I have found that a new year can carry with it a lot of pressure. Will this be the year that x, y, and z will happen? Will I finally _____________? Is it possible that ________? Truly, what does any new year contain? It contains hope, potential, dreams, and sleep, meal times, conversations, work, rest, vacations, words, and maybe some attention to the Self. So, let’s slow down this newness and really appreciate it, hold it, and infuse it with our intentions. The beauty of this new year is that it is wide open. While there are some things that you know will happen (paying bills, preparing meals, possibly cleaning), there is space for your dreams, hopes, and goals to come to fruition as well. As Marth Beck says, “just specifying your goals is a huge step toward achieving them.” Perhaps your dreams and goals are not completely clear from this standpoint, but opening up that space to allow the light to catch them is more than enough to begin the process. And this is why creating a vision board is a wonderful tool to collect your dreams in a visual representation of what is stirring in your heart. Beck goes on to say that finding your way, your passion, your direction (North Star) is a highly psychological and spiritual act. When you sit down and allow yourself time and space to dream along with the joy of creating a visual of those intangible thoughts, you are being brave. You are showing up for yourself and in your life, you are daring to live and to find a way to make what you desire, what fuels you a part of your every day life. You do not need to live from a place of exhaustion, stress, misalignment, brokenness—you are capable of cutting and pasting and crafting beauty that you can place on your wall—a visual reminder of your dreams to carry you through and to focus your prayers, to remind you of who you are, where you want to go, what you want to do, where you want to travel to, what you want to read, where you want to live, what your bookshelf will look like–what infuses you with life. That, my friends, is a gift you can give yourself at the start of this new year. It is so important to honor all of the ways that you already do show up in your life. One of my most favorite activities is to create a vision board during an afternoon retreat with other women. It is so nice to be able to sit in circle, to breathe, to respond to a few writing prompts, to center my thoughts, to share and to listen to what others have to say, and then to dive into creation mode. I love sharing this rich time in shared silence and comfortable companionship as we shift magazines, paper, glue, and scissors around the circle. If you are in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, January 10th, I’ll be offering our first Vision Board Circle of 2015. We will be holding space for renewal and clarity as we cut, paste, and glue our dreams to 2015. You can see other upcoming events by going to the heidi.at.heartspace profile on Facebook.
I have recently realized that I have given myself permission to seek spiritual safety. All through my personal development, I have been in places, often churches, where I felt uncomfortable due to the tone of the preaching, the anger of the Sunday School lessons, or the disguised judgment in conversations.
It caused me to leave the Church for a time,
but I never allowed it to let me leave God.
Over the years I see and hear others who have experienced similar sadnesses at the hands of religious folks; people who function from a strict binary system that only allows for either/or thinking, black and white thinking, because there is no room for color, shape, texture, or and/but thinking, and this is sad to me.
So much damage has occurred in my life from people who felt very strongly about their beliefs, so strongly that their beliefs were more important than who I was–who I am. The damage comes at the cost of losing faith in the Church–the place that is to be a sanctuary for all.
I have so many people in my life who were raised with a similar religious tenor, and they have left the very place where they want to be–in a spiritual sanctuary–where they can be who they are and feel God’s grace and love and hope. To me, this is what the Church offers when it is working well, when it looks healthy.
I have the right to kindly leave a conversation, a church service, a lecture, a book when I feel the anger, judgment, and binary-ness that accompanies condemnation. It has freed me to claim my voice, and not to open myself to more spiritual abuse that hurts and causes me to feel unnecessary shame, guilt, or sadness. I refuse to be in a situation where I feel the rising tide of someone’s anger over the “state of the world” when there is no love present. I will no longer be in the midst of darkness disguised as light. I have no use for experiences that make me doubt God’s love and the largeness of who God really is.
I offer this same permission to you, if you need it. Our spiritual selves need our protection; for this is the very place where Spirit speaks to us. It is a travesty to allow it to be wounded–for it is through our very breath and essence that God is present. Why allow anger into such a tender place?
May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power
of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.
Further reading on the topic of spiritual abuse written with expertise from a gentle and safe perspective:
- The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority within the Church by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen
- Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life by Jeff VanVonderen, Dale & Juanita Ryan
A new (to me) perspective of Christ based on wholeness and unity–seeing Jesus in his context, not through ours:
The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault
“Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection–it deprives one of the relatedness that is the lifeline of every living being,” wrote Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak. I love that he gives words to the isolation one feels in a depressed state. If you have ever been depressed, it makes sense. If you have not been depressed, then listen: it is a deep dark hole that is lonely and painful.
Depression is an odd thing because it is so quiet and invisible. I have found it to be a private cell where I cannot access beauty, mystery, or even summon a smile. I can be in the middle of the most profound beauty, and I could not touch it. Or rather, it could not touch me–could not penetrate the hard casing around my heart and mind. As if Voldemort had cast an evil spell that made my misery more painfully pronounced around beauty and love.
Palmer goes on to share a question one of his friends asked him while he was experiencing his own depression, “Do you think you could see it [depression] instead as the hand of a friend, pressing you down to the ground on which it is safe to stand?” I like how he takes this question and expands, “… down to the ground, was the direction of wholeness, thus allowing that image to begin its slow work of healing in me… the ground of my own truth, my own nature, with its complex mix of limits and gifts, liabilities and assets, darkness and light.”
I must say, my own encounter with depression was a “grinding down” of myself to my inner core. It stripped away all sense of life until there was a husk laying in the light–me. I have had a chronic relationship with depression that has eased over the past couple of years. And to provide a bit of background for Parker’s experience with depression, his was due to circumstances, which was no less real. There are so many types and reasons and brands of depression, and I don’t want to brush off any experience you may have. The more information that is shared about our individual experiences and stories, the more healing that can be done.
“I had to be forced underground before I could understand that the way to God is not up but down.” Eventually we come to the end of ourselves, “we are brought low,” but eventually we find a “firmer and fuller sense of self.” Our suffering can provide a way to be whole. Florida Scott Maxwell wrote, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done… you are fierce with reality.” Embracing wholeness means to embrace all of it, the good, the ugly, the disfigured, the hopes, the dreams, the scars, so that you truly be fierce with your own reality. Palmer goes on to say, “To embrace weakness, liability, and darkness as part of who I am gives that part less sway over me, because all it ever wanted was to be acknowledge as part of my whole self.”
I don’t offer up these words to diminish the pain, but instead, I offer up these words as hope. Perhaps the beauty of depression is part of the answer: accepting who you are where you are. You will change and grow, but right in this moment you are you. And there is mighty medicine in embracing yourself prickles, stings, rainbows, and all.
Photo credit: photophilde / Foter / CC BY-SA