Simply, Me Too

asian kids little boy hand touches and holds an old man wrinkledIn 1981 Barbara Mandrell recorded the song, “I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool.”  I kinda feel that way about #metoo.  It would work…I was me-too, when me-too wasn’t cool.  Well, you get the idea.  I am about to be very politically incorrect but try to see the larger picture here. I was a little put out with “#metoo” phrase.  Now, not the cause, not the solidarity, not the results. I don’t want to take anything away from the movement!

You see, the phrase “me too” has always held a broader connotation for me.  By attaching it to one category, one movement it narrows and lessens the larger connection of community this phrase can hold.  The phrase “me too” is what connects all humanity!  Without that phrase, we are alone in our suffering, in our pain, and even in our laughter.

Several years ago I was working with Haven for Hope.  It is a homeless shelter that offers an addiction recovery program.  I facilitated spiritual wellness classes for men and women’s addiction recovery groups on a weekly basis.  What I discovered forever changed my feeling of connection with what I consider the “greater community.”

Oh, I always held the belief that we are all children of God, we all are of the same worth and so on. But hearing and sharing stories, telling of dreams that fell short; beginning again at places one didn’t expect to be…we all have at least one of those stories!  Yeah, me too.  They are each unique and at the same time universal.

What was this great discovery?  We are all the frickin’ same at an innate level and there is no hierarchy in compassion. I believe strongly that we are, every one of us, born a spiritual being. A spark of the Divine resides within all humanity.  We may build a wall of hate or fear around it, ignore it, or sadly, forget it is there. We may also foster that spark, engage with the Divine, grow, moving closer to God, the Divine Spirit, and as a result with all creation.

Everyone has hopes, dreams, and ambitions!  At some point we all carried “images” of what we would be, or might become. There are experiences that shape all of us; some quite unfair, even cruel; some we created by poor choices; some by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  But the minute we crack open our soul the slightest bit and share the smallest pain or suffering, and in return the other says, yeah, me too. We are connected forever.  You see it takes vulnerability and courage to open up, and the same courage and vulnerability to respond me too!

So, when I am in conversation and say, “me too,” whether out loud or in my heart, I am saying me too to something broader and deeper. I am with you in your suffering and pain. I am with you in laughter and joy. Sitting with an immigrant at a bus station, I clearly have not experienced their fear, their pain, their hopes.  But I do knowfear, pain, and hope.  I can sit with them in theirs.

No two hurts are the same. One who thinks that their suffering is unique, that no one hurts like they do or as bad as they do; or that no one has it as rough as they do, can miss out on compassionate connection. One can too often end up sitting within their suffering all alone.  Pain and suffering feel lonely enough as is.

Have you ever watched a little child with an older adult?  Walking slowly with them, gently touching them, recognizing their frailty? They are saying “me too.”  We all long for connection, to be needed, to tell our stories, to not be alone. 

There is a creed a church I used to attend recited from time to time. It is called “The United Church of Canada’s Affirmation of Faith.” The creed opens with the line, “We are not alone, we live in God’s world.”  I always feel like I could stop right there!  We live in a world where the Divine is present, always.  Present in me, present in you, in ALL.  That right there is the connection that initiates “me too.”

Allowing someone to hold your story is sacred.  The act of listening to and holding another’s story is sacred!  Each story is unique, and each story is the same.  Pain is pain; betrayal is betrayal; fear is fear.  It is not necessary to compare, or as odd as it may sound, compete.  When someone shares their story, it is a gift of grace.  When someone listens to your story, simply holds it in God’s presence, that too is a gift of grace.  Compassion rises!

Sacred Laughter

Laughter, genuine laughter!
Uncontainable, joyous!
Pure and unrestrained.
A true gift given!

My daughters and I were flying a kite on a wonderful, breezy afternoon.  The youngest was holding the spool of string, the rest of us had our necks craned as we watched the kite high above us.  You can imagine our surprise as the spool (no longer in my daughter’s hand) passed us by and the kite kept soaring above us!  My children have a vivid image of me chasing after that spool of string attached to our kite.

The wind took the kite and the string along with it across the park. For some reason, I thought I could run fast enough to grab the spool!  I took off running, in what felt like a sprint.  I began to imagine what I must look like running after the kite that was blowing through the air, the string always just out of reach. I could see the looks on people’s faces as they watched this crazy lady running through the park trying to capture the elusive kite!

Out of breath and half way across the park I looked back to find both girls still standing in the same spot…their mouths and eyes wide open. I burst into laughter and so did they.  For weeks we would pass by the kite hung up in the phone wires and just laugh.

That was a sacred laughter. Why? Because, that laughter was bound together in the love and joy of that moment.

Recently, after a very long and very hard bout of laughter, a friend said, “beautiful!” I couldn’t agree more.

Take time to recall:
When…

First a grin.

A smile soon breaks out.

A chuckle escapes.

Finally laughter erupts…

At the memory of us doubled over with laughter!

I love that memory!

Rising Above Our Challenges

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 NIVHot air balloons flying over lavender landscape sunset

Brightly colored hot air balloons gracefully drifting upward remind me of rising above our challenges and choosing joy. Sometimes difficult, yes, but possible if we are spiritually well.

What is spiritual wellness? It is different for each of us as it is centered upon values and beliefs that give each of us purpose. Spiritual wellness involves making time every day for:

  • Relaxation, which may include play, exercise, meditation, prayer or other spiritual practices
  • Reflection about our beliefs and how they guide our actions
  • Gratitude, forgiveness and compassion
  • Altruism and service to others

Nurturing our spiritual lives in this way allows us to build reserve so that when challenges arise, we have the resilience and perseverance to rise above them.

By MaryAnne Toepperwein

 

Humility

Contributed by Margi Sauder

Make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart, and one in mind. Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. PIMG_5207 (1)hilippians 2:2-4

I have a son who lives in the Snowmass, Colorado area and we “run away” from the heat every summer to visit he and his family. This picture is of the St. Benedictine’s Monastery in Snowmass. It is the home of one of the most famous contemplative writers of our time, Fr. Thomas Keating. I was fortunate enough to attend a contemplative mass in this idyllic setting last Sunday.

The homily was on humility. This theme has reoccurred in my reading and hearing several times these past months. I am pondering what God wants me to hear. Humility is not stepping aside and allowing situations and people to just wash over me. Rather, I bel
ieve, it is being aware when the ME thinking gets in the way of me being the best person God wants me to be. Allowing myself to empty all the things that stand in my way.Contemplative prayer is the best way I have found to do this. Fr. Richard Rohr says it best:

“Contemplation teaches us to live in an undefended way. Little by little we can let go of the need to prove ourselves right or superior. Contemplation retrains our bra
ins to understand the bias from the bottom, to know with true humility and love.”

If you do not have a regular time of contemplation, or just sitting with God, I would invite you to try. Start with just a few minutes. Clear your mind; focus on your slow and steady breathing. Sometimes I sit with a few words “God fill me with your love” or “Bless me God, help me to bless others” As you become more comfortable with this you might want to increase your time. There is no perfect amount of time, just feel God sitting with you and be open for what he might be saying to you. You might be amazed at what you hear!

To Carry and Be Carried

carry“Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.

“…carried by four of them…” This phrase stops me every time. From the perspective of one has been carried and as one who has carried others, I’ve wondered both about the person on the mat and the ones doing the carrying.

Was the person being carried by others willing and cooperative or unwilling and struggling against? Grateful or resentful? I have to admit I have not always been an easy person to carry. What about you? Remember the times of your life when you were not able to walk alone. What was it like for you?

And, what about those doing the carrying? For four people to get a person anywhere takes cooperation! But, were their hearts filled with compassion and tenderness or with duty or even resentment? And, they brought their loved one to the feet of Jesus. I often consider where am I even bringing others? As you have carried others, what is it like for you?

Kintsugi–Mending the Broken

Can you remember as a child when you accidently broke something and tried with all your ability to mend it so that no one would notice? I recall the fear and shame this created within me.kintsugi I can also remember thinking that superglue would be my saving grace! But, even with this great invention, I somehow could never repair the broken item to its original state. Imagine my surprise when I learned of the Japanese technique of Kintsugi…I could have told everyone I was simply being an artist!

Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese technique used to repair broken ceramic pieces. “Kint” > gold and “Sugi” >connect. The art of kintsugi uses lacquer and gold leaf to repair the broken plate, bowl, etc…creating what many say is a work of art more beautiful than the original piece. To the kintsugi artists, this work is related to the spiritual practice of finding beauty in broken or old items, giving them new life.

Applied to our lives, the idea of turning the broken into beauty becomes a spiritual practice that frees us from hiding and releases the shame we feel. Kintsugi was the focus of discussion in a recent addiction recovery group I was facilitating. After watching the video on the link I have provided below, the talk turned to our own brokenness. The scars, the wounds we receive, the wounds we have given, the flaws, the cracks, the hurt and pain we all carry. We then took time to reflect by creating images of our own brokenness and visions of mending.   http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/05/kintsugi-the-art-of-broken-pieces/ 

I was given permission by the man who created this plate to share this photo and his explanation of his image in this blog.

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He first etched in the paper plate how he saw the brokenness in his life. You can see in the center the words “self esteem.” He then wrote on the outer circle words that contribute to mending the broken pieces of his life. When it came time to add the gold, rather than just draw a solid line, the lines were formed by individual dots. The reason for not simply drawing a line is because this healing, this mending, takes time. One dot at a time…healing takes place.

What is the brokenness you carry? What contributes to healing the shattered pieces? What beauty do you see in your life from past wounds where healing has taken place?

 

 

Pride and Compassion

OUR GREATEST FEAR

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,

but that we are powerful beyond measure.

~Marianne Williamson

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I recently attended a wonderful retreat based on the theme of compassion.  Throughout the week we were accompanied by this beautiful peacock with its vibrant colors of various shades of blues and greens.  As I spent time reflecting on the grace of God’s unconditional love for all of creation, experiencing healing through meditations on self-compassion, and opening my heart to compassion for all of life, I kept gazing at this peacock and felt God had a message to share through this stunning creature.

But what could a peacock possibly have to do with compassion?

Compassion is the act of extending loving kindness. I find that experiencing compassion, both from God and the compassion I have for myself and others, leads to great healing of the broken places in life.  When I allow myself to be embraced by the fullness of God’s love for me, I begin to understand that just being “me” is enough.  And when I welcome all aspects of myself (those I’m proud of as well as the parts that try to remain hidden) and I bring them into the light of God’s grace, I am no longer divided and struggling with the need to hide who I truly am from God or others.  I can become the person God created me to be.  I can celebrate the “beauty” – in whatever shape or form that takes.

 Just as God  accepts and loves me, God created and loves all people.  Extending unconditional love, grace and compassion to others invites them to experience healing and wholeness. There is no competition or selfish acts of “doing good” just to make me feel better about myself.  Practicing loving kindness to others allows us to see the beauty that lies within them.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians he writes, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12, 14)

When we clothe ourselves with these things, then like the peacock, we too radiate the glory of God…

And of that we can be proud!