Using Lent as a time of contemplation has been a long tradition for me, in which I commit to a daily time of reflection and prayer. My current question is, “What does this season mean to me this year?” Usually my discipline wanes over time. But this year the universe conspired to see that I had plenty of free time for contemplation, prayer and meditation. The pandemic has my wife and me self-isolating for the past month. Zoom allowed me to visit with friends and attend seminars at our church, which all helped me in my time of reflection.
My first significant awareness came after a Spiritual Nurture evening three weeks ago. The theme was reflecting on being and doing. The presenter used Cynthia Bourgeault’s 20-minute video Being is Not Something You Are. Cynthia teaches that, “Being is life experience beyond words, it is visiting the energetic centre of presence, the heart space” —the place in us where we experience the unity of all things.
After the presentation I talked with two other participants about missing physical touch which Is so important to all of us. As we do many things on-line these days, including church, we are missing physically being with people. I commented that I missed the passing of the peace at our Sunday on-line church service. The touch, the experience of connection was absent. Another woman in the conversation suggested that we use chakra balance, a type of energy balance, to bring us into unity.
The place of touch in this time of physical distancing raises the question, “How do individuals experience touch when we are at a distance? I suggest that passing the peace on-line could include putting your hand over your heart, closing your eyes, visiting the energetic heart centre, where all are connected. Maybe you heard a prayer request that moved you; remember that person, bring them close to you in your heart centre where all is one. Allow yourself to be with them. Perhaps you then think of someone you are missing, a friend, a neighbour, a colleague. Bring them close for a moment, touch them with the invisible hand of love. Do this by remembering your experience with them and the gift that they are in your life. We often share the passing of the peace with people we do not know; we welcome the stranger. Let your heart be open to the unknown person who comes to you (perhaps it is a first responder, a medical person, a refugee). Finally, as you feel the touch of your hand on your heart, hear the words “Lay your hands gently upon me, may their touch render your peace.” Take it in.
I started practicing this myself with those I’ve been missing, including the church leadership, and I felt a deep connection. This is more than thinking about someone. It is connecting with the sacred presence in the heart space by inviting them in. From this place I remember the gift of that person in my life and experiences we shared. I found tears welling in my eyes.
For more about this kind of praying, see my post about prayer May 16, 2019 being the way we eliminate the distance between ourselves, God, other people or the Earth.
Last week I was reflecting on the church’s emphasis on the literal resurrection and what that means. This whole teaching about Jesus’s death and salvation and going to heaven never did quite connect for me. I struggled with Easter all my ministry trying to make it relevant to life now. Jesus has always been important for me as a holy figure that I respect and learn from, who gave us a sacred pattern for our life: birth, death, and resurrection that brings new life.
In my contemplation I began to remember leaving my country and coming to Canada. I left everything I knew, people who were important to me, and came to Canada with a wife and 6-month-old child. And I never looked back. I went through a separation and divorce and then chose to begin a second marriage. A difficult process that led to a new life with Sylvia for the past 36 years and my last church, a United Church in Calgary, where I quit my position so I could move on from a leadership relationship that was not working for the senior minister or myself. Since I was the associate, I knew it was I who had to leave. A few weeks after I handed in my resignation, he quit. The church asked me to stay and act as the senior minister for a year while they looked for a new senior minister. They found one and it was not me. I say I was un-hired or just not hired for the job. On my last Sunday, a member of the congregation offered to fund a ministry of my choice in the community, whatever I wanted to do to help people and offer my gifts. That was the beginning of Spiritual Directions (a spiritual growth and healing centre) that served spiritual seekers in Calgary and beyond for 12 years.
Reviewing all these stories of endings, new beginnings and experiencing God working in my life in times of decision, loss and new possibilities, it came to me. Here is the spiritual pattern of life’s journey –we have many births, deaths and resurrections. I know that this is not my first rodeo/first resurrection. I have lived though at least these three huge endings and beginnings. We are in the midst of a pandemic and it looks like its going to take a huge toll on our country, but this is also an opportunity to make changes in my life, in this country, in our world. Will we? Don’t know. But I do know that this is not the end. There is life to come, call it the hope of resurrection. That is what my faith gives me, and it is what I celebrate this Easter. There is a sacred energy and a divine wisdom in all of us. If we can access it and listen to it, we will find the way forward and it will be better.
This week I attended a morning meditation time with eight other people, most of whom I knew from other groups and other meditation times. What came to me during this gathering was the scripture about Jesus’s disciples after the resurrection traveling to Emmaus. It felt like that to me, here I was with my spiritual friends (disciples) still waiting to know how we will go on from here (pandemic). Then the thought came to me, I have been on this road before. I recognize some of the landscape, the feelings, the need for community and the need to be away from the world events that are sad and confusing. I also know that on this journey there is a stranger or a strange event that comes along and guides me to the next revelation/truth about me being in the world.
This blog is about “What Was I Thinking” as well as about how my faith informs my life and provides a structure for victory, success, hope and love.
What was your Easter experience this year with “going to church” and perhaps not having a family meal to celebrate together?
John, your story so resonates with me. Some of it is a direct correlation. Other parts diverge. But we have gleaned this same insight while riding this roller coaster of life.
Much gratitude and all my deepest heartfelt connection.