It's Sunday evening and it feels like a miracle that I am writing. I've spent most of the afternoon sprawled on the couch.
I spend Sunday mornings in the pulpit, and these days preaching feels like a heavier-than-usual responsibility. I'm finding similar themes and challenges here and there -- showing up, choosing to be present, engaging the task courageously.
We live in tough times. Maybe all the times are tough, but these times feel tougher than most I've lived through. I want to share a feel good message. For people who come looking for sanctuary to be glad they've come. I also want to support those who are engaging the powers and addressing the heartbreaking circumstances of life. Finding the right balance between staying present to and naming the challenges of our times and staying present to and naming the succor offered by the spiritual life is sometimes difficult. It's so much easier to identify and speak to what is challenging. It's so much harder to identify and speak to what is uplifting. On the other hand, it can be tempting to ignore what's hard and to fall into disconnected spiritual conversation.
A friend has been talking with me lately about something called spiritual bypass. I think there are a lot of people who are struggling with this. Psychologists describe it as a defense mechanism through which we distract ourselves from what is hard, or unbearable or heartbreaking, in life. A classic example of this is how some spiritual and religious practitioners counsel people to not put too much thought or attention into this "earthly realm" because it is "the eternal" that is what is real - that this life is illusion.
Clearly that is crap.
Life is real. The consequences of how we live are real. Our suffering, and the suffering of others, is real. Children being separated from parents at the southern border of the United States is real and it has real consequences. Including having traumatized more than 12,000 children. A government trying to sell a false narrative around draconian policies is real. The hardhearted responses of some people to the humanitarian crisis created by all this are real.
And yet, to focus only on the negative is just as destructive as a false positivity is.
To do that would leave us feeling heartbroken and disempowered. We need to harness as much optimism and positivity as we can in order to be able to show up, to choose to be present, and for courageous engagement. In order to be warriors in the spiritual battle that must be engaged before we can engage the temporal battle.
Spiritual practice is always about enabling us to live more deeply, more fully, in more embodied and connected ways.
About checking in rather than checking out.
And so, at 7:45 pm I dragged myself off the couch and sat down at my laptop. I hit "new post" and I face the blank page. I close my eyes and soften my defenses so that I can be truthful as I begin to type. So that I can be truly present. So that I can show up for myself and for those who might take the time to read what I write. I look up periodically and notice the color changing in the skies. Today it's gone from blue to grey, with very little variety between them. But when I look carefully, I notice that some deeper grey begins to appear, bringing depth and texture. The verdant summer foliage frames the sky and reminds me of the greening of the earth. That's something I can count on. It gives me purchase upon which to stand.
Those grey ribbons of cloud are now softening to pink. Wild color and beauty come. And I've shown up, so I can see it.
My heart is full.
The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months of thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.