Tag Archives: loneliness

The One thing I would tell everyone

Kat asked me last night what I think is the most important thing that people need as far as spiritual, emotional, and health support. This is something we think about a lot in our soul crafts of spiritual support (me), yoga teaching (her), and resilient community building (both). I thought long and hard about what I have learned so far in my many, many conversations with patients and spiritual seekers, people in pain and people who are thriving.

There are so many stubborn people. Men and women who desperately cling to how they have always done things, how their church tells them they should think and believe, how the supermarkets advertise, or how their families pressure them. They resist change and they suffer. I want to grab their faces in my hands and ask, “Do you really feel this way? Do you really think that? Does eating this or that really make you feel good?!? BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE TO!! Listen to your heart. Listen to your body. Follow it’s lead.”

People need to be affirmed, honored and celebrated that they can trust their heart, that they their personal experience of Divine love is valid and worth something. Ironically to follow the crowd, to feel the pressure of the system or the hierarchy to think and feel a certain way without the affirmation of one’s uniqueness is a profoundly lonely experience. How many pastors really want to say the things that they feel they must say so as to not make their parishioners too uncomfortable? Why do we twist, bend, argue, and force ourselves to believe in a God or a way of living that when we really listen to our hearts doesn’t feel good or compelling at all?

Your unique and personal experience of your soul, of Spirit, of transcendence, is worth something. It is important and valid and true to you. It is written on your heart. I want to know about it. I don’t want to know what someone else has told you that you have to believe, I want to know what you feel, wonder about, and live by. And I hope that at least in my company, you will feel free, unfettered, and fully welcome.

May you recognize in your life the presence
Power and light of your soul.

 May you realize that you are never alone,
That your soul in its brightness and belonging
Connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

 ~John O’Donohue

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Reaching Out – From Hostility to Hospitality Part 1

Looking for reading to supplement our Sunday night gathering’s study on Becoming Community… journeying in hospitality and belonging (intro entry here), I dusted off Henri Nouwen’s book, Reaching Out: the Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. I’ll be reflecting on a number of things he wrote here, primarily from the section regarding moving from hostility to Hospitality.

Nouwen begins Chapter 4: Creating Space for Strangers by noting that the very world we live in is hostile. So many people are busy, lonely, estranged from friends, family, God. The world is so full of competition, aggression, fear, and suspicion. In this type of setting we as followers of Jesus have an obligation to “offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.” When this happens, he writes, guests “reveal to their hosts the promise they are carrying with them.”

Nouwen defines hospitality as “creation of free space where a stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer space where change can take place… The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and find themselves free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free to leave and follow their own vocations.”

Nouwen makes the distinction between real hospitality and occupied|preoccupied space. We are so busy, active, and on the move, that more than anything else, we want our space to be occupied with something or someone… otherwise major anxiety sinks in. Radio, television, food… anything to keep us from having to face what is really going on inside us. These things going on inside us are what Nouwen calls the preoccupations. This is even more of a challenge to overcome than being occupied. What we have the opportunity to do, as hospitable ones, is to “offer space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, to lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and to listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center.”