“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 31 January 2014

Holistic Spirituality

Yesterday, over on my other blog,  Heart and Mind Together, I was musing about the nature of Unitarian communities. And when the link was posted on Facebook, someone asked me in what sense I was using the word "holistic" in relation to Unitarian communities.

I was blown away by the response from a friend of a friend, Stasa Morgan-Appel, who is a Priestess and Witch and Quaker, who commented that for her, "Holistic / wholistic spirituality is one where I can bring my whole self - body, mind, will, emotions, words, silences, knowledge, ignorance - where I don't have to check some part of myself, some part of my relationship with That Which Is, at the door."

I really don't think that this definition can be improved on. It also describes Unitarian communities at their best, at their most inclusive and welcoming. Being a community that believes in holistic spirituality should mean that we accept people exactly as they are, and don't try to fit them (or ask them to fit themselves) into any pre-existing mould. I wonder how often this happens, in practice, if the person walking through the door is "different" in some way, from the mainly white, mainly middle-class, mainly educated folk in the average Unitarian congregation? I wonder ...

Friday, 24 January 2014

The Consolations of Poetry

This blog-writing business is hard work. Sometimes the inspiration doesn't come to order. Like this week. My mind has been distracted by the mundane, and my heart has not been open. So rather than having a big fat zero for an entry this week, I turn to a predictable source of consolation, poetry.

image: flickr.com
By a happy coincidence, one of my recent discoveries, William Stafford, was born 100 years ago this month, on 17th January 2014. I was introduced to his poetry by the wonderful Panhala blog, and by a friend on Facebook. So in honour of his centenary, a poem by William Stafford:

How These Words Happened

In winter, in the dark hours, when others
were asleep, I found these words and put them
together by their appetites and respect for
each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded
meanings while pretending to have only one.

Monstrous alliances never dreamed of before
began. Sometimes they last. Never again
do they separate in this world. They die
together. They have a fidelity that no 
purpose or pretense can ever break.

And all of this happens like magic to the words
in those dark hours when others sleep.

Friday, 17 January 2014

A Unitarian Place of Mind

Lots of us seem to have been doing a quiz on Facebook today - "What City Should You Actually Live In?" and several of us got the same answer - Portland, Oregon, which caused my friend John to comment whether it might be "an Unitarian place of mind."

image: worldwithoutend.info
I find this concept intriguing. What is a Unitarian place of mind?

Is it somewhere that Unitarians would feel at ease, relaxed?
Is it somewhere that we would be allowed to think Unitarianly, and share those thoughts with others, without fear or favour?
Is it somewhere that champions freedom of belief and honest doubt?
Is it somewhere that the supreme authority of the individual's reason and conscience is recognised and respected?
Is it somewhere that embraces the whole spectrum of human diversity and is inclusive and welcoming?
Is it somewhere that has room for the heart as well as the head, for intuition and imagination, as well as reason and logic?
Is it a literal place, such as a church /chapel building?
Or is it a virtual place, such as a Unitarian congregation or other group?

And then I wonder - are all actual Unitarian congregations and church / chapel buildings Unitarian places of mind, as I have defined it? And if they aren't, should they be?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Festival Days

I treated myself to a really pretty calendar from the Calendar Club shop this year - beautiful Japanese paintings, each with an accompanying Haiku.

When I was transferring all the birthdays etc from 2013 to 2014, I came across a typed insert, between June and July. It is double-sided, and shows all the holidays taken in various different countries (24 in all). The holidays for the US, the UK and Canada were integrated in the calendar proper. It makes fascinating reading.

Many of the holidays (and of course the word holiday derives from holy-day) are religious. In Christian (or nominally Christian) countries, the standard holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday and Christmas Day, with variations around the theme: some include Maundy Thursday, and the more traditional countries also celebrate other  dates in the Christian year, such as Epiphany in January, Ascension Day in May, Pentecost and Corpus Christi in June, the Assumption in August, All Saints and All Souls in November, and Immaculate Conception and St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day) in December. Sundry national saints also have their own holidays, such as St. Patrick in Ireland, and St. Peter & St. Paul in Italy.

In Israel, of course, all the major Jewish festivals are celebrated, and Buddhist festivals have their own holidays in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea. Islamic holy days are celebrated in Singapore and India, of the countries listed. India had a particularly rich list of religious festivals, having special holy days for Buddhist, Muslim and Sikh festivals, as well as for Hindu ones.

But it was the "other" holidays I found particularly fascinating. I think that the holidays deemed worthy of time off tell a lot about what a particular country values. Many of the countries listed included a holiday (or more than one) to do with sovereignty - a day to commemorate a revolution or independence or liberation. And many countries celebrate their workers on Labor Day (usually 1st May). And all celebrate New Year's Day.

The ones that particularly caught my eye included a Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity (celebrated in Argentina in October); Picnic Day (celebrated in Australia's Northern Territory in August); the Dragon Boat Festival (celebrated in China and Hong Kong at the beginning of June); and Children's Day and Respect for the Aged Day (celebrated in Japan in May and September respectively).

But my favourite country for the holidays they celebrate has to be South Africa. Their holidays include Human Rights Day in March, Family Day and Freedom Day in April, Youth Day in June, National Women's Day in August, Heritage Day in September, and Day of Reconciliation and Day of Goodwill in December.
How wonderful!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Positive and Negative Resolutions

I have made New Year's resolutions every year since I can remember. Mostly, they have lasted until about the end of January, if that long.  But in the last couple of years, I have tried to go a little bit deeper, and to do some of the reflection and self-evaluation practiced by the adherents of other faiths, such as Hinduism and Judaism and Christianity. The spiritual direction process, which I have been participating in for the past couple of years, has taught me that this process of self-examination is a valuable one, if uncomfortable.

image: etsy.com

It has also occurred to me, on my first run of the year this morning, that I am more likely to keep resolutions which are positive, than resolutions which are negative. Let me give you a couple of examples. I may resolve to run three times a week. I know, from past experience, that running is good for me, and makes me feel good too, so I am more likely to keep it up (and in fact, have done, sporadically, for the past 15 years). Whereas I cannot tell you how many times in the past that I have resolved on 1st January to give up smoking and give up drinking. And yet have failed, time and time again. It was only when the time was right, in June and September last year, that I managed to achieve these resolutions. The moral of the story: giving things up, just because it is a random date in the year, won't work, unless you have thought about it and reflected on it, and really resolved to do it, all in advance. So rather than "giving up" chocolate and biscuits and cake, or "going on a diet", my resolution will be to "eat healthily" or "make healthy eating choices". Sounds much nicer, doesn't it? It's a good psychological trick, which actually works.

So for 2014, my New Year's resolutions are all going to be positive ones: to keep on running, keep on writing, keep on loving, keep on growing. And live in the spirit of the prayer of John O'Donohue:

May I live this day,
Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.