Another Kind of Walk of Empathy
It was really fun and auspicious for me to be able to attend an annual Halloween Party at a congregation. In the life of such a community, celebrating the dead and examining our fears are some of the most crucial spiritual tasks we do together. Children remind us that we can do this serious work through play.
I walked right into being given the big role of tour guide for this Haunted House. It turns out my character would also be the subject of the storyline from long-long ago -- the lost child.
This story teeters on a funny bone and raw nerve. This story tells us our children feel safe to play act. This story also tells us the nature of their real, deep fears -- to be lost, forgotten, heartbroken. We know this part of the story is all too often true. I know some children for whom this is true, now. I know that my mother died just over a year ago with this fear.
I was unprepared to play this role yet I drew on my storehouse of opinions about what is fun/scary and what is too/scary. I'm a fan of suspense in which nothing particularly is acted out, nothing is graphic; all the while the mind and gut are feverishly trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Being put on the spot to narrate this story for the wide-eyed travelers, I was amazed at the storehouse of clever ridiculousness I had in me -- "come this way, come this way, into the corner of no return; bone by bone, light by light, wire by wire, spark by spark, rope by rope, dark by dark; take a left at the rotten, jagged yellow leave in the forest....muahahahahaha" (with deep throated cackle). "I'm scared," I heard whispered....
In case any of us have drifted away from fully participating in these days of saints, souls and the dead -- make haste and be with the children. You will feel better; comforted; perhaps even blessed.
Everyone has a Halloween story. We all have a fear story. Each of us has a broken part of our heart. Our children need to know that they are not the first generation with overwhelming concerns. They do need to know what skills can get developed to be courageous and caring.
It takes, time, creativity and consistency to find ways to be "there" for each other.
Sitting Inside the Threshold
It's that time of year – all souls, all saints, Halloween, El Dia de los Muertos -- when we choose to engage that which scares us, on purpose. If we walk through Halloween with a default to the candy amassing, we are missing the point. For me, it is the deepest moment of my year.
Today I was given the sacred task of talking with children about managing our fright.
And so children gathered 'round a sort-of hearth. I stood up before them and lay down a long strip of cloth that I had been wearing as a stole. The swath was wide -- about 14 inches.
"This is my threshold, " I said to them. We clarified the word and the meaning. I explained that thresholds are not usually described for their width but for their symbolism. But then I set down a battery-operated candlestick and sat down in my threshold.
I said because fear was so scary, I learned to sit inside and within the threshold. I learned to relax as best I could in that space in between comfort and The Worst. I found that if I waited until my breathing became relaxed, I could ask my Self some questions about what I was feeling in that moment.
Before I could share my top questions, the children offered some questions of their own -- like, "why? Why be afraid?" Good question, I said. Yes. And then there were other questions, like, "what is the worst?" "what if?" "how about?" And more:
What are you afraid of?
Why are you afraid?
Isn't it better to have courage?
What will happen if you let fear be the boss?
What about letting courage be the boss?
Yes, those are the questions, I said. Everyone has fear, I proclaimed. Be sure to make your threshold wide enough to sit in with a candle, I suggested. They wanted to try mine out.
And then I asked "what comes next?" And a young one said, "the song about peace."
Immediately came a comforting cord, and off we went to our cozy places of more questions, nurturing and growing.
I don't know everything yet I do know something. What I have learned by struggling with hope, and listening to others in their wounding, is that relief (and release) exists in the tiniest of moments when we connect to our will.
This is what divignly thinking is teaching me -- to be able to access compassion and humility, to use our innate and nurtured creativity, and to apply the reason and systems of our wise mind.
As best as I am able, I will be sharing what I have learned from healers, curanderas, medicine people, shamans, and the faithful. If there is a "why" or there, it is because if we are to share our purpose and passion in the world, we are obligated to understand how we are all connected.
Bubble Baths and Prayers
As #5 in a family of six kids, I was never home alone as long as I lived there. Really. Never. Ever. I left home to be educated in the ways of being increasingly independent. As part of that independence, I was working full time by age 19, while going to college. I explored my new city of Boston. I (saved up and) got my first walkman, discovered walking in the rain, and kept a notebook in my pocket to write poetic lines that I'm still drawing on today.
But still, I wasn't planning that time. I wasn't taking that time. I was learning about time, in between. By age 25 I was married, had my first child; by age 29, my second child. Fast forward a couple of decades and a half...
Because so much can be frustrating and overwhelming, overstimulating and confusing each day, I have had to learn to plan for time with Self. My most powerful mentors in learning this have certainly not been the economically comfortable, welcomed, educated, accomplished. Certainly not. These friends I have met in the course of being in community are the ones who teach me the most; those who have had such deep struggle and heart break. These are the people who have taught me the most beautiful prayers and displayed the most generous spirit. In their presence, I am embarrassed by the anxiety I claim that visits me and disables, or by my unpredictable energy/interest level.
What do we do; where to we go, to find peace within? Whenever I have tried to answer that from my head, a bunch of words come out of my mouth. Maybe those words are poetic structure but they are not useful. I have learned that limiting words make room for a deeper response. We call that place of response many names -- Self, Soul, Heart, Gut, Ground of Being. Sometimes we look up or open our hands and say God. Spirit. The Divine.
To argue about words is folly. To tune into, from that place within you, is always available to us... if we tend it. If we take the time, like we do with anything else. Such time doesn't need to be a amount, it just needs to be what it is.
I resist calling this "alone time," "solitude" or "down time" or "me time," "self care" -- anything that would be equated with some sort of guilty pleasure. To tend to ourselves is wise and necessary so that we can be and do better for others. (At the end of the day, I do take low-foam bubble baths so my stress and rpms of worried thoughts will be directed down the drain.) It helps some.
To tend to ourselves is wise and necessary so that we can be and do better for others.
Time with Self is a spiritual discipline for me now. It isn't always lovely and certain not luxurious. It is hard but clarifying. It is not meant to be a wall but a well.
Time with Self is potentially available to any of us if we have the mental muscle tone to withdraw from a moment to pray, breathe, empty out the mind. It can be as simple as that. We learn from those who suffer more than we do. We learn from those who suffer more than we do. We learn from those who suffer more than we do.
I hope this helps.
Oops, I Went Over 30 Seconds
Sure, I want competent poetry and prose in my politicians. But the political is the personal. As a woman; as a guide, leader, minister, I have had to make sense and order out of the charisma needed to be tending to the whole, spiritual development of children (directly and through the adults). And yet around the table of Boards and Important Committees, I was rarely asked a substantial question. When it did happen, if it ever happened, (because new regimes said my presence wasn't even necessary and -- ultimately, not allowed), I was given about 30 seconds to explain something ancient, profound, complex and vitally important.. Like....how are the children?
[wait for it]
"Actually, we're running late. In 29 seconds or less please, and then go on your way."
Think Like a Hub
It's time for the 2016-17 Lynn Cultural Council grant cycle. The paper in front of me is not blank. Last year, this We're ALL Lynn project did not get funding. The vision was to involve more youth in forming a creative/cultural hub to use their phones and "turn the camera around" to depict the land, space and community that raises them.
As you can see, I still post and have been paying attention to where there might be pockets of energy and engagement to broaden the lens into a collective project.
While my idea of We're ALL Lynn as just one creative/cultural hub that gives a thoughtful visual of folk life in the city, it appears to have come too soon. It is far behind the innovative movements elsewhere.
Simply check out these titles of articles, sites and movements that are concrete evidence of the global movement of disrupting the same-old, same-old of civic infrastructure:
~Leading the Inclusive city. Place-based innovation for a Bounded Planet.
~Enabling City: an organization that works to advance social innovation as a form of active citizenship, particularly in the areas of urban sustainability and participatory governance.
~Civic Innovation Lab
Take a look at that last one, The Chelsea Collaborative: Empowering People, Building Community | The Collaborative sees organizing as a way to build community power and achieve lasting change. When a thousand threads are brought together and bound to each other, they become a strong unbreakable rope.
And that's right next door. Why is there little interest -- by residents AND leaders -- in learning from our neighbors?
A thousand threads. It takes some time to get all those threads in the same place at the same time for everyone to behold. But a while, it must take. To move ahead with some sort of impatience based on market pressures (or rather, opportunities), is to build on quicksand, or a marsh, or a swamp, or worse -- on top of sacred lands.
Business never dominates such movements, but we do know how business dominates. The circle of collaboration must include all facets of a community infrastructure, along with public institutions, citizens groups, faith groups, neighborhood clusters, young people, young people, and elders -- all who gather (over and over) around the roundtable of exploration, listening, and the kind of humility that comes in the form of -- if it's not all of us, it's none of us (I learned that once from teens at the Boys and Girls Club a few years ago).
Using creative thinking to not only solve our local woes but to blaze healthy community trails cannot come from hierarchies that are data-proven not represent the demographics of where they serve. Serve.
I'm in week 6 of 7 of a focused hub of creative thinkers from around the world -- there are about 20,000 of us tuning in weekly to a course about the past-due, critical, and hope-rendering movement to create eco-systems* in our communities. One of the hub is from Scotland -- the country. The entire country is gathering as a hub to listen, learn and vision.
*Ego-systems (those hierarchies) are not performing at an effective level to justify what is invested in them.
Creative thinking in community can be nurtured or encouraged, but not forced or compelled. Leaders who try to compel creativity because of very real financial and schedule pressures rarely get the results they seek. It is said, "THEY don't show up," which points a big problem right there. Snooze you loose? Progress is invested in, not ruled by, fiscal cycles.
We're ALL Lynn will continue and hopefully, with support from people and programs that believe in and foster creative ideas and engagement. Such support sends a message of shared belief that it's worth it to keep on searching and gathering individuals, groups, and organizations committed to collaboration. As a creative/spiritual leader, I know the necessary fuel of active engagement (encouragement is nice, like from a grandparent). I and we cannot and should not do things alone. Progress doesn't work that way, like....never.
Collaboration is an sophisticated and sincere skill that requires participants to view their purpose and interests as part of a whole. It's not a show and tell check in. It's not taking turns. It's getting together willing to discover what arises from the circle of who is in the room, and then next time, and the next time. The process is facilitated, not directed. It's hip and cool and spiritual and ancient, in all cultures (but the least in mainstream American culture).
When cultural and creative connections are -- not only fostered -- but seen as the foundation to healthy and visionary community for all, a community becomes resilient and vibrant in a way that rises up by the citizens. We enhance the capacity of one another.
Hope to see you in the round,