Sister, before you get all busy and serious about your new year resolutions,
take a moment to tune into that force which beats your heart,
which grows the leaves on the trees, which creates and tears down,
Tune into the captivating rhythm of evolution,
and dance your way into your holy calling.
The whole universe is dancing with you.
This year, I’d like to let go of shoulding myself. If I don’t truly have to do something, I’m only going to do it if I want to do it. If the word “should” enters the picture about anything, I’m going to use that as my cue to NOT do whatever it is I’m letting should me. Sound like a plan?
I enjoyed reading this post from Dreaming Aloud recently and the writer observes that she is only going to be able to be her for the new year: “I might even let myself mother to my own standards too! Wouldn’t that be nice, rather than failing every day because I don’t do everything the way the books say.” She also included this interesting idea about 3/4 baked: “Another influential book in my life…Zugunruhe… talks about the 3/4 baked philosophy, where the author urges us to do our work the best we can, but rather than spending all our energy in refining it ad infinitum, put it out to the world 3/4 baked and let the feedback and the inspiration it creates, and your own distance, do the final honing, because really there is no such thing as perfect.”
My next intention for 2012 is a very personal one that I feel hesitant to write about. As soon as I read the gorgeous quote above, I knew I wanted to share something about it though. When I applied to graduate school in thealogy (not spelled wrong!) last year, I wrote in my application that I wanted my life to be a living prayer for social justice and women’s empowerment. Recently, based on my work in my graduate classes, I have been asked to write several articles for academic journals focused on women and religion. I have always felt very cautious and wary of sharing any of my ideas about spirituality or religion publicly and so this makes me nervous for a variety of reasons. However, if I’m actually going to be writing these articles, it is probably time to shed discomfort and speak my truth! I think my primary concept of living prayer is really about mindfulness. Being here and being aware. In September, the Awakening Women Institute offered via Twitter to give people “temple names”—you were asked to respond to the question about “your edge right now in your life. What is calling you, what is challenging, what is opening?” I was instantly intrigued and responded to the offer with the following: “I have multiple edges–I feel at the edge of being able to truly live my faith, having my life be a living prayer. I also constantly teeter on the edge between meeting my children’s needs and meeting my own needs–and trying to find the harmony in that; trying to find the place in which our family works in harmony to meet each member’s needs (not requiring ‘sacrifice,’ because we have a seamless integration!).” The temple name I received was: Embodied Prayer. At first I felt slightly disappointed, like, yeah, I said that already. But, as I “rested” with the name and stated it aloud—i.e. “I am Embodied Prayer”—it has become a very powerful daily practice for me. I have long sought strategies to integrate a sense of the sacred in daily life and have also known that at the root, what I’m really wanting is daily mindfulness. My “temple name” is serving as that mindfulness touchstone for me—as I go about my life, I ask myself what kind of “prayer” I’m offering in this moment. And, is this the kind of prayer I want to embody right now? (i.e. the other day I was stressed out and driving too fast and feeling annoyed with my kids and I stepped back slightly and looked at my “prayer” and realized that I wanted to embody a much different sort of offering to the divine, to the web of life, than a stressed out cranky prayer. This step back and self-reminder, immediately calmed my mood and allowed me to breathe more deeply and kindly.) That said, I also have a pretty deep-seated tendency to be extremely harsh with myself (see first New Year’s intention!) and I must also be mindful of not using this name in a self-flagellating way—i.e. what kind of prayer is THAT, you loser!—or to become angry at myself when I forget to use it, forget to be mindful.
To what/why is this prayer offered anyway?
Something that made me feel as if I belonged to our tiny little Unitarian Universalist church and like there was indeed a spiritual niche I fit into, was a hymn we sang during one of my first visits with a line of, “some call it evolution, and others call it God.” That notion that there is something widely felt by many, but called by different names and within vastly different systems of belief and understanding, is why I continue to identify as a UU. This force, this connecting “glue” that holds the universe together might be named by others “God” or “the Universe” or “Nature” or “Life Force” or “the Sacred” or “Divinity” or “the Tao”—I feel most satisfied when I personalize it as Goddess. I do also feel Her presence directly in my life—call it an energy, call it the sacred feminine, call it the divine, call it source, call it soul, call it spirit, call it the great mystery…I perceive a web of relatedness and love within the world and I choose to put a feminine form to that energy—to name it and know it as “Goddess.” When I am embodied prayer, it is mindfulness of this connection and relatedness of which I speak.