Returning, with gratitude

Thank you.  Seriously.  For allowing me to have generous time off this summer, to breathe, to replenish, to regain perspective, to listen to wise and entertaining voices on podcasts, audio recordings, and on film.  And to read and reflect, connect with family and friends, and to sit and pay attention to my body, to my breath, and to the chatter in my mind holding me hostage.

Looking back I am surprised (and not) by how long it took to return to a place where I did notice my breath once more, for my body and mind to calm down enough to feel anything but the gross sensations that show up when you push and run only to push harder and run faster.  Several weeks into my “break” I realized I was approaching my vacation with the same abandon of the months before:  “I can get this done (and then I can slow down) if only I keep pushing through today – the garden projects, the basement cleanup, the repainting, the moving and decorating of rooms,…”

Emerging from the grip of the “go-go-go” took time and an explicit re-engagement with my daily practice.  My reactivity began to fade, my anxiety toned down, my sense of overwhelm softened – my curiosity and wonder returned.  And then I read “See No Stranger,” Valerie Kaur’s “Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love.”  OMG.  This is the emotional, spiritual, and inspirational roadmap I so needed to find right now.  A roadmap to loving others, loving opponents, and to loving ourselves.  A roadmap to living with and into the grief and rage that bubbles up each time I learn of another injustice experienced by a person of color, a trans person, a woman, someone poor, disabled or queer.  “Love is the spirit of this church” we proclaim each week.

Yes, and yet what does that actually imply?  What does love mean when what we need is a deep transformation of our culture, of how we are with one another?  “See No Stranger” has the answer.  Seriously.  Read it.  Now.  As in, don’t just add it to your stack.  Kaur’s “revolutionary love compass” makes tangible the aspiration of love as the spirit of our church.

As she writes: “Love is more than a feeling.  Love is a form of sweet labor; fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life-giving – a choice we make over and over again.  Love can be taught, modeled, and practiced.  It engages all our emotions:  Joy is the gift of love.  Grief is the price of love.  Anger protects that which is loved.  And when we think we have reached our limit, wonder is the act that returns us to love.”

So I return to you filled with gratitude, open to the joy I know you bring to my heart, and ready to dive in and practice “revolutionary love” for this world that is wounded and hurting.  I have faith that the darkness many of us experience, in the words of Valerie Kaur, is the “darkness of the womb not the tomb.”  Let us birth a new world together, always remembering to breathe and then to push, and then to breathe again, and to push some more, before returning to the breath.  Let us find a balance, listening to our individual and communal bodies, trusting our bodies to find the balance that allows us to sustain what we start and to start what we can today.

With love & affection – and a bushel of hair that hasn’t seen scissors in almost six months.  🙂

Michael

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