yet feeling comfortable to travel because of the pandemic, I now seek poetry, music, inspirational reading, and prayers to help me awaken with new eyes every morning.
As I consciously seek to shift my awareness from worries about the election and “them” (anyone who plans to vote for different candidates) to the present moment, Paula’s wisdom now has me also remembering everyone has the spirit within.
At any given moment, we are simply at different places on the path toward the spirit within becoming our sight.
How are you moving through election season with peace and grace?
May you pause often to close your eyes, sense the Divine within, and then open to a fresh, peaceful gaze on the world around you.
In our workshop this past Saturday, In It for the Long Haul, facilitator Scott Van Camp spoke about the power of curiosity and wonder to help us through these difficult days. I was reminded of the times I would encourage coaching clients to wonder about a challenge rather than trying to figure out a solution.When we are in a state of wonder and curiosity, we are open to all possibilities. We don’t shut off a possible source of wisdom or practical solutions too soon.
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with all things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
― Rachel Carson
Taking this awareness of the power of wonder and curiosity into these next few intense months feels life-giving and anxiety-reducing. None of us know what will unfold for the rest of 2020 and beyond. Why not enter into these days wondering how it will turn out? Who knows? In our state of wonder, we just might find gifts we never could have imagined.
May the gift of wonder and the blessing of curiosity open you to positive possibilities and potentials you might have missed before.
“So when hurt or afraid or confused, when feeling urgent to find your place on this Earth, hard as it is, wait…and things as you fear them will, more often than not, shrink into the hard irreplaceable beauty of things as they are…of which you have no choice but to be a part.”― Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
As the need to socially distance, wear masks, and limit simple pleasures like dining out continues with no immediate end in sight, restlessness can grip us.
Patience becomes a vital necessity and not just a nice virtue. Mark Nepo so wisely points out that “Fear wants us to act too soon. But patience, hard as it is, helps us outlast our preconceptions.”
What have you been telling yourself you just can’t take anymore? Or, wait anymore for? Perhaps lovingly ignoring that voice and just waiting could bring “the hard irreplaceable beauty of things as they are” and moments of blessed peace.
May any restlessness you’re feeling be soothed by the wisdom of waiting and the gift of patience. And, if you abound in patience and peace right now, may you send out to the world prayers that all beings be blessed by these gifts.
P.S. We’re blessed to receive the perspective and wisdom of two gentlemen this week to help us navigate this ever-changing landscape we find ourselves in: Doug Fritzsche will speak on “Letting Go of What Normal Looks Like” on Wednesday at Noon in our Summer Interlude Series and Scott Van Camp will share thoughts and practices to help us move through these days with grace and compassion in In It for the Long Haul this Saturday. Please join us!