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Journey of love signposts – discontent is here, you are enough, sitting with our pain.

Recently I had a chance to ask a dear friend about his spiritual journey, his soul journey.

As a teacher, leader, musician, father, friend, and businessman, my friend wears many hats! One of the wonderful attributes about him is his willingness to be open about his inner experiences. Candidly, that’s why I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to ask him what he has experienced, learned, struggled with along his path.

As I listened and he shared, I was taken by three themes that I will explore more in depth in future blogs.

  • Human discontent brings energy and suffering
  • We are enough, and yet we strive to be better, more, greater, etc.
  • We are quick to try to avoid pain. Often pain comes to us unexpected. In many cases, we try to act our way out of or through pain. In some cases, when we sit with our pain, or sit with others who are in pain, we open the possibility of healing.

Through our conversation, we talked about many things but what struck me was the commonality we share on these three themes. The other thing that struck me is that each of these themes are not good or bad, right or wrong, they are “both and.”

As this is an introduction, I’ve included a number of quotes that highlight different views on these themes. I hope you are both intrigued and challenged by the breadth of thought.

On discontent…

  • “Discontent has a creative force in it.” – Sunday Adelaja
  • “The ones that always, always want something better, will never find better.”  – Anthony Liccione
  • “When you have no choice, you have no discontent either.”
    ― Vivek Shanbhag, from the book Ghachar Ghochar

On being enough…

  • “Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.”
    – Jalaluddin Rumi
  • “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Jesus words from Matthew
  • “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.”
    – Eleanor Roosevelt

On sitting with pain…

In some cases, levels of human suffering and pain reach levels which I do not understand nor have experienced directly. As I write about pain in the future, I will count on you to help me articulate, differentiate and discuss the depths of pain and suffering we experience.

  • “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.” – Book of Job, chapter 19
  • “Perfect humility tends to the annihilation of self.” – Meister Eckhart
  • “Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

My Soul Journey into Vulnerability

As Soul Journeys is birthed, I am very aware of the thing that I have tried to avoid my entire life.

Vulnerability.

Truly, I have spent most my years trying to show up with the right “look”. Confident, having all the answers, willing to take appropriate risks, responsible, measured, smart, good husband, father, friend, you know, good, and always trying to be better. The truth is I’m able to portray all those things but I am so much more! I am fearful, sad, frustrated, confused, lazy, negative, ashamed, needy, jealous … need I go on?

As I launch Soul Journeys, I am deep into openness and vulnerability which, as it turns out, provides much of my inspiration to begin Soul Journeys. On my own journey, I’ve realized that acceptance of whatever arises within me or around me may be the thing that leads me to the transformation I need. In truth, I often don’t want, or run from, what appears initially.

My intent is that Soul Journeys becomes a framework for those of us who wish to explore the hidden places within where love and peace, joy and sadness are intertwined with all that we don’t want to be or don’t want others to see. We each spend a lot of time and energy projecting what is acceptable and hiding what is not. As we accept ourselves and realize our sacredness, our inner love may break forth.

For me, my journey seemed to begin with a goal which I’ve somehow lost and found and lost again many times along the way. Just because the goal wasn’t, and still isn’t achievable, doesn’t mean I don’t often find myself all twisted up in the goal of being greater, better, smarter, wiser, more… than I was yesteryear, yesterday, yester-minute.

As I explore and reflect on what I see and notice, I find that often what seems like a goal is actually more discovering what is truer. I have often been caught in the trap of “finding truth” but that defines an endpoint which seems elusive.

So as my soul journey continues and your soul journey continues, Soul Journeys begins as it joins you and I along the way.

Soul Journeys is an invitation; a framework; an opportunity;  a challenge; to journey  together and alone experiencing more fully all that is within and around us.

I humbly invite you to consider joining your soul journey to Soul Journeys so that together we may unearth all the beauty, mystery, energy and joy that exists in this miraculous gift we call life.

 

Confessions

2018 04 30 SJ journal phtot and quote - the most painful tears are not the onesDiversity, ‘of course everyone’s welcome’ – confessions of a caring, yet clueless, white guy.

As I walked through Love’s Convenience Store and Truck Stop, looking for the restroom, (too much diet coke on the return trip from St. Louis) it dawned on me that the internal joy, often with me and for which I am grateful, was manifesting in smiles and hellos to a very physically diverse group of people. There was the white middle aged lady behind the counter, the rather darked skinned man walking toward the exit, the black lady who was a bit heavy set and whole variety of people all mingling in the ‘Love’s UN’ of Bloomington, IL.

What came into my thoughts was; in almost every place I go, I can say hello to someone, almost anyone, and expect that they will reciprocate in kind. Sometimes I don’t feel like being overly friendly but often I take it on, as part of my role in the world, to say hi and to smile at people, hopefully encouraging them to know they are loved and that I recognize them as beloved people. Saturday was different.

It suddenly dawned on me that it is a privilege for me to say ‘hi’, ‘hello’, or to smile, one that I have taken for granted… for almost 52 years. I have the chance to be friendly to anyone and not worry that they might not like me because of who I am. If I reach out with a smile or a hello and don’t received a response in kind, I never think it’s because of my race, gender or dress. As a white male, there may be the occasional person who doesn’t reciprocate but it’s always easy for me to ‘chalk it up to’ – ‘they’re having a bad day’ or perhaps a ‘bad life’ or perhaps ‘they’re just not that friendly’? It hit me yesterday that for people of color, for women, for others who have lived their lives feeling as outsiders, their “hi” or smile is often taking a risk. And not just a risk of the fact that someone will not like being talked to but rather the risk that they will be rejected or objectified because of who they are. Ouch!

In St. Louis I attended the Spiritual Directors International Conference and was assigned to a breakout group led by, Rev. April and Rev. Alan. They were willing to lead an important discussion about diversity. Throughout the session the Revs shared stories from their own experiences and others, trying to help us see the pain that so many people carry with them. As a caring person who has tried to support ALL people, and has tried to allow my love to pour out to all people no matter their background, I thought I had “checked that box”.

As my Rev. mentors shared, I tried to take in their pain, as well as the pain of others they told about, thinking we were all on the same page…

But then, Rev. Alan asked us two questions that will forever change my thinking. He asked us to raise our hands if we had ever had a close family member or friend die? I raised my hand dutifully. He then asked if anyone ever said that we should “just get over it”; “just move on”; or any other well intended yet not helpful attempt at helping us through deep pain and suffering.

I recalled that when my father passed away, I had wonderful support of family and friends that helped me grieve. I could not recall a moment of feeling like someone was trying to tell me to get over it but then, I thought of my dear daughter, who’s first love took his own life in December of 2016. She was completely devastated. They were (and still are) kindred spirits and although had broken up more than a year before, the depth of connection they shared was something many wish for in their own lives.

Rev. Alan’s questions brought me to the reality of the pain that that so many people feel who have been marginalized for who they are. As I attempted to be support for my grieving daughter, I could only sit by her side to travel with her in her pain. It was one of the hardest and (I’m guessing) most important things I’ve ever done.

‘Only’ is enough as it turns out. In fact, it may be all we can do. In the case of people who have experienced marginalization, abuse, trauma or bias based on who they are, we can’t relate, understand, fix, or help them get past this sort of deep pain. The ONLY thing we can do is sit with our friends in their pain. We must be willing to embrace them as they wish to be embraced in their pain and not ‘run away’ from the depth of the pain and suffering they feel. It is real, it is scary, and it is deep.

Potential and actual daily rejection and objectification of people causes deep pain and suffering. The sort of pain and suffering as if a dear loved one died and someone is constantly saying, “just get over it.” It is time for us to stop saying “get over it” and start saying, “I am here for you and I will be with you in your pain and suffering.”

Loving God, give us the strength and courage to sit with our friends in their pain and suffering. Amen.