CHURCH SERVICE Feb 4, 2018
Barbara Meyers. LICSW
We live within a great circle – a circle of time, a circle of seasons, an ever-expanding circle of community that eventually encompasses all that lives on this planet and then moves to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. I wish to honor the Circle of all Life this morning by calling in the powers of the East – the place of sunrise, the home of Spring, the place of inspiration and new beginnings, and the home of Eagle. Then I call in the powers of the South – the place of midday, the home of Summer, the place of childhood, the place of innocence and trust, and the home of little Mouse. Next I invite the powers of the West – the place of the sunset, the home of Fall, the place of adolescence, the place of the darkness and looking within, and the home of Bear. Lastly, I invite the North – the place of the night, the home of Winter, the place of adulthood, the place of bringing our gifts into community, the home of the ancestors and those yet to be born, and the home of Snowy Owl. May the Circle of all Life come to hold us in sacred time and space as we gather this morning.
LIGHTING THE CANDLE
I light this candle for all lost in the darkness. May it join with the light of others to offer hope in the face of despair, courage in the face of fear, and love in the face of hate.
WORDS FOR REFLECTION
In May 1992, during the siege of Sarajevo, a mortar shell exploded at 4 p.m. outside the bakery in the city where a long line of people had lined up to buy bread. Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds wounded in the explosion.
But despite the danger, the next day hungry people once again lined up to get bread, so desperate were their lives. Yet this day was different for at 4 p.m. Vedron Smailovic, the principal cellist of the Sarajevo Opera, arrived in front of the bakery carrying a chair and his cello. Dressed in a formal black suit and tie, he sat down and played the mournful Adagio by Albinoni. And for the next twenty-one days, Smailovic came to the street in front of the bakery and played the Adagio.
DRIVEN BY DISTRACTION
I like to write and speak from experience for I believe that experience is often our best teacher if we are willing to stop and make meaning of that experience. Thus I have two anecdotes to share with you this morning in the hopes that they may shed some light on this morning’s topic, Driven by Distraction.
The first occurred only a few months ago. I am in northern Italy at a place called Damanhur participating in a series of workshops in various esoteric studies. On this particular morning my seven mates and I are gathered in a large auditorium with 25-30 others from Germany and Switzerland. Each of us is handed a blindfold, instructed to find a space, and for the next hour to simply move to the music that will be playing. My first thought is, “How will I avoid colliding with others?” And my second thought is, “At least no one will be watching and judging me!”
An hour is a long time and the music is diverse – rhythmic, arrhythmic, stentorian, soft, modern, old, fast, slow. Free of the distraction of sight, I must listen and feel. In the beginning, I focus on listening for the beat of the music and try to match my body movements to the music. Then during the hour, interesting feelings and thoughts begin to unfold. As the music becomes faster and more arrhythmic, I stop listening to the music, give myself over to my body and begin to listen for the rhythm inside me rather than trying to fit myself to what is happening externally. I experience complete embodiment and freedom. And then something else happens – I begin to hear an underlying and much softer rhythm beneath the loud, fast, and arrhythmic music. I begin to move to this previously unheard sound and the music and I become co-creators of a movement dialog far beyond the din and chaos going on all around me. I am completely centered and free of distraction. Finally the hour ends. These moments of inner coherence were utterly amazing.
Perhaps like you, I have been on a search for those times and places in which I can feel entirely whole and free of self-imposed distractions fueled by the fear of others’ judgments, or of standing alone, or of being a lone voice, or of some forlorn sense of control over what is happening around me. Often I have found that peace in the natural world but I live in the human world as well. All of us live in both the world of all sentient beings as well as the human world. As such, we must all work to find that place of inner peace, that place of inner coherence which keeps us true to ourselves despite the external din and chaos around us. And in today’s world there is more than enough “noise” to distract us if we allow it to do so.
This brings me to the second experience I want to share. It occurred several years ago on a backpacking trip in the Colorado Rockies. It is the last day of this solo trip and I am about two hours from the trailhead. My pattern on such trips is that my head has often already left the trip and I am thinking about savoring the chocolate ice cream soda I am going to enjoy after 6 days of freeze-dried food. So it is on this day. I am mostly unconscious of my surroundings and in a physical rhythm when I round a bend in the trail and come face to face with ruffed grouse and her clutch of chicks! We are all surprised and I, in my “get to the trailhead” mode, continue on. But the grouse has other ideas. She flies at me squawking and with her spurs at the ready. Shocked out of my reverie, I slide to a halt and say, “Whoa, it’s OK, I am not going to hurt you or your chicks.” She has my complete attention and any thoughts of chocolate ice cream soda have left my mind! No longer charging at me, the hen begins to run/walk her way down the trail, all the time clucking, and with one wing flapping as if it has been injured in the attack. Completely focused on the hen, I follow her down the trail trying to explain that I mean no harm. Finally she turns and disappears into the underbrush. I stop, listen, and hear not a sound. I look up the trail and the chicks have completely disappeared. Huh! White woman falls prey to the wounded wing trick and mother grouse saves her chicks from danger!!
I have thought of this experience often for it was and is an important lesson for me. We all live together on this planet – us two-leggeds, the winged ones, the four-leggeds, those that swim, and those that crawl. We have much to learn from all, they are our teachers if we allow their presence into our lives. On that particular day I allowed my own agenda (that ice cream soda) to distract me from the world in my immediate environment. In the process, I missed a meeting, I missed an opportunity to sit, watch, and listen. I cheated myself and I cheated the other.
Whereas in the first story I am focused on an internal coherence free of the distractions of the din and chaos in the external world, here I am focused on the need for connection, a coherence with beings in the external world, the world beyond me. So I ask:
- How often do we allow ourselves to be distracted by our future-oriented agenda and thus miss a true meeting with another?
- How many present moments do we miss in the time-driven schedules of our daily lives, or in our incessant checking on our emails, face book posts, or latest news – moments with our children, our parents, our friends and colleagues, and all the other sentient beings with whom we share this planet?
What would we learn and gain if we stopped, listened, and engaged? And what would we have to let go of in order to do this?
These are difficult times both in our country and around the world yet, over the span of history, there have always been difficult times. What is different now is the speed with which communication occurs worldwide and our power to destroy ourselves and the planet with the push of a button. It is easy to allow ourselves to be distracted by the noise around us. The din keeps us stressed, anxious, and running on treadmills that sooner or later will dump us. And I believe there are those in the world who want us to be distracted, who want us to not be thinking, who want us not to grow our internal coherence, who want us to not trust our own knowing, and who want to keep us isolated and scared.
I titled today’s sermon “Driven by Distraction” to remind us that we each have a choice as to whether we allow ourselves to be distracted. Sometimes I forget that. Thus I return to these two questions: What must I let go of so as to not be driven by distraction? And what can I embrace in the resulting space of letting go?
In answer to the first, two words come to mind: CONTROL and RESISTANCE!
- First, control is an illusion. In reality, I only have control of me in this moment – how I choose to move to the music, what I choose to hear, whether I choose to meet another on the trail. I need dare to go below the noise and chaos to listen to the beat of my own being. I must discover and then be willing to bring “my own chair and cello” into the world.
- Second, it is useless to resist what is. What exists is a fact and now you and I must decide whether engagement serves us and others and, if so, how we might engage so that change may be accomplished. I am often blind in this world but the answer as to how I want and choose to live lies not out there but within me as it does for you. We need to work endlessly on internal coherence making time to listen for the melody within and to bring that melody into the world in ways that best serve us individually and collectively. Can we choose to not listen to the din but listen for the underlying melody. It is there. There are others listening to it as well. The question remains whether you and I will listen and join?
And what can I embrace when I let go of control and resistance? I find my on idiosyncratic melody. I find coherence with my own being, my core, my very uniqueness. And I bring that uniqueness into the world. I join with others who bring their uniqueness and together we find common ground. No longer are we Driven by Distraction but pulled to the essence of who each of us is separately and as one – together we create the change we wish to see in the world.
I would like to leave us with two thoughts this morning. The first comes from Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic.
Without a global revolution in the sphere of consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans and the catastrophe towards which the world is headed – be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization – will be unavoidable. Vaclav Havel
The second is a paraphrase of a piece of wisdom from Charlie Parker, the great composer and jazz saxophonist
Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn…and I add or your flute or your cello. Charlie Parker
May we each move beyond the din and chaos surrounding us to find the distinct music that lies within and then may we have the courage to bring that into the world and join with others ever forging forward in the spirit of living consciousness. Go in Peace.