Asking deep questions together
We stood in a room together, a bunch of spiritual seekers asking question about God and life, love and death, meaning and the things that matter most. We stood together in the room and started to move. This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions. Do you believe in God? We moved along the lines between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and asked each other what we meant by the word ‘God.’ This is just something we do from time to time.
Do you believe people are basically good or basically bad? We shift ourselves around the room; and explore the realities we each know of life. Where do we fit in? And how do we respond to the events of our day?
What about your values? Which value is most important: Truth, Goodness, Beauty, something else? We move around the room together and wonder at this life we are living. How can you be on the opposite side of the room and yet agree with me? How can you be in my corner and yet not see my point? Some people circle the room, not ready to stay in only one corner, with only one answer.
This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions. We stand, we speak, we listen, we move. What happens when you die? With whom or what have you made your biggest promises? What is the line between justice and forgiveness?
Then at the end of the day, we let those deep questions rest a while and we just live our lives. We dance, read poems, sing, and tell stories. We check in with each other about relationships and health concerns. At times we sit alone or in pairs silently. And sometimes, love holds us close as we cry. But mostly we just go about the day.
Then, another morning comes, perhaps today is one of those mornings, and we find ourselves in a room together asking questions. This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions.
by Rev. Douglas Taylor
Alone in the world, I was beset with frustration and anger at the world around me: so much injustice and hatred, so little peace and freedom. I longed to make a difference; I struggled against the powers and institutions. But my actions seemed insignificant and my words were drowned out.
Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love. Here I found support and energy, vision and power, and the authority of shared witness.
And together we changed the world.
Alone in the world I was beset by sorrow and hurt in my life: so much loss and emptiness, so little hope and understanding. I wept for the pain in my heart; I ached from hardships I bore. But my tears brought little relief and my burdens grew unwieldy.
Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love. Here I found support and compassion, wisdom and grace, and the power of shared suffering.
And together we made life sweeter.
Alone in the world, I was beset by confusion and vapidity in my soul: so much busyness and pettiness, so little depth or connection. I shriveled inside for want of real spiritual bonds and my soul cried out for meaning.
Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love. Here I found support and encouragement, depth and diversity, and power of sharing the journey.
And together we saved my life.
For all the varied reasons that brought us out of loneliness and into community, we give thanks. For the blessings we each bestow on one another with our energy, compassion, and prayer, we give thanks. For the blessings we become to others in need we give thanks, and remember that we are not alone.
This meditation was published in the Skinner House 2005 meditation Anthology, For All That is Our Life
I am recently returned from a sabbatical. I was able to slow down and (despite most of my time away happening during winter months) was able to get out into nature. This all reminds me of a quote from Thoreau of which I am fond. The quote started with the line, “Nature never makes haste.” In itself, that first line is compelling. We can be like nature; we, also, can learn to not make haste. It is a great sentiment. But Thoreau expands this idea as the full quote continues:
“Nature never makes haste. The wise man is restful, never restless or impatient. He each moment abides where he is, as some walkers actually rest the whole body at each step, while others never relax the muscles of the legs till the accumulated fatigue obliges them to stop short.”
This could have dramatic implications for your life, don’t you think?
Do you strain every muscle at every moment to accomplish the task(s) you have set yourself, or do you rest your whole body in every moment?
Do you actually enjoy the moment you are in, or are you so busy that you miss it?
As I return to my regular schedule after having been away for a time, I already feel myself picking up speed. We are often caught up in our rush to complete things in time or get things ready. Multi-tasking is almost required to live in this world!
I hope you are able to actually rest your whole body at each step. I wish for each of you (and for myself) the sense that every moment is already perfect and needs no preparation to be enjoyed. There is rest in every step, joy in every step, a beautiful view waiting to be seen in every step.
And if slowing down is hard for you, or not a priority, or not a realistic option given your circumstances … I pray you will find that relaxation waiting for you when possible. Or perhaps that the moments of relaxation catch you if you will not pause to catch them.
Anatomy of a Prayer
There are many forms a prayer can take; it need not have a particular shape. If you are going to pray, the primary thing is to pay attention to your intention. After that, nearly any words (or silences) will serve.
I don’t know how many in our congregation pray. The stereotype of Unitarian Universalists is that we range from uncomfortable to ambivalent about prayer. We prayer “to whom it may concern” or we use an inordinate number of euphemism (“Spirit of Life and Love, Great Spirit, Holy One, You who are known by many names …”) Yet I am always surprised by the larger than expected number of us who pray.
So here are some useful tips in creating your own prayers. I was read recently that there are five basic types of prayer: “Wow,” “Thank you,” “Sorry,” “Please,” and “____.” (That last one is ‘silence.’) Of course some will tell you the number of basic prayer forms is really 2 or 22, but I like 5, so let’s stick with that for now.
When I write prayers for the worship services I use a basic format most of the time. I start with an address. I’ve settled on “Eternal Spirit, from whom all things come and to whom all things return.” I’ve used other phrases as well. The classic, “Dear God,” is always an option. This may be the exact part that is the line between a person who prays and a person who does ‘spoken meditation.’ If it fits your theology better, perhaps you will skip this opening part of the format.
Typically I then list some things for which we are thankful followed by some things for which we could use support. This is the bulk of the prayer, the middle content for me. It is a combination of the “Thank you” and the “Please” in that list of 5 types of prayer. Each day there may be different things, and there are things that are regularly in my prayers.
I usually end with “In the name of all that is holy, may it be so.” I find it helpful to have this pattern. There is comfort in familiar patterns. I also find it helpful that I have room in this structure to say whatever I need to say at the time – that I have room for my intention as I mentioned at the beginning.
Prayer can be a spiritual practice to take inventory of your heart and conscience. It can be a way of drawing on your reserves of courage. It may serve as a method to center and calm your mind. It might be a means to stir up a community to act on behalf of justice. Prayer can be like art or poetry – a means of expression for things that simply must be expressed. Or it may be a way to remind yourself of the qualities you long to share with the world.
Find a pattern that works for you. That’s the part in which it becomes a ‘spiritual practice.’ Remember, your intention is the key. Your intention is more important that the theology beneath your words.