“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

Monday, 30 January 2017

From Roots to Fruits

On Saturday I attended a one-day intensive for my spiritual direction course on the theme 'Tree of Life: from Roots to Fruits', led by Noel Moules.

It was fascinating to learn what a universal icon the Tree of Life is. There is something about a tree - any tree - which so beautifully reminds us both of the cycle of life, and that the whole of creation is inter-connected, in a very profound way. Without trees, there would be no life on this planet.

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It is a symbolism which can be used in so many ways in the spiritual life, by considering yourself as a tree, and asking some searching questions (most of which I remember from the Build Your Own Theology course):

  • What is your spirituality rooted in?
  • Which roots from your past have influenced you?
  • Had you considered that much of the work of the spiritual life goes on at a sub-conscious (roots) level?
  • What is the main foundation of your faith (trunk)?
  • Consider the different elements of your faith / spiritual journey (branches) - what fruits have resulted from them (beliefs and actions)?
  • Look at the discarded leaves on the forest floor - which parts of your spiritual lie have you left behind?
  • Consider that every fruit contains seeds, which need to be planted in fertile soil in order to grow and bear fruit in their turn.
He also emphasised the importance of living by life-giving values (Shalom), rather than by legal, head-based rules. All this was presented with beautiful images of living trees, which are so essential to the healthy life of our planet. It was a gentle, challenging, holistic day, with lots of time for reflection.

I feel blessed.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

And ... Breathe!

This morning I forced myself to do something I find incredibly stressful - I filled in my 2015/16 tax return.

I don't know why I find it so difficult - it should be simple enough, but every year it reduces me to a quivering jelly of stress, on the verge of meltdown.

I think that the reason is I'm terrified of doing it wrong. Finance and I do not mix - I'm good at keeping on top of my personal finances, and keep track of my income and expenditure by checking my bank statements every month, and keeping all receipts etc. But I could *never* be a Treasurer - the idea of having the responsibility for other people's money freaks me out big time. I take a look at a column of figures, and my brain switches off. Every. Single. Time. I take my hat off to the Treasurers of congregations, district associations and societies - they do a fabulous job.

I managed to get through the process this year by phoning a friend in the midst of my panic, who was reassuring. He told me to leave it for a few minutes, then go back to it. And it worked. I (and my brain) just needed a breathing space, a time away from the stress of it all.

It occurs to me that this advice is something I could take to heart more often. So I'm forming a new (a bit late) resolution for this coming year: "If you feel stressed out about something, physically separate yourself from it, find a quiet place, and just breathe."

Just breathe. Give yourself a break. Give your body, mind, and spirit a rest. Just breathe.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Gifts and Blessings

Unitarian Universalist Jay Abernathy wrote: "We are all blessings to this world. Our work of building bridges of connection by finding and naming and affirming those blessings we are is the work of nurturing our spirits and healing our world."

By long tradition, the three Wise Men or Magi brought their gifts to Jesus on the feast of Epiphany, which was last Friday. I wonder what gifts we can give to our loved ones, this chilly January? By "loved ones", I mean all the people with whom we are in relationship - our families, our friends, the people at work, and members of our beloved Unitarian communities.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have all exchanged many gifts with our loved ones - both material, in the form of Christmas presents, and shared Christmas meals and drinks; and non-material.

I, for example, received a new Great Course on reading Biblical Literature, which I'm finding fascinating, the DVD of Game of Thrones Season 6 (also fascinating, but rather more gory!), a beautiful Swarowski Christmas star to add to my collection, and some Amazon gift vouchers. As a result of which, I am a very happy bunny!

But the gifts that meant the most to me could not be bought. My daughter and her boyfriend came down for a few days, and my son was home too. On Christmas Day, after a gorgeous lunch booked to perfection by my beloved, a peaceful afternoon with the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special, we had cheese and biscuits for tea. Then the four of us (the kids and I, my beloved does not do board games) played some hilarious games of Cluedo. Then we all watched Independence Day: Resurgence.

Not a cross word was said, much laughter and hugging happened. I could not have been happier. The gifts of time and attention and love are priceless.

We can also bring gifts to the wider world - to the chance-met stranger, to the people in our town or village or city, to causes we care about. If you believe, as I do, that every human being has a spark of the divine in them, then we should try to respond to every person we meet  as though we are encountering a possible new friend. I wonder how different our world would be, if we tried to bear that in mind in the weeks and months ahead?

Jay Abernathy also wrote: "Each of us has at least one blessing - I believe each of us offers MANY blessings - to this world, in who we are. But sometimes, we and our world might have a difficult time affirming and seeing those blessings.

I invite you to look into yourself and discover again one of your blessings, one of your gifts to the world. Loving, peaceful, generous, compassionate - there are so many traits and blessings. What is yours?

Write that blessing on a piece of paper. Greet yourself in the mirror of your heart with that name.

Share that greeting with another person today."

May 2017 be the year that we discover our gifts, and manage to be a blessing to ourselves, and to the world around us.