Monday, January 31, 2011

The Last One

I don’t know what to do with The Last Sunday. So, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing on all the previous Sundays and trust you to take what you want and leave the rest behind.

Nothing is more important than finding and serving your own destiny. Destiny? Did somebody say Destiny? That’s too restrictive! Too limiting! We want to be free to do what we want when we want for as long as we want and then do something else we want. Destiny locks us too much into a life not of our own choosing. But that’s how it is with destiny. We do not choose our destiny, our destiny chooses us like the wand chooses the wizard. It is a radical, subversive, thing to seek and serve our destiny.

Destiny? Oh well, whatever. How 'bout those Packers? Those Steelers? Let's go bowling, Dude. Destiny doesn’t have a chance with us. Our eyes are on other things.

The right of the people to seek and serve their own destiny shall not be infringed! Where has that ever been decreed? We can’t have people serving their own destiny. It would wreck the economy. Tell them to go shopping. Forget their destiny. They should buy whatever makes them happy.

What does happy have to do with it? In returning the ring to the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo is not happy. In serving the Force and resisting the powers of the Dark Side, Luke is not happy. In sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree and refusing the pleasures of the world, the Buddha is not happy. In taking the path with his name on it to Gethsemane and Golgotha, Jesus is not happy. What makes us happy is not the guide to life. Life asks hard things of us.

What sacrifices are we willing to make for the sake of The Beam, the path, the way with our name on it, the life that is our life to live? Sacrifices? Did someone say Sacrifices? We are not interested in sacrifices. We just want to know how to get things to go our way.

Our life is trying, dying, to get our attention. We walk on, unseeing, seeking ends that are pleasing to us. What do we know? Only what we like and don’t like, want and don’t want. That’s no help when it comes to living the life that is ours to live. Who would want to do that? But we are not exactly left in the lurch. There is That Which Knows what is life for us and what is not, That Which Keeps Calling Our Name: Over here! This way! But we walk on. We create our own lonely lurch by walking on.

We aren't here to get things to go our way. What do we know? We are here to go the way that is The Way, the path, the beam, for us. The good news is that it is never too late to start living the life that calls our name, that is our life to live. It is never too late to embrace our destiny. The most important question at any point in our life is "Now what?" What needs to be done here and now? What calls our name here, now?

Our destiny is not some grand conclusion, some glorious achievement. Our destiny is bringing forth who we are in the mundane moments of our lives. Our destiny expresses itself, comes forth, in our response to each situation as it arises, in who we show ourselves to be in each moment. We become who we are in listening to what calls our name in each situation, each moment, as it unfolds before us, and offering our gifts there as needed. Each moment, each situation, offers us another opportunity to align ourselves with our destiny and become who we are, then and there, here and now.

Do you have it in you to be who you are, where you are, when you are, how you are? Not who you would like to be. Not who you wish you were. Who you are. Become who you are! Can you? Can you do it? Can you hand yourself over to yourself? Can you trust yourself to your own sense of direction no matter where the trail goes? Alexis Carrel says we cannot remake ourselves without suffering, for we are both the marble and the sculptor. We are entirely up to us, but every moment calls us forth anew.

Is it a white rabbit, or a red herring, or a wild goose? It takes going to know. We will learn a lot no matter what we follow. We don't know where we are going, what we are doing. Fooling ourselves is what we do best. Are we going or not? Anyone can stay home, safe in the comfortable routines and familiar patterns of life. It's a fool who leaves home searching for home. Are you coming or not? Our life wants to know. Is dying to know.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It is all up to us and those who help us

Well, let’s see… I’ll leave you with what? Hmm… I think, each other. Can’t beat that. I’ll leave you with all of you. That’s all you need. Whoever, okay, whomever, pinned the piece in the handout about the candles this morning did a wonderful job condensing these monologues in to one short statement. You are up to you, and you, and you… Each of you brings forth who you are in the company of those who receive you well and, in so doing, encourage you and sustain you in the work—and in the joy—of being you.

You bring yourself forth in the service of that which is truly important to you. This company encourages you in that work, in the work of knowing and doing what is truly important to you. One thing leads to another, you know, and as you do this important thing, you find yourself led into the next important thing, and before long, you have built—created—a life of true value by doing the things that are important to you. Our work is to craft a life of worth and value by the way we live—by living in the service of things that are important to us—by living on The Beam, the path, the way with our name on it.

We do not find what is important to us, what we truly care about, by thinking about it. We “take up” a lot of things along the lines of “I think I’ll take up oil painting, or golf, or bird watching,” but it’s an idle pastime that we are taking up. Our heart isn’t in it. We are just hanging out with oil painting, or golf, or bird watching, in the absence of something worth our time. I “took up” the alto saxophone once. That lasted until I encountered sharps and flats. I didn’t care that much about alto saxophones.

However, the camera, writing, and walking in the woods have been essentially important to me over time. I care about these things, and go to a good bit of trouble and expense to serve them, and have crafted a life of worth and value (to me) around them. This doesn’t mean that my life is valuable and worthy in an absolute sense, only in a relative sense, as it relates to me. But if I am—if my life is—to have a chance of being worthy and valuable to you, my life and I have to be worthy and valuable to me. I owe it to me to live a life that I hold to be worthy and valuable. If I try to live a life that you, or Those Who Know Best, would hold to be worthy and valuable, I might hate myself and my life even if you, or they, loved it.

And so, the question: What is important to you that no one told you ought to be important? If the only things that are important to you are the things other people have told you ought to be important, then what is important to you is listening to, and pleasing, other people.

Here we come upon the importance of the right kind of company in helping us determine what is worthy and valuable, and live our lives in light of what is truly important to us. Those Who Know Best and Those Who Must Be Pleased are not the right kind of company. The right kind of company is a community of innocence with nothing at stake in our choice of what is important, other than it not be harmful to us or others.

“What are you doing that is truly valuable to you?” A community of innocence asks questions like that. “What are you doing that your soul loves?” These are the questions that put us on the right track, on the beam, on the path, the way, with our name on it. A community of innocence is good for helping us find the way to The Way by asking the right questions and being interested in our replies.

We don't know where value comes from—or values, for that matter—why some things are important to us and not other things. But we cannot deny that we ascribe value to things. What are the things of high value to us? How often do we do the things of high value? Why don't we spend more time doing those things? Why do we spend so much time doing things we don't like, things of low value to us, and so little time doing things we do like, things of high value? Here's what you can do for me, call it a going away present: Do more of the things with high value for you and less of the things with low, or no, value.

Of the free-time you have left for living, how much of it will you spend doing what you like and how much doing what you don't like? Our life's value to us is the degree to which we spend our time doing the things that are important to us, that have value for us. It comes down to clarity and courage. Being clear about what is important to us and being courageous enough to live in its service.

There is a price to be paid for doing what is important to us, and a price to be paid for not doing what is important to us. Which price to pay? What price are we willing to pay to do what is important to us? Our call to make is what price we are going to pay to live, to be alive, in the time left for living. These folks here with you will help you make that call by caring about you in the right kind of way and listening you to the truth of what matters most to you and encouraging you to do it. I leave you all in good company.

Friday, January 21, 2011


What we see is the surface of the unseen.

What we see are metaphors for the mystery. In pointing out the facts, discovering the operating principles, and giving names to all we know, we congratulate ourselves for our knowledge but are splashing in tidal pools oblivious to the great sea of mystery that remains unexplored and waiting for us to swim in its waves.

The truth is always more than can be told. We can pursue truth but we cannot pen truth in and say, “Here it is! This is it!” After we’ve understood all that can be understood, there is still more to understand.

We have to be deliberate in the use of metaphors as a way of saying what cannot be said. Words are an indirect medium in the work to express truth. Music is more direct, and art, and nature.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Start with the Day Job

The first step is to find something you CAN do to support yourself financially, on, or close to, a level at which you are comfortable, that will cause you the least amount of personal turmoil, stress, anguish and pain.

Keep in mind that, while it would be ideal if the work you get paid to do also “feeds your soul,” it may be a better choice for you to find work that feeds your body and provides you with the wherewithal to do what it takes to feed your soul after hours and on weekends.

Of course, there are many voices that will tell you that you should “do what you love” and trust that it will provide you with enough money to live on. My take on this is to say that UNTIL YOU KNOW WHAT YOU LOVE enough to make every sacrifice to serve, you would be wise to “find something you CAN do…”

At all times, you have to keep remembering that we have to look for those things which nurture our souls, which “feed” us, “enthuse” us, and fill us with “spirit,” with a passion, and a zeal, and a zest for living. These are the things which attract us, which interest us, which have the power to energize us and provide “life” for us, which motivate us, mobilize us, bring us to life and make us glad we are alive. We don’t often know what they are by thinking about them, but if we are awake, we recognize them when they come along, like white rabbits, nodding to us, winking at us, calling our name.

Monday, January 17, 2011


It comes down to eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands, which we develop over time by looking, listening, inquiring—by seeing that we don’t see, perceiving that we haven’t heard, understanding that we don’t have a clue.

The six aspects of life and the process for the unfolding of the way are right seeing, right hearing, right understanding, right knowing, right doing, right being.

Hope is not what we have, it is what we do. Of course, the situation is hopeless. Situations always are. Hope does not live “out there” but “in here.” and we cannot find hope we can only exhibit hope, by being those who are not afraid to live in the situation as it arises, offering there what we have to give, and seeing where it goes.

The one who understands must understand that most people do not care to understand. The understanding one must also understand that her, that his, role is to be a doorstop that keeps open the possibility of understanding for those who are sure they know all they need to know.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Path to the Path

Well. Two thousand down and three to go. Sundays, that is. But it doesn’t mean that because we are down to the final three they are going to be special, like I’ve been saving the best for last. I haven’t been holding out on you. I’ve given you what I’ve had all along. Those of you who have been here all along could say it as well as I can. Here it comes again!

There is you and there is the beam, the path with your name on it, the way that is The Way for you. Everything depends upon you getting on the beam and staying there. We are all here to help you find the beam, the path, The Way and stay on it. We help connect you with the life that is uniquely, individually, your life to live, and then get out of your way. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that you don’t help us help you. You have ideas about the life you want to live, about the life you wish were yours. It’s the Garden of Eden all over again, where there is our life and the life we wish were our life. The solution to the Garden of Eden is the Garden of Gethsemane: “Thy will, not mine, be done,” where the “Thy” is the life that is our life to live, the work that is our work to do. Moving from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane is the spiritual journey. It’s also growing up. Squaring ourselves up to how things are, reconciling ourselves with what is true and what is also true, and taking up the work that is ours to do in living the life that is ours to live, never mind how we wish things were. And we are here to help one another do that work, live that life.

We do that by being a community of innocence. The work of being us, of being who we are, is solitary work. No one can do it for us. The kind of community we need is composed of individuals being themselves. We are here to remind one another that we find the way by getting out of our own way, by opening ourselves to possibilities we would never consider, and following the white rabbit to places we would never go on our own.

The crucial realization is that our life as we are living it isn't working. This could result in suicide, addiction or depression. Or in our waking up to the work that is ours to do. We go one way or the other bases upon our recognition that we aren’t here to have what we want, but to serve what wants us. That is not clear to all of us or to any of us at all times. It is all quite iffy and hangs by a thread. There are no guarantees that we will take up the work that is ours to do and serve the soul that is waiting to come forth into the world.

It is all up to us, but. We are upheld, encouraged and sustained for our work by the communities of innocence which nurture us, knowingly, along the way. Communities of innocence help us with the work of seeing and saying how things are, bearing the impact and imagining fitting responses. The life we live is always a compromise with the facts of life. How alive can we be within the context and circumstances of our lives? It is up to us to work it out, to be as alive as we can be within the context and circumstances of our lives. This is the work of being human. There is nothing more to being human than living aligned with ourselves in light of all that is true in responding appropriately to the time and place of our living.

Helping us to engage reality and respond appropriately in light of all that is true about us is the work of communities of innocence. Communities of innocence help us take into account all that can be taken into account in deciding what to do about how things are. Being conscious of everything pulls the contradictions, the conflicts, the discrepancies, the discordances, into view for us to integrate. On one hand, this. On the other hand, that. Ambivalence and contraries are the matrix of life, the sea in which we all swim.

Consciousness, awareness, is the healing balm that takes all opposites into account and undertakes the work of reconciliation, integration, oneness. To be conscious is to do, to be engaged in, the work of reconciliation, integration. The work of squaring ourselves up to how things are and how they also are.

Consciousness is awareness of all that is true in any moment, and of what needs to be done about it, with it, for the good of all concerned. Consciousness is not a spiritual trick for getting what we want. What we want is the first thing that has to go in the work of consciousness. Nothing blocks awareness like having an agenda. Wanting something keeps us from seeing everything. Being afraid of something keeps us from seeing everything. Nothing blocks awareness like being afraid of what might happen. To be afraid is to have an agenda. Something at stake. Something to gain, something to lose. We have to live as those with nothing at stake, nothing to gain, nothing to lose, in serving the true good of the whole with the life that is ours to live. Ah, but what’s in it for us? We get to be fully alive in the service of our life!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Communities of Innocence

As those of you know who have been here for a while, Rumi said, “If you are not here with us in good faith, you are doing terrible damage.” This means, in part, that you have to care about us, and if you can’t do that, you have to at least live with us in ways that are caring. You have to act like you care about us whether you do or not. And we have to do the same for you. It doesn’t mean that we will pay your car payment or your house note for you, or you for us. But it does mean that we all can count on being cared for here. That we can be seen, listened to, heard, understood and helped to live our lives. Caring is automatic here. That is a part of our commitment to each other—to be with the other in good faith.

Now, look around. Spot the people you do not care for automatically. Work to care for those people, to treat those people caringly. It is part of your covenant with them to be with them here in good faith. We cannot be casual or flip about, or disinterested in, caring for one another. We are upheld and sustained, encouraged and called forth into our lives by the presence of those who love us. We must not dismiss the power of our love in the lives of others, or dismiss the power of their love in our lives.

We have to live in ways that make the world as good a place as possible. Everything hinges on our ability to let things be what they are and do what can be done about it, with it. We are to live in ways that make the world better by the way we live in it. We do that as we care about one another here, in this place, and do what is right by one another.

We all know what is right as it pertains to us. We know when something is right for us and when it is wrong. We know when we are mistreated and when we are honored, respected, cared for. We have no problem nailing what is right and what is not right about the way we are treated. We have to become those who recognize what is right and not right as it pertains to others—and care about them in their situation as we would care about ourselves. And, we have to know when to do what is right by them even at our own expense. We have to know when to stand up for ourselves and when to stand down, when to stand aside, for the sake of others. This is an essential part of the work of growing up, knowing when to stand up for ourselves and when to stand aside for others. This is not something we can get from books or lectures, discussions, resolutions or keeping the rules. We have to trust our own judgment here, our own instinct and intuition and sense of what needs to be done, when, where and how.

But this is frightening, terrifying, painful. Trusting ourselves is not what we do best. Living with uncertainty, insecurity, not-knowing is not what we do best. Running, hiding, denying, pretending, faking it for the sake of safety and security is what we do best. But, if we are not here in good faith, we are doing terrible damage.

We want to run from the moment of uncertainty, of indecision—to hide in comfortable patterns and traditions, to not face what is to be faced, not do what needs to be done. When to do what??? That's what we want to know! We yearn for consistency, constancy, regularity, dependability, predictability. Laws! Rules! Same Old Same Old! The church of our experience! The Tea Party Doctrine! The most difficult truth of life is: Sometimes it's like this and sometimes it's like that. Sometimes we do it this way, sometimes that way. This is more truth than we can handle.

We want to numb the pain of being alive, of bringing ourselves forth, of birthing ourselves anew in each moment, situation, as it arises. Refusing to live, refusing to pay the price of being alive, saves us from the pain of life but we're just hanging out until we die. The pain we would avoid is the birth pangs of our own becoming, which we assist as we step forth into this mess to do what can be done here, now.

We help one another to do the work that is ours to do, squaring up to how things are, doing what we can about it, in each moment, situation. Our work in helping each other do the work that is ours to do is providing communities of innocence for the work that we all must do alone.

Communities of innocence are disinterested in the sense that they have no interest, nothing at stake, in us or the outcomes of our living. Communities of innocence are the source of grace, mercy, and peace in our lives in that they aren't trying to manipulate outcomes. Communities of innocence exist to help us see how things are and help us think our way through what is to be done about it, and do it. And communities of innocence stand at the opposite extreme from the inflammatory rhetoric that castigates and demonizes and puts itself forward as THE way of seeing, thinking, believing, doing, being which is polarizing the world into camps of Good and Evil and creating an atmosphere in which everyone is suspect who is out of line with the Party Line. That would be the Tea Party Line.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said this about the Tucson shootings: "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

We have to oppose inflammatory rhetoric at every point and become aware of the degree to which it impacts our lives. Here follows a prayer of confession that Salem Presbytery recommended to the congregations in the Presbytery on January 9, 2008 in approving the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Report. It becomes increasingly meaningful and appropriate day by day as a watchword for communities of innocence and the work of becoming true human beings:

We acknowledge and confess that we have failed to create an environment that is compassionate, just, and tolerant of the differences which exist among us. We have not learned to oppose what we consider to be evil without becoming evil in our opposition to evil. We too easily “become what we hate” in using violence to confront violence, in allowing our rhetoric to determine our actions, and in using all means necessary in the service of ends we declare to be good. We have closed our eyes to our responsibility to care for those who are belligerent, obnoxious, and inflammatory. We have allowed the anger in others to cultivate anger in ourselves. And, we have failed to create an environment in which our children might live peacefully with the children of those who see things differently than we do. In all of this, we are deeply ashamed, and commit ourselves to the construction of a future in which intolerance is unacceptable and “justice for all” is an abiding reality. We pledge ourselves to the work of making life together truly good on all levels for all people. Amen! May it be so!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

My Credo, Part VII

Our primary obligation is to our soul. This is fundamental. We are here to serve our soul, not by imposing upon it the practices and standards of religion, but by listening to it and living in sync with its purposes. We serve our soul by exhibiting the values of soul in our lives, by consciously, intentionally, aligning ourselves with its interests and bringing soul to life within the here and now of our living.

Our soul is the interface, the point of contact, of connection, with the invisible world. It stands as a threshold between ourselves and what has always been thought of as God. Soul is the carrier of life that is life, the vitality and the values that form the heart, the core of life. Soul is the vehicle of life and guides us to life. In establishing and maintaining right relationship with soul, we come alive in the truest sense, and live the life that is ours to live.

We collaborate with soul in producing a life that serves the values of soul within the limits and possibilities of physical existence. But when we hit a hard place we think of quitting. We give up too easily, quit too soon. Soul has dealt with restrictions and hardships we cannot imagine, and waits to help us find ways of facing up to and dealing with all that comes our way—in ways that are commensurate with the values of soul.

Within any circumstance, we can serve the values of soul, we can bring to life there what can be brought to life there. In any situation, we can give soul a shot at coming forth, being alive. When it seems to be hopeless, futile, pointless to go on we have to realize it is only our ends that are blocked, our desires that are frustrated. Soul lives for different purposes and calls us to serve those purposes in every situation as it unfolds. Our place is to learn to see life from soul’s point of view.

Our task, our calling, is to bring soul to life within the terms and conditions of life. In each one of us there is a soul that is more or less alive. In some of us soul is mostly dead or completely gone. We have to live in ways that retrieve soul, revive soul, wake soul up, bring our soul to life!

We are here to serve and protect our soul, which is the heart of life and guides us to life. We are best equipped to do that within what I think of as communities of innocence. Innocence is at once vulnerable and invincible. Communities of innocence don’t know any better than to do what is theirs to do in service to soul, and trust that the out come will be what it needs to be—and in that innocent trust there is power to transform, to save, the world.

Communities of innocence have no agenda, no strategy, no purpose beyond supporting the individual work of connecting with, and serving, soul. Communities of innocence help us find our way to our soul and then get out of our way. Communities of innocence have no stake in the outcomes of our lives beyond assisting us in living in sync, aligned, integrated with soul.

Communities of innocence are safe places in the surest sense of the word. Chance the Gardener, or "Chauncey Gardner," the Peter Sellers character in Being There, is an example of safety and security at the heart of innocence. Jesus, the Buddha and the Dali Lama are other examples of safety and security at the heart of innocence.

We build communities of innocence with those people who are safe places for us to be, who do not condemn, convert, advise, direct, exhort, rebuke, chide, ridicule, lecture, etc., but who do indeed challenge us, confront us, question our assumptions, and call us beyond ourselves to a depth and breadth of being we could not manage on our own. The best of the 12-step groups, and the church as it ought to be, rank for me as communities of innocence. Circles of Trust and the Clearness Committee are two places we work to create communities of innocence within this Gathering of Sojourners. It is a work that is worthy of the best effort we can put forth. Essential to that work is “good faith” on the part of each of us. Living together in good faith is the foundation of communities of innocence.

The heart of the kind of community that is necessary for the development of individuals who are serving their soul, living lives aligned with the Way, and bringing forth their gifts in ways that save the world is, what Rumi calls, “good faith.” He says, “If you are not here with us in good faith, you are doing terrible damage.” Good faith is the key to our life together. When we live together in good faith we create the communities of innocence that are necessary for the development of right relationship with our soul.

“Good faith” describes our commitment to, our covenant with, each other to do right by one another, to be with one another in ways that are good for the other, to offer the right kind of help in the right kind of way, and to help others help us by doing what is ours to do and not being too needy or too dependent ourselves. It also recognizes the old truism that “good fences make good neighbors,” and carefully observes the Old Testament commandment (One that did not make, but should have, the Top Ten): “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark!” We do not do violence to our neighbors’ boundaries by offering the wrong kind of help in the wrong kind of way, and we trust our neighbors to do right by us as much as they trust us to do right by them.