Start Where You Are
Yesterday morning, as I was driving to the Harvard Unitarian Universalist church to offer the Sunday worship sermon, I listened to NPR on the radio. They were giving a summary of Trump’s first week as President. They reported on his executive orders to begin building the wall, to place an immediate stay on entry to the US from a number of countries, and to elevate the power of Steve Bannon’s position. None of these actions surprised me, but all of them disheartened me.
Arriving at the church, where I have often preached before, people were happy to see me and several said they really needed to hear what I had to say in these disturbing times. I had spent several hours preparing my remarks, but felt totally inadequate to the task at hand. How could I comfort and reassure people when I myself was feeling disturbed and overwhelmed?
Having few good options, I began speaking about what was actually going on for me. ‘This is how it is for me this morning.’ I acknowledged that others might be feeling this way too. And that others were certainly feeling other ways as well. I guess this is where we always have to begin. How is it for me right in this moment? What is the state of my inner world? Am I fearful and discouraged? Hopeful and energized? Empty and dull? What is actually so in this moment?
When we take the time to acknowledge the weather conditions of our inner world, several things happen. First, we don’t have to fight it anymore. Most of us would like to feel good all the time, so when we feel something else, we tend to ignore it, fight it or try to fix it. All this takes energy. When we are able to admit where we are, it can often be a relief – it’s just where we are. We don’t have to like it, but we don’t have to waste energy pretending or fighting or fixing.
The other possibility that comes with being present to the state of our self is the opportunity to see that what we feel (and think) is never just one thing. In taking the time to appreciate what is here, we begin to see that even in discouragement, there may be other kinds of energies as well. There may be anger or sadness. Or some faint glimmers of possibilities and hope. Or some energies that we have never quite noticed before.
When we pay this kind of attention, we can also begin to see for ourselves that our world of feeling, thought and experience is constantly changing. We are part of the vast perpetual motion of life. Just like the weather on our blue-green planet of life, our inner weather is always moving and changing. The clouds cover the sky and drop piles of snow, then the sun shines bright. The strong wind comes in the morning, then dies down to a breathless evening.
So I began my sermon from where I was and somehow found my way. I was touched to find myself together in community and to speak the truth as best I could. Others said it was useful.
I am always surprised and grateful.