Broken Hearts are Messy

August 10, 2015

I’ve said before that change and progress on Big Complex Issues require letting our hearts break.  This is true of stopping climate change; to find our way forward, we need to feel and learn from the heartbreak of looking at our beautiful planet and acknowledging all the damage that has been done.  It’s also true of eradicating racism.  The reality of our history- that this country was built on the bodies of Native Americans and African slaves- is beyond heartbreaking.  The reality of our present is equally difficult to swallow. Yet we must take it in, must be present to this heart-breaking reality, if we are to have a hope of finding our way to wholeness.

Taking it in breaks our hearts, and broken hearts hurt.  Our reluctance to feel pain all too often keeps us from facing reality.  We numb ourselves.  We build homes in denial instead of just using it as it is meant to be used- a way station on our way to deeper acceptance and greater wisdom.

This week, though, we’re being reminded that not only does that necessary heartbreak hurt, it makes a godawful mess.  When we are feeling those difficult feelings, we can’t always access our best and most graceful communication techniques.  We can’t always maintain open minds and hearts when our hearts are in pieces on the ground at our feet.  We can’t always avoid trampling on or rolling over pieces of other people’s hearts when they’re all over the place, like legos after a kindergarten play date.

This is why we need to try to be gentle, kind, and forgiving with friends who are having a hard time on this heartbreak-and-healing journey.  Like the people who are responding with anger and defensiveness to the action at Bernie Sander’s rally in Seattle last week.  Like the people who committed acts of violence in Ferguson last night.  Like me.  Like all of us.

At the same time, we need to hold ourselves and one another accountable; it’s not fair to ask other people to clean up our broken-heart messes.  We need to be patient; if we tidy everything up too quickly, we compromise our ability to learn from the mess.  We need to be aware of privilege, need to remember that the ability to live in denial is a privilege in and of itself.  People who are living in black or brown skin can’t take even short breaks in the imaginary land of “we are a post-racial society.”

No one said it would be easy.  Progress has never been a smooth, straight path.  Can we let the bumps in the road be just bumps- and not turn them into mountains?  Can we let the unexpected twists and turns be part of the adventure, not proof that we don’t know where we’re going?  Can we let the mess be…messy?

The other thing I like to say is that when we let our hearts break, and then heal, they will be bigger and stronger and more resilient.  This has been my experience.  When I’m brave enough to feel the fullness of the grief, despair, and pain, on the other side of the feelings I’ve found peace, acceptance, and a willingness to change.  While my ego longs for tidiness and control, my soul longs for justice, and the only way to get there is to embrace the pain and the messiness of my broken heart.

No justice. No peace.

November 25, 2014

My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of thoughtful analysis, rallying cries, beautiful poems and prayers.  They are also full of grief and rage and frustration- as they should be.  Let’s pause and acknowledge what just happened:

A door slammed shut, a door that could have led to a better future.  Unlikely though it may seem, especially in retrospect, the law enforcement community could have used this moment and this momentum to transform themselves.  Prosecutor McCulloch might have done his job, which was to build enough of a case against Darren Wilson to make a trial a viable option.  Had the Grand Jury indicted Darren Wilson, last night could have been the first step on a journey toward greater police accountability, toward an acknowledgement of the pervasive racism in our ‘justice’ system and our nation, toward a peace built together.  It could have been a moment when ‘business as usual’ gave way to new understandings and deeper compassion.

Instead, not only was the verdict a slap in the face to everyone who has dedicated time, money, energy and love to the cause of securing justice for Mike Brown, it was delivered in such a way as to ensure that justifiable rage and grief would overflow into violence.  I am not a conspiracy theorist, but it seems to me that the steps the governor took during the lead-up to the announcement, the choice to announce at night, and the interminable and abusive thirty minutes that Prosecutor McCulloch spent saying things that HAD to have been deliberately chosen to inflame add up to a rather sinister plan to trigger riots and looting.  I am not a violent person, either, but I wanted to punch McCulloch.

Frankly, I wanted to punch President Obama, too.  His plea for a non-violent response felt like pure hypocrisy layered on top of a masterful campaign to turn things ugly.  What I wanted to hear my president say?  “We are horrified at this gross miscarriage of justice.  Rest assured, there will be a full investigation at the Federal level.”  Full stop.

This morning, all of us who care are still reeling.  I feel bruised and battered, and I know that my feelings as a white ally can only reflect a fraction of what people of color are feeling…and their pain is only a fraction of what the people closest to Mike Brown will be living with for the rest of their lives.

I think we need to stay here for a moment; we need to pause in the pain, the confusion, the frustration, the rage at the slammed door, the slap in the face.  We need to gather our strength and our resolve for a time.  Because when the way is shut, there is nothing for it but to turn, and find another way.

I don’t know what that other way might look like. I know it is likely to be a lot more difficult to find and to navigate.  Perhaps in places other than Ferguson, there is still hope that we can ease the door back open.  We can have conversations with police officers where we are.  We can talk about racial profiling and body cameras and anti-oppressive training.  We can serve on police oversight committees, and if such committees don’t exist, we can lobby our municipal governments to form them.

If none of that works, well, I have tremendous faith in the generation of brilliant young leaders of color who showed up in Ferguson.  They will find the new way.  The path will be carved out of hard, unforgiving soil; we have to excavate the depths of this nation’s racist history.  We have to be willing to start with ourselves, to crack open our hearts and dig out the lingering traces of defensiveness and privilege.  I am standing by, pick ax and shovel close to hand.

But for now, a pause, and a rallying cry that has turned into a confession:  No justice.  No peace.

With General Assembly coming to Portland, OR next year, we are hoping to bring a large group from the UUCP. Of course, a lot of people have no idea what general assembly is! And so, I will blog several times to give you a window. You can also download the free GA app (go to the app store and search for “UUA General Assembly 2014”) or catch some of the highlights, which will be livestreamed.

Let’s begin with the basics: General Assembly is a national gathering of Unitarian Universalists from all over the world. There are literally thousands of UU’s here, which is a big part of the experience. We can often feel as is we are small, almost insignificant. But the tangible power of being in a huge stadium that is filled with people who are grounded in our values and fired up by our faith gives me a giant infusion of hope.

Before the thousands descend, the religious professionals gather. For me, that means the UUMA…the UU Ministers’ Association. The UU Musician’s Network, the Association of UU Administrators, and LREDA (Liberal Religious Educator’s Association) meet concurrently. Because of my doctoral work, I haven’t been able to attend GA for the past few years. Ministry days, then, offered me a chance to reconnect with friends from seminar days and beyond. We all have a lot more gray hair than we used to. As one colleague put it, “We are not the young turks anymore.”

I arrived at ministry days early in order to attend a training for Good Office Persons. GOP’s work with UUMA members who are in conflict with their congregation or the organization they serve, with one another, or with the staff members of the UUA. We accompany, advise, and, if the worst comes to pass, help to negotiate a separation. The training focused on NVC, intercultural conflict styles, and covenanting. However, for me, the most interesting part was a conversation with UUA leaders.

The director of ministry, the director of congregational life, the settlement director, and others generously gave us a good chunk of time and brought us up to speed about some pretty big changes at the UUA. The biggest is regionalization. For years, we’ve been organized into districts. However, scarce resources mean that each district has a limited capacity to support staff. By combining districts into regions, teams are formed, and members of these teams have a greater ability to specialize.

This sounds very logical…in theory. In reality, though, as part of the “Western Region,” our team is expected to cover everything West of the Rockies. The boundaries for the regions were based on number of congregations rather than geographical distance. I imagine it will be very hard on Western Regional team members to travel such huge distances, and so they’ll be forced to conduct most of their business via Skype, phone, etc. And personally, I think nothing takes the place of face to face interactions.

It feels like unequal distribution of resources, and suddenly, I understand where the Canadians were coming from when they broke off from the UUA. Meanwhile, it also had me wondering why there are comaratively few congregations on the Western side of the country. One colleague offered an explanation: many of our Western congregations were planted at a time when there were limited numbers of Unitarian or Universalist clergy willing to move to the “wild west.” Apparently, there used to be far more, but when the original clergy person moved on, no one was available to take their place, and so the Methodists quite helpfully stepped in. Huh.

On Tuesday, we typically have a keynote speaker followed by collegial conversations. Our keynote this year was Marshall Ganz, a community organizer and social scientist from the Harvard Kennedy School. He was fabulous, and gave us some tips on more effective advocacy. On Wednesday, we begin with the “25/50 Service,” which celebrates ministers who have completed 25 or 50 years of service. Each “class” chooses a speaker. The 25-year speaker was Victoria Safford; the 50-year speaker was Judith Walker-Riggs. This was the first year both speakers were women. And both speakers brought me to tears.

Wednesday afternoon brings the Berry Street lecture. This year’s lecturer was Lindi Ramsden, the minister who founded the California Legislative Advocacy Network. She also gave us some incredibly helpful ideas on how to be more effective in our social justice work. Weekend long trainings for activists on specific issues? What a great idea! A youth corps, like AmeriCorps, but just for UU’s? Even better! With a child considering options for a gap year, I thought that suggestion was particularly brilliant.

And then…the crowds arrived, including my family. I’ll share more in my next post.

Bombing Syria=Bad Idea

September 6, 2013

I have been thinking and reading and praying about Syria a lot lately; I think most of us have.  It’s a messy, complicated situation with no elegant solutions.  To sit by and do nothing in the face of chemical warfare?  Genocide?  That would be inhumane and unconscionable.  Sanctions?  Humanitarian aid?  Mobilizing global condemnation?  Apparently nigh on impossible, and unlikely to be effective.  And so the president seems to be falling back on ‘surgical strike’ as the correct response.

I actually understand and agree with a number of the arguments in favor of the attack.  In particular, Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl had an op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal that struck a chord.  They believe it’s important to respond militarily because we have said we would, and that our integrity and trustworthiness are just about the only thing preventing the total explosion of the powder keg that is the Middle East. Meanwhile, some of the arguments against don’t hold water with me.  In particular, the one that posits that we shouldn’t be helping other nations when our own is still a mess plays into a tribal nationalism that rubs me the wrong way. 

Nonetheless, I’ve come to the conclusion that bombing Syria is a very, very bad idea.  First of all, I fear that it will make things worse.  The fact that extremists in Iran are already threatening to retaliate indicates that the conflict will not remain ‘surgical’ or contained, but will likely spiral out of control.  Secondly, I have little hope that it will make things better.  Assad is a madman, by definition.  Anyone who would do what he did has lost touch with his humanity.  The bombing of his people will make him angrier and crazier; it won’t lead him to change his strategy.  Nor will it reassure our allies, as Mssrs. Liberman and Kyl assert.  After all, no matter how carefully the missiles are targeted, there will be civilian casualties.  There’s not a country in the Middle East where pro-American sentiment and anti-American sentiment don’t live shoulder to shoulder.  Putting myself in the shoes of our allies, I would be terrified that the next strike would be against my extremist neighbors- and that my own children might be civilian casualties.

Morality consists of an ever-evolving global consensus as to what is right and what is wrong.  We are getting closer and closer to complete consensus that chemical warfare is unacceptable.  The issue I have with the proposed strategy in Syria is that I believe missile strikes are just as bad.  Modern warfare distances the killer from the victim, dehumanizing both ‘targets’ and ‘non-combatant casualties.’  Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, believed that the capacity to destroy whole cities as the touch of a button would inevitably lead to peace, as no one would be willing to press the button.  History has not played out that way, though.  We keep playing on the edge of atrocities, and I, for one, don’t want to be complicit. 

I am not a military strategist.  My children will tell you that I refuse to even play strategic board games with them.  I find them confusing and uncomfortable; I can’t separate chits on a board from the human lives they represent.  This is the connection we all need to make and embrace, most especially the congresspeople and actual military strategists who are debating and discerning the best path forward.  Human nature and the global moral consensus will guide us toward preserving innocent life, doing the least amount of harm possible, providing humanitarian relief, and continuing to seek those elusive diplomatic solutions.  There has to be a better way.

 

Let me begin by confessing:  I didn’t watch any of the coverage of the trial itself.  I guess I felt like the work had been done, the verdict was a foregone conclusion, and it didn’t much matter whether he got Murder 2 or manslaughter; the point had been made.   We may not be able to stop police from stopping young African American men for ‘driving while black,’ but we (meaning people who care about justice) can at least insist that vigilantes who do so and then shoot the young man are held accountable.

The first sign I had that something had gone wrong was seeing people holding a “We Remember Trayvon” sign by the side of the road on my way home from dinner.  I didn’t think much of it.  It was late Saturday night; did juries even deliberate on the weekends?   I actually went for a walk, still ignorant, and didn’t sit down and watch the news until about 9 pm.  Primary emotions:  shock and fear.  Shock that such a thing would happen; fear that it might lead to riots or violence a la Rodney King.

It’s been about forty-eight hours since then, and I’ve read many thoughtful reflections and checked out many powerful memes.  What stands out to me the most is the difference in musical selections.  My Unitarian Universalist friends immediately started sharing Sweet Honey and the Rock’s “Ella’s Song,” with its triumphalist refrain:  “We who believe in freedom shall not rest….until the killing of black men, black mother’s son, is as important as the killing of white men, white mother’s sons.”

Meanwhile, my friend Kelle Brown, a brilliant and dedicated African-American pastor, first posted “Strange Fruit”, complete with images of young black men who had been lynched, burned, or tortured. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqbXOO3OiOs

  I almost didn’t make it through ‘Strange Fruit’ because the images were so violent and horrible.  But I thought to myself, “watching this is the least I can do.” 

The next day she posted “The Women Gather,” also by Sweet Honey.  I cried all the way through “The Women Gather”, and when it was over, found myself thinking that it was too bad that we don’t wear mourning clothes anymore. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBwZMe1-A14

I wanted to go into full mourning, complete black, not just for Trayvon, but for all of the young black and brown men and women through the ages who have been killed because of who they were, where they were, or the color of their skin. 

The questions this raised for me, though, included “Do I even have the right to do that?  Is this my grief?  It sure feels like it is.  But maybe I only have the right to bear witness to the grief within the African American community.  After all, I don’t have to worry that my sons might be shot on their way to the store because of the color of their skin.  I don’t know what it’s like to live with that particular fear.”  I added more tears to the water in the MLK memorial fountain in San Francisco, with the prayer that just as my little grief-drops contributed to the mighty streams of water that are symbolically wearing away the stone of injustice, I might find a way to channel my grief and find some way to be a good ally.

The thing is, I worry that it’s too soon for us white folk to start working for justice in Trayvon Martin’s honor.  It’s not about the verdict.  It’s not even about Trayvon, to some extent.  We need to begin by appropriately grieving literally millions of precious lives cut short.  Only it’s such a huge task, I don’t know where to start. 

The truth is that this country is built not only on those beautiful democratic principles, but also on a mass grave filled with slaves and exploited immigrant workers and violently displaced Native Americans.   It’s not just history, either; our society continues to depend on cheap labor, from the latest wave of immigrants and from young men (mostly men of color) who have been absorbed into the ‘prison-industrial complex.’  In response to this deep and horrifying truth, this sickness at the center of who we are, I can…what?  Buy local?  It just doesn’t feel like enough.

So yes, I believe in freedom, and I will keep on working for justice until every child…and I mean EVERY SINGLE CHILD…grows up safe and loved, from the day they are born until the day they die, ideally at a great old age.   And I will make the best choices I can.  But the question that is burning in me is bigger than that:  what do we do with this vast grief?

In July, I’ll take one last summer intensive class, and then I’ll be officially “ABD”…just a dissertation away from my Doctor of Ministry Degree. I’d like to have my dissertation design approved before I start that final class, which means working with my advisor to clarify and focus my ideas and divide them into chapters. (I find it really helps to think of writing eight 20-40 page chapters rather than one 150-250 page dissertation.)

So what is my dissertation going to be about?

These days, our subjective experience is that we are swimming in rough seas…bombarded by a constant stream of traumatic and tragic news. This experience is based on an objective reality. The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) maintains an International Disaster Database, in which they’ve tracked the number of natural disasters since 1974. The globe has seen a dramatic eight-fold increase in the number of natural disasters. The scientific consensus is that this change is caused by human patterns of consumption and habitation. That means that in the years to come, things will get worse before they can even begin to get better… even without factoring in human-caused tragedies and disasters.

As if it that weren’t bad enough, we all have a front row seat to each disaster and tragedy as it occurs. A hundred years ago, if there had been a school shooting or a natural disaster somewhere in the world, we might hear about it several months later if it made it into a newspaper…but most likely, we would never know. Editor Harold Evans of the London Times reportedly said that “a single copy of the Sunday Times covers more happenings than an Englishman just a few hundred years ago would have been exposed to in his entire lifetime.”

Most of us don’t get our news exclusively from the paper, though. Between television and the internet, we are watching live footage of tragedies as they unfold and recorded footage afterwards…over and over and over again. Watching images is different than reading words. Studies have shown that our biochemical reaction to watching this footage is the same as if we were there—there’s only a slight difference in scale. So everyone who watches the news responds as if they are being traumatized.

Interestingly enough, when we look into the neuro-biochemistry of PTSD, what we learn is that images of trauma enter our brains through the amygdala (the reptilian brain.) Makes sense, right? If big bad things are happening, we want to respond with that fight-or-flight intensity. From there, they must pass through the hippocampus and into the neocortex. PTSD occurs when the pathway between the amygdala and the hippocampus gets flooded. The official name for compassion fatigue is “Secondary Vicarious Traumatization” or “Secondary Vicarious PTSD”…and I sometimes think that our entire society is suffering from it, simply by virtue of watching the news.

Then there’s the flip side of the coin: it turns out that tragedies can bring out the best in the human race, allowing people to cross boundaries of class, race, nationality, and religion and to embrace our common humanity. (Try reading Rebecca Solnit’s “A Paradise Built in Hell” if you don’t believe me.) Stories of loss and tragedy capture people’s attention and elicit an empathic response. We wind up caring deeply about people we’ve never met before, and that is a good thing.

This subject has been an interest of mine for several years, and I’ve taken trainings and classes as well as reading everything I can get my hands on. Yet still, I sometimes feel confused, overwhelmed, and inadequate when it comes to responding to traumatic events as a spiritual leader in the context of the congregation. I know I am not alone. Traffic on the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Chat message board after a natural disaster or other tragedy regularly reflects similar confusion on the part of my colleagues. My hope is that I can create a resource…possibly a rubric or a decision flow chart…that might help us know how to calibrate our response appropriately.

To some extent, I see our congregations as lifeboats. It’s our job to provide a place where people can rest for a while, experience kindness, reclaim a sense of agency, and turn again toward beauty, life, and hope. We all get knocked off the boat once in a while, and flounder in the grief and the helplessness and the anger. But we need to keep on swimming (“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”) and then climb back in. In the meantime, we are among the keepers of what is good and right and beautiful. It’s our job to foster in ourselves and in one another compassion and empathy and connection and a sense of responsibility and accountability, all of which is needed if our lifeboats are ever to land someplace stable and sustainable.

As the news began to pour in about the bombing at the finish line, I went through a familiar routine.  I lit a candle and started to pray, and then I began searching for information.  I let myself cry, and experienced the horror and the disbelief.  Like others, I posted reassuring words and articles.  I took comfort in accounts of heroism and the words of Mr. Rogers.  I turned off the television (because images are more upsetting than stories) and I went for a walk.  I hugged my children a little tighter than usual.  I gave thanks for my many, many blessings. 

However, this morning, a new and different emotional response has been bubbling up in me.  I am mightily pissed off.  My friends, we should not have to do this.  We should not have to mourn innocent victims of senseless acts of violence on a monthly basis.  Our culture is sick.  Our nation is sick.  Can we start talking about what we might do to help it heal?

Here are some of my preliminary thoughts:

1.  The media could take a good hard look at the way they cover tragedies.

People want information, so we are all glued to our screens when these terrible events occur.  That translates into good ratings.  However, it also means that the perpetrators get the fame and notoriety they are craving.  It also means that all of us watching wind up with secondary traumatization.  The media needs different priorities.  Ratings should not be the be-all and end all.  What would happen if the networks and reporters admitted that sensationalist coverage is making the problem worse, and then asked, “What can we do to make it better, instead?”

2.  We could have a nationwide campaign to ‘know your neighbors.’

In order to commit an act of violence, you have to de-humanize your victim.  That’s only possible in isolation.  Regular contact with actual people keeps us in touch with our natural empathy.  People with healthy and supportive social networks don’t kill people.  People who respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people don’t kill people.  And what enables us to respect the worth and dignity of others is the experience of being respected, ourselves.  Reach out to the loners, the lonely, the hurting, the isolated.  Don’t leave it to the government to weave the social safety net.  It’s our responsibility to make sure that no one slips through the holes.

3.  We could go cold turkey on war.

This country is addicted to war.  The military-industrial complex has convinced us that our economy depends on it.  Our identity seems to rest on being the biggest military power on the block.  But the truth is that we are being bankrupted, morally and financially.  As if the trillions of dollars we spend weren’t enough, the human cost of war is incalculable.  We need to pay attention to the damage our troops are doing in our name…the lives lost and the spirits shattered.  We need to pay attention to the damage done to our troops by multiple deployments.  Their lives and spirits and families are often shattered, too.  How can we create a domestic culture of compassion and respect for life when internationally, we are the ones with the highest kill rate?  We live with this cognitive, emotional, and spiritual dissonance between our stated ideals (“All people are created equal”) and our government’s actions on our behalf.  People ARE NOT ‘collatoral damage.’  They are people. 

4.  We could treat this epidemic of violence like the sickness it is.

The conversation about gun control is just the tip of the iceberg.  I want our nations best scientists to have all the money and support they need to figure out where this disease comes from, how it spreads, and how it might be prevented.  How do we immunize our children against becoming perpetrators?  Can the early symptoms be identified, so that sick people can be treated before the disease gets out of control? 

So today, I am remembering the helpers and enjoying the sunshine while keeping a candle lit.  The prayers and the tears keep on coming.  I will follow the stories, and learn the names of the victims, because we owe them that much, at least.

But I am also standing up and saying:  this is not acceptable.  I do not want to live in a country where almost every month we have the wind knocked out of us by yet another story of senseless violence.  I do not want to raise my children in a culture where bombs and school shootings are the norm.  And no, I don’t want to move, either! 

The “Take Back the Night” movement helped us mobilize against the rape culture.  We need to mobilize against the violence culture.  I want us to take back our society, take back our country, take back our peace of mind.  Who is with me?  And what ideas do you have as to how we can achieve this goal?

When I was in seminary, I spent some time doing street ministry with drug-addicted teenagers. We brought them sandwiches, clean socks, sterile sharps, and hot chocolate. In return, they offered their stories.

One young man in particular has haunted me ever since. Beautiful, intelligent, and articulate, he shared that he had a typical upper-middle class upbringing. He’d done well in school, and had gone on to get a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. It was while he was working on his Master’s degree that someone slipped him some Heroin. Unfortunately, it only took once for him. Now, his good looks made him popular with the men who looked to hire him for sex. He had enough cash to keep himself in drugs, but he no longer had any hopes of making it out of his life. “I expect I’ll die fairly soon,” he said, with very little affect. “I’ve got to be HIV positive by now.” As I prayed with him and then later for him, I noticed that in the midst of the grief and sadness, I felt a healthy dose of fear. It hit me hard: there was really very little difference between his story and mine, right up to that pivotal moment where he became addicted. It gave the phrase, “There but for the Grace of God go I” a whole new resonance.

This experience became the seed of a key realization for me. When we hesitate to interact with the homeless, the disenfranchised, the suffering, it’s not necessarily because we are afraid of ‘the other.’ Rather, we’re afraid we’ll realize that ‘they’ are just like ‘us.’ We cling to an artificial sense of safety that depends on our ability to blame people for their misfortune. “I would never behave that way, and so what happened to them would never happen to me.” When we get to actually know the stories of the people who are suffering, that sense of safety falls apart, and we who are ‘successful’ realize that we were, in so many ways, simply lucky.

I offer this as an example of the way we are transformed and enriched by our experiences out in the ‘real world.’ As we allow ourselves to come into contact with suffering and loss, misfortune and injustice, our intellectual defenses are shattered, and we must embrace a more complex and realistic world view. Our hearts are broken, and we become more compassionate and empathetic. Our spiritual understandings are challenged, and in response, we reformulate them to be wider and deeper.

Meanwhile, people who spend all their time out in the world can easily burn out, or become overwhelmed by their feelings of grief and impotence. Spiritual practices that enable us to process our experiences are essential to our survival. We need the clarity and focus that can only come out of slowing down and breathing deeply. Our spiritual practices empower us to serve the world in the right way, and for the right reasons.

I believe there is a feedback loop that happens when we embrace both service in the world and a spiritual practice. Our experiences in the world give us fodder for growth in our spiritual lives. Our spiritual lives provide us with sustenance and focus for our continued efforts out in the world. Meanwhile, spirituality without service is shallow and brittle, while service without spiritual grounding leads to burnout and cynicism.

I’ll be preaching on this topic on May 19th. Please share your thoughts, feelings and reactions!