Daily Practice: A Weekly Reminder 11/19/2023

In March 2020, when the COVID pandemic required us to radically alter our family and community connections, at the Fellowship we undertook a daily practice of cultivating inner nobility and steadiness. The needs and aims were many: including to help decrease worry and anxiety, to increase our ability to acknowledge and accept new ways of doing things, to encourage ourselves and each other to recognize different ways of staying connected, to help ourselves and each other find courage and strength when we felt too fragile or unbalanced. Of course things have changed since March 2020 – at the very least we are no longer in the midst of the global pandemic. Yet in some ways things have not changed – we are certainly still in the midst of global change – physically, socially, emotionally, and more. To practice cultivating inner nobility and steadiness remains a high calling, and a daily opportunity. Is the world we are living in any less challenging than it was in 2020? It doesn’t feel that way. Inner nobility and steadiness have never been more important than now.

What is inner nobility? Here are some ideas: It is the ability to consider the well-being of others in the same way we consider our own well-being. Or, love your neighbor as yourself. It is a capacity to not take everything personally, and to understand ourselves as irrevocably part of a wide and deep network of relations. It is the ability to approach others with loving kindness first. And how do we practice steadiness? Remember what it feels like to be in a boat which rocks. The first instinct is not to tell someone to “stop rocking the boat!”; the first instinct is to add more hand-holds, or rearrange one’s body to move with the rocking. That is, to quickly see the way things are, and adjust in all possible ways.

May we continue to learn, may we continue to practice – may we continue to cultivate inner nobility and steadiness.

October 15th, 2023, Daily Practice: A Weekly Reminder

When we first entered into the pandemic shut-down, in March of 2020, we also entered into a shared daily practice to help ourselves stay connected to each other and to our religious lives. Over several months we began to consider skills that could help us, including cultivating inner nobility and steadiness, naming our fears and counting our blessings at the same time, and nurturing courage and trust within ourselves and between us. Later, we talked about “the art of embracing” as a practice of turning toward and moving toward what the world brings us — moving in that direction of with arms opened wide, as much as possible.

It has been three and a half years since we shut down and entered into pandemic living, and a little over a year since we finally returned to indoor Sunday services. There will never be a time when everything simply reverts to the way it was “before.” We are living in, and are part of, calamitous and fractious years in the human world. We worried in 2016, and then during the pandemic, and then the invasion of Ukraine, and now the horrible situation for Israelis and Palestinians. Horrors, and more horrors. For those of us dedicated to a practice of peace and justice making, there are constant opportunities to start over, to begin anew in a changed world, as always. The organizer /humanitarian / activist Valerie Kaur says this: “Our most powerful response to the horror in Israel and Palestine is to refuse to surrender our humanity. Opening our hearts to grief—others and our own—is how we hold our humanity in a world that would destroy it. It’s how we will begin to survive this.”

May our practice be dedicated to this – to maintaining and nurturing humanity, in all the ways we can. The question is, “What are you willing and able to move toward for the good of all?” Everything we have been practicing will help us. The way stretches before us, and we can only take one step at a time. There are blessings that live in the very act of reaching out. May we find the needed courage.

Daily Practice: A Weekly Reminder

Autumn is a season of amazing contrasts. One could spend much of a day simply watching the sky. The colors of the clouds – from white to gray-brown to gray to dark deep blue-gray – all can be present at the same time. And when sunlight illumines red and yellow trees against the dark clouds – it is often breathtakingly beautiful. From cool rainy days to hot sunny days, as trees seem to turn colors overnight. Not to mention the sun on the trees against the clouds, which sometimes quickly turns to hail, which turns to sheets of rain, which eventually becomes a drizzle.

‘There is a deep kindness at the heart of everything,’ wrote John O’Donohue. I love that idea, yet the contrast with what seems like immense destructiveness – a collective insanity, a growing instability – is stark. I remind myself of the ying-yang symbol of Daoism, which illustrates the constant presence of and movement between dark and light, life and death, evil and good – all always present and interwoven.

Every day is unique; its unfolding cannot be slowed nor can its path be predicted. And, we always have the choice to begin again, to be open to the unfolding, to let ourselves be carried and to bring our best selves and highest ideals to whatever comes our way. And so may we greet each day: the clouds, the rain, the light, the colors, the beauty, the presence of evil and good. May we be thankful for the breath which is given to us again and again.