April – Emergence
What does it mean to be a people of Emergence?
I was standing in the flower section at the Stop & Shop the other day, longing for spring as yet another Nor’easter came barreling toward us. And apparently, I was longing for my Dutch roots too, as I found my eye drawn, again and again, to the 5 baby tulips poking out from a little green pot on the counter there.
So I bought them – red, laced with a bit of white frill at the top – a variety of tulips I’ve never seen and was wary of but decided to get anyway, on impulse.
They’ve been growing on me, literally and figuratively, since then, and reminding me, as living things will do, that they unfold at their own pace, in their own time. They were doing pretty well at first but on the second day one of them seemed to be struggling. Its leaves didn’t look so green, it seemed to be leaning to one side. I tried to “help” by removing a wilted-looking outer petal, but my pulling caused another to come off with it and pretty soon the whole flower fell apart in my hand. Note to self: that wasn’t a great idea.
So I left the others alone. To emerge in their own time. Which they did – gloriously, sloooowwly, and majestically. My impatience to see them blossom having absolutely no impact on the pace at which they grew.
And so it is with us too, right? We grow at our own pace, impatience having no impact on the pace at which we grow. Or, sometimes, a negative impact.
In talking with colleagues about the theme of emergence the other day, one of them made that point – not only that we cannot force emergence, but that when we try, we may actually get in its way.
That’s a hard lesson for those of us who are used to making things happen, who have gained some mastery in life or work and “know what to do.” What does that look like, to step back, allow things to unfold at their own pace – watering and tending, to be sure, but also keeping ourselves and our own expectations out of the way?
How does that apply to how we interact with the children we love? How does that apply to work in the congregation? How might that influence our approach to our paid work, or to the work of keeping a household running?
This month’s theme of emergence invites us to live with those questions and, yes, allow answers to emerge. As always, there are exercises to try (see link), questions to walk with (link here) and videos, articles and quotes (link) to peruse.
With an expectant heart,
Our Spiritual Exercises
Notice Your No’s & Let Some Yes’s Loose
Ok, let’s admit it: we say “no” more often than we can count – or more often than we are aware. It’s our default mode. We are so good at coming up with reasons to say no: There’s not enough time. It’s too risky. You’ve got to prioritize. You’ve got to be realistic. Adults know how to delay gratification. I’ve been burnt before.
These No’s keep us safe. That’s important and needs affirmed. But it’s also true that many of our knee-jerk No’s cut us off from new life, like that well-meaning lawn spray that kills the weeds but eliminates the wildflowers as well. Or to use an Easter metaphor: often, with our No’s, we roll the stone in front of our own tombs.
So this month, to honor spring’s celebration of wildflowers and Easter’s call to roll away the stone, you are invited to let some Yes’s loose and see what kind of new life emerges. Here are your instructions put as simply as possible:
Try to say Yes as often as you can!
Patricia Ryan Madson, drama professor and author, captures the possibilities inherent in this seemingly playful, but seriously daring spiritual discipline. She writes,
“This is going to sound crazy. Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else’s dream. Say: yes”; “right”; “sure”; “I will”; “okay”; “of course”; “YES!” Cultivate all the ways you can imagine to express affirmation. When the answer to all questions is yes, you enter a new world, a world of action, possibility, and adventure… It is undoubtedly an exaggeration to suggest that we can say yes to everything that comes up, but we can all say yes to more than we normally do. Once you become aware that you can, you will see how often we use the technique of blocking in personal relationships and life simply out of habit. Turning this around can bring positive and unexpected results…”
Keep it simple. Try it for 2-3 days and see how it goes. Just catch yourself right before the word “no” spills from your lips and say “Yes” instead. To keep yourself on task, consider printing out these words on a small card or piece of paper and place it somewhere you will see it throughout the day: “Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else’s dream. Say: yes”; “right”; “sure”; “I will”; “okay”; “Yes and…” not “Yes but…”
Along the way, try to pay attention to your relationship to Yes’s and No’s. What kind of Yes:No ratio rules your life? How do your Yes’s and No’s impact those around you? Who taught you that Yes’s are risky and No’s are safe? Who desperately needs your Yes, but you’ve been too busy to notice?
Come to your group ready to share what you learned, what surprised you and what emerged by simply letting Yes loose! Here are a handful of resources to guide and inspire you:
The YES Challenge!
My year of saying yes to everything – TED Talk
Yes is What Makes a Life – TED Talk
Improv lesson – “Yes and…”
Called to Say Yes – Poem
Emerge From the Tomb of Worry
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca
When it comes to the tombs that keep us trapped, worry tops the list for many of us. The tragedy is that, as Seneca points out, many of those worries are imagined. In other words, we are the creators of worry, not just victims of it. And to the degree we contribute, we can also escape and free ourselves.
If worry and anxiety is what you are wrestling with, then here’s your exercise this month:
Identify your imagined worry
Work with one strategy to address it
Spend some significant time this month engaging and meditating on the below list of resources. Take a day and dive deeply into them all or spread them out and tackle one at a time as your daily meditation practice. Use them not just to better understand worry and anxiety, but to figure out the one particular worry that exists more inside your head and heart than out there in the world. Just naming that imagined worry might be enough for the month. But if you can, also consider using the resources to identify a strategy to begin separating yourself from that worry.
Come to your group ready to share your journey.
Recommended Resources on Emerging
From the Prison of Worry, Anxiety and Stress
- A Stoic’s Key to Peace of Mind & the Antidote to Anxiety:
- An Antidote to the Age of Anxiety, According to Alan Watts:
- Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”: A Neuropsychology Reading:
- How to Lower Your “Worryability”: Italo Calvino’s 1950 New Year’s Resolution:
- How Not To Worry:
- Don’t Be Afraid of Fear – Alan Watts:
- Fighting FOMO (The fear of Missing Out):
Emerging from a History of Racial Injustice:
[Note, due to a technical issue, not everyone saw this exercise last month. Also, while the introduction is the same, new video shorts have been added to the resources section]
As a faith movement, we have a long history of standing up to injustice and fighting for fairness. And as a church, we are working toward passing an anti-racism resolution and taking a public stand in support of the Movement for Black Lives.
To that end, you are invited to reflect on some of the following resources, below, and take them into your spiritual practice this month, as we look at how to emerge from the racism in our society.
- Watch and wonder: take time to watch the videos and read the articles. And/or, attend one of the movie showings, “talk backs,” or the April 7th workshop sponsored by Westminster’s Race Discussions Team (for dates and times, check the Westminster Friday e-blast)
- Notice resistance: where do you find yourself pushing back? Not wanting to engage this topic, or arguing with what you see, read or hear? Just for this exercise, what happens when you sidestep defensiveness? What comes up in you? And, what happens for you when you focus more on what *does* make sense to you?
- How might it feel, for you, to commit to a spiritual journey of deepening your understanding of race and racism? How might it feel to commit to being, becoming, or re-engaging with this topic as an “anti-racist,” rather than a “non-racist”?
Take 10 minutes a day, for a week, to watch, read, and wonder. Come to your group and share what you learned about how racism manifests today, about the modern day racial justice movement(s), or about yourself.
Resources for reflecting on race:
- All Lives Matter? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtAAeyswlHM (*New)
- If “All Lives Matter” Logic Was Applied to Everyday Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW8piEF9Lhc (*New)
- When Did You Realize Your Race? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5nQmLbbWz0&feature=youtu.be&list=PLnvZ3PbKApGM-hHuQ9lNc5oSKsusjn0Z6
- Are you Non- or are you Anti-? https://www.facebook.com/nornowar/videos/1516271142000525/
- 4 Black Lives Matter Myths, Debunked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ_0bqWKO-k
- Do #BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrRiH4QzS2o
- She Never Wants the Black Doll: http://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/she-never-wants-the-black-doll
- Why Teaching Black Lives Matter Matters https://www.tolerance.org/print/85456/print
- White People Told Me Why They Feel Oppressed White People Explain Why They Feel Oppressed (*New)
Leaning Into & Emerging From A Week’s Worth Poetry
There are many sources of awakening and emergence. Poetry is among the most potent. Below are seven different poems, each with its own unique call to emerge into something new. Take a week and use them as your daily meditation practice, letting the voice of the poets help you better identify the particular voice of new growth inside you. How is life calling you to emerge into deeper or greater living? What form of new being and becoming are you being invited to lean into? Treat these poems as partners helping you answer those questions.
Come to your group ready to share which single poem spoke to you the most. What did it help clarify for you? What challenge, guidance or comfort did it offer?
Spoken & Video meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNfSKMlNquE
Those Who Don’t Feel This Love
Spoken & Video Meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjO4j7Ph5Z8
Die Slowly (Lentamente Muore)
There is No Going Back
Poem and Visual meditation: https://davesikkema.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/no-going-back/
I know. I try to avoid it too
See the text of poem below in “Companion Pieces”
Song of the Shattering Vessels
Ahlaam Lala Abduljalil
As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or a list that needs to be covered in its entirety. Instead, simply pick the single question that speaks to you most and let it lead you where you need to go. The goal is to figure out what being a part of a people of emergence means for you and your daily living. So, which question is calling to you? Which one contains “your work”?
- Is that broken thing you keep trying to put back together keeping you from the beautiful thing that is waiting to be built?
- Is one well-crafted and comfortable life what you really want? Was there a time when you planned on experiencing many lives in this one lifetime you’ve been given?
- Have you taken the time to mourn and give thanks for your old life? Have you rushed too quickly into the excitement of your new journey? Even if it was time to leave it, your old life gave you great gifts (even if they were laced with pain). Have you taken time to say goodbye and thank you?
- Is your armor in your way?
- Have you been sitting and simmering in stress for so long that it now feels normal? Is it time for you, like the proverbial frog in boiling water, to notice that a boiling pot is no place to live?
- Has worry become your tomb?
- It’s said that we don’t fear change, but the loss and letting go that comes with change? You do know what you need to let go of, right? But do you know why you are holding on so tight?
- Are you tired of being told that you need to emerge into something entirely new, and better? Are you looking for people (and a religion) that welcomes you as you are? That says, “Come as you are and be blessed”?
- Are you moving on or running away?
- They say we heal only to the degree we look at our role in the pain of our past. Are your wounds still open because you continue to turn a blind eye about your part in things?
- Are you the one who needs to be more gentle with yourself? Is it time to forgive yourself for the mistakes that were made in the past?
- Is it possible that emergence from pain requires you figuring out its gift? Is it possible that instead of asking, “How do I escape?” you need to first ask “What is Life trying to get me to see?”
- Instead of feeling punished or wronged, what if you choose to see your current mess as Life telling you, “It’s time to reboot!”
- Is regret over what could have been preventing you from fully leaning into what’s being offered?
- What if we become beautiful only by helping others find their beauty?
- What if we become free only by helping others find their freedom?
- Who is behind your mask, longing to come out and be seen?
- What if Life isn’t trying to get us to transform into something new or better? What if it simply wants us to emerge into the awareness that we are already enough?
- Ralph Waldo Emerson said we need to be careful about what we worship because “what we are
- worshipping we are becoming.” When was the last time you asked, “What am I really worshipping?”
- Are you in the way of someone’s emergence?
- What’s your question? Your question may not be listed above. As always, if the above questions don’t include what life is asking from you, spend the month listening to your days to hear it.
Recommended Resources for Personal Exploration & Reflection
The below recommended resources are not “required reading.” We will not analyze these pieces at our small group meeting. Instead they are here to companion you on your personal journey this month, get your thinking started, and open you to new ways of thinking about what it means to be part of a people of emergence.
Comes from the Latin emergere, to bring to light.
Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
Isaiah 43 18-19 (The Message)
Always be a work in progress.
When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.
It is never too late to be what you might have been.
You cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that.
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another. Anatole France
If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There is an initial uprush of relief at first, then— for me, anyway—a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new ones aren’t operational. There’s been a death of sorts, but without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible.
Maybe you went through it so it would awaken you.
Right where you are is where you need to be. Don’t fight it! Don’t run away from it! Stand firm! Take a deep breath. And another. And another. Now, ask yourself: Why is this in my world? What do I need to see?
Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help learning how not to run away.
The degree to which you are willing to embrace the pain of recovery, is the degree to which you will experience healing.
I Know. I Try To Avoid It Too
Have you sat with grief?
Have you let it wring you dry?
Leave you swollen and exhausted
in its wake?
Allowed the pain from the inner depths of hell,
deeper than you knew existed,
to ooze out,
bubble up into your heart,
so that your tears could begin
to wash you clean?
Have you asked yourself
the questions with no answers?
then allow them to just co-exist with you?
Have you walked, and talked,
with death and your losses?
The innocence murdered
Precious time stolen
Are you familiar with vulnerability?
With allowing your deepest feelings,
to come out of the grave
where you try to hide them?
I know how hard it is,
I try to avoid it too.
I also know the truth.
It must be done.
It is the broken road to healing.
The more we feel,
the more we can feel.
Go deep, my friend
Sit a spell and let it bubble.
Feel it all.
It will feel rotten for a while,
then comes the morning…
I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
Three Dollars Worth of God
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love my enemy
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
You have a magic carpet
That will whiz you through the air,
To Spain or Maine or Africa
If you just tell it where.
So will you let it take you
Where you’ve never been before,
Or will you buy some drapes to match
And use it
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this…
Our survival adaptations are so tough, but our wounds are so delicate. To heal, we have to lift the armor carefully- it saved our lives, after all. It’s like moving your best friend off to the side of the path. You don’t trample on her, you don’t hit her with a sledgehammer. You honor her presence like a warm blanket that has kept you safe and sound during wintry times. And then, when the moment is right, you get inside and stitch your wounds with the thread of love, slowly and surely, not rushing to completion, nurturing as you weave, tender and true. The healing process has a heart of its own, moving at its own delicate pace.
That broken thing you keep trying to put back together, is keeping your life from that beautiful thing that is waiting to be built.
That’s the trouble with earth. Nobody talks to each other anymore. And so we’ve all become a bunch of unopened love letters.
Erin Van Vuren
In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.
We have work to do. We can try on masks, we can hide behind masks, but I am asking you to look under the mask. Who is at the core? What [is waiting] to be transformed?
My most lasting transformations happened in the subtleties, in those private moments of decision as to which path to walk. In every moment, there is a choice: Will I open, or close? Will I take responsibility, or blame? Will I download the learning, or deflect? Will I go to my edge, or fall back to safety? Will I honor my intuition, or listen to the world? Millions of moments of decision that inform who we become. Getting out of Unconscious Prison is a life-long journey. True path is built with many tiny choices.
Our whole spiritual transformation brings us to the point where we realize that in our own being, we are enough. Ram Dass
Transformation means complete and total metamorphosis… And certainly some of us may be ready to embrace that… But I think that most weeks I am like a lot of our parishioners—not all, but most—when I say that I’m not looking for a religion that tells me from the get-go that I need a complete overhaul. I’m looking for a religion that first and foremost welcomes me as I am, a busy, flawed, often bewildered person who is doing her best in a complicated world… we’re not talking semantics here; we’re talking about a foundational theological statement: Are you good enough to walk into Unitarian Universalism as you are, or do we need you to change into something other than you are? Can’t have it both ways. I take the side of welcoming you as you are… That’s the Unitarian Universalist theological position, the non-Calvinist-no-original-sin religion I was born into, and I’m still drawn to it. Inherent dignity. Inherent worth. Our theology says you need not be transformed first. Come as you are and be blessed.
Rev. Jane Rzepka
Song of the Shattering Vessels
“Either the world is coming together
or else the world is falling apart…
Today, tomorrow, within its weather,
the end or beginning’s about to start…
The image, gradually, is growing sharper;
now the sound is like a dart:
It seemed their world was coming together, but in fact it was falling apart.
That’s the nightmare, that’s the terror,
that’s the Isaac of this art—
which sees that the world might come together
if only we’re willing to take it apart….”
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory. Howard Zinn
Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the good. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Listen to the MUSTN’T
Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WONT’S
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be
Black as Night
Nahko and Medicine for the People
“I believe in the good things comin’
Out of darkness, lion heart pumpin’
Into white light, all things runnin’
Who have I been, who am I becomin’…”
Follow The Sun
“Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
Brand new moon, brand new sun…”
“I just want to be not what I am today…”
“There is a truth and it’s on our side
Dawn is coming, open your eyes…”
Rise Up (song)
Roll Away The Stone
Kelly Joe Phelps
Nina Simone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Y11hwjMNs
Michael Bublé: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edwsf-8F3sI
“It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good…”
More “Emergence Songs” are found on our April Spotify playlist. Click here to listen and download!
Rebirth not Resistance!
A call to put rethink the idea of resistance and reclaim ourselves as part of a bold and beautiful movement of rebirth instead!
Reinvent your Life
Goo and You – Radio Podcast
Producer Molly Webster peers inside a caterpillar pupa and witnesses some of the most complex and confounding biology happening on earth, stumbling into ancient questions of change. What of us carries on as we emerge into something new? What of our future self is already in us now?
Shake My Future
A poem to shake our complacency and stir up our commitment…
The Bridge Between The Past, Present and Future – TED Talk (must watch!)
David Whyte meditates on the place where our present turns into our future, life-giving heartbreak and the illusions that keep us from emerging into the new lives waiting for us.
What Will Change in Your Lifetime?
People from 5-100 years old answer
The Operating Definition of Racism Needs an Overhaul
Emerging racial justice conversations: Tackling the racial income gap
The Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter – On Being podcast
The belief that Black Lives Matter, the questions it makes us ask and the new world that emerges when we dare to answer…
“I think what Black Lives Matter is a living case study about is about narrative change and framing. Because then it leads to, “OK, if black lives matter, then what does it mean for schools?” “If black lives matter, then what does it mean for police reform?” “If black lives matter, what does it mean for economic development and jobs?” And so it leads to a whole host of, “OK, so if that’s true, what does that mean?” I think for those of us in my generation, Patrisse, who are in charge of stuff, it challenges us to rethink our frames and pick different kinds of fights…This is powerfully spiritual, important work upon which the future of this nation rests…”
Podcast Passover and Easter – On Being
(The miracles that emerge from suffering
Reconsidering the Transformation of The Cross
Nadia Bolz Weber
New and emerging understandings of the cross…
7 Signs You’re Experiencing a Major Spiritual
Transformation (and emerging into something new)
Reflection: Change as a Catalyst for Transformation
(Falling apart as the doorway to emergence of the new)
Yuval Noah Harari
Review: “On humanity’s future, and our emerging quest to upgrade humans into gods… As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers?”
Review: “Reading Wild helped me realize that every step forward is a step into a new future, new hope and new opportunity. And however scary you find that, what you can’t do, and must never do, is stop walking.”
Million Dollar Baby
Review with connection to emergence and Easter: http://www.godweb.org/milliondollar.htm
Short Term 12
A “damaged” supervision, a halfway house of “damaged” teens, the grace-filled mess that ensues and the wholeness that emerges.
Review and spiritual commentary: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ecopreacher/2018/01/healing-power-moonlight-race-erotic-love-baptism/
“At some time, you gonna have to decide for yourself who you gonna be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.”
Call Me By Your Name
A hard won and hopeful future emergence But Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal (Dev Patel) proves that his past can’t control his future.
The Up series (1964-present)
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