Sister, before you get all busy and serious about your new year resolutions,
take a moment to tune into that force which beats your heart,
which grows the leaves on the trees, which creates and tears down,
Tune into the captivating rhythm of evolution,
and dance your way into your holy calling.
The whole universe is dancing with you.
I’ve felt a pull to return to this quote above and to something I wrote about embodied prayer at the dawning of 2012. I have had a tense, taut, and tight couple of days in which I’ve been irritable and impatient with those closest to me (for whatever reason, the people I know less well, usually get the “better” side of me, which just doesn’t seem like the way things should be!). It is strange because on one hand I feel like wonderful things are unfolding in my life in ways that feel meaningful, on purpose, and right, while at the same time I continue to struggle with finding the balance between what I need in my life for myself and what my children need/expect/deserve from me–the two often, frankly, feel incompatible. I continue to believe that there is a way for our family to live in harmony together, companionably meeting each member’s needs for self-expression, self-development, love, and authenticity, but then with weeks like this, I feel as if perhaps that IS an unreasonable hope!
When I became ordained as a priestess, one of the things that I vowed to myself was that I would remember to be a priestess of my own hearth first, rather than to become so pulled by the expectations of others outside my family that they get my best and my family gets the scraps. I’m amazed by how opportunities have been opening up to me since accepting the priestess call—I’m planning multiple rituals and ceremonies, I’m going to a Goddess festival next month, I continue to make steady progress on my doctoral degree and finished another one of my classes this week, my brain buzzes with ideas for my dissertation, I’m absolutely stoked to have two articles accepted for publication at the Feminism and Religion blog (one of which seems to actually be an original/fresh idea in the field of thealogy!), I have a guest post accepted for publication on The Divine Feminine blog, and I had an essay published in The Oracle (the online zine for Global Goddess) called The Central Value of Relationship. I also have other ideas for classes/circles I’d like to facilitate and participate in. These things feel great. They feel right. They feel like where I belong. They also feel risky and brave and big and complex. I love the life of the mind and ideas that I’m experiencing in my classes. I love spending time in my own brain. I love thinking and writing and teaching and learning—“priestessing” my community in all of these ways. And, yet, then I feel bad and guilty about having snapped at my kids while trying to finish these–how ironic–essays on spiritual growth and development and then I feel like a fraud. And, every day I find myself with a “time deficit” and feeling taut and on the edge of freaking out because there is just SO. MUCH. TO. DO. All the time. And, I don’t feel like I ever get a break to just be still and rest. It is almost like I don’t know how to rest.
So, here’s what I wrote at the beginning of the year:
This year, I’d like to let go of shoulding myself. If I don’t truly have to do something, I’m only going to do it if I want to do it. If the word “should” enters the picture about anything, I’m going to use that as my cue to NOT do whatever it is I’m letting should me. Sound like a plan?
I enjoyed reading this post from Dreaming Aloud recently and the writer observes that she is only going to be able to be her for the new year: “I might even let myself mother to my own standards too! Wouldn’t that be nice, rather than failing every day because I don’t do everything the way the books say.” She also included this interesting idea about 3/4 baked: “Another influential book in my life…Zugunruhe… talks about the 3/4 baked philosophy, where the author urges us to do our work the best we can, but rather than spending all our energy in refining it ad infinitum, put it out to the world 3/4 baked and let the feedback and the inspiration it creates, and your own distance, do the final honing, because really there is no such thing as perfect.”
My other intention for 2012 was a very personal one that I felt extremely hesitant to write about. As soon as I read the quote I shared above from The Awakening Women Institute, I knew I wanted to share it. When I applied to graduate school in thealogy, I wrote in my application that I wanted my life to be a living prayer for social justice and women’s empowerment. Then, based on my work in my graduate classes, I started to be asked to write for publications focused on women and religion. I have always felt very cautious and wary of sharing any of my ideas about spirituality or religion publicly and so this makes me nervous for a variety of reasons. So did starting this blog and I’ve sort of tried to avoid connecting it to my “other life.” However, if I’m actually going to be writing these articles and having original ideas in the field, it is time to shed discomfort and speak my truth! I think my primary concept of living prayer is really about mindfulness. Being here and being aware.
In September, the Awakening Women Institute offered via Twitter to give people “temple names”—you were asked to respond to the question about “your edge right now in your life. What is calling you, what is challenging, what is opening?” I was instantly intrigued and responded to the offer with the following: “I have multiple edges–I feel at the edge of being able to truly live my faith, having my life be a living prayer. I also constantly teeter on the edge between meeting my children’s needs and meeting my own needs–and trying to find the harmony in that; trying to find the place in which our family works in harmony to meet each member’s needs (not requiring ‘sacrifice,’ because we have a seamless integration!).” The temple name I received was: Embodied Prayer. At first I felt slightly disappointed, like, yeah, I said that already. But, as I “rested” with the name and stated it aloud—i.e. “I am Embodied Prayer”—it became a powerful daily practice for me (that I seem to have lost hold of recently).
I have long sought strategies to integrate a sense of the sacred in daily life and have also known that at the root, what I’m really wanting is daily mindfulness. My “temple name” came to serve in some ways as mindfulness touchstone for me—as I go about my life, I ask myself what kind of “prayer” I’m offering in this moment. And, is this the kind of prayer I want to embody right now? (i.e. this week as I feel cranky and overextended and tense and annoyed, I’ve been stepping back slightly and looking at my “prayer” and realizing that I wanted to embody a much different sort of offering to the divine, to the web of life, than a stressed out cranky prayer.) This step back and self-reminder, sometimes calms my mood and allows me to breathe more deeply and kindly, but recently I’ve solely been using it in a self-flagellating way: what kind of prayer is THAT, you loser! You think you’re a priestess?! What a JOKE, you SUCK. What about this priestess of your own hearth bit, failure woman?! I also become angry at myself when I forget to use it, forget to be mindful. I’ve also described this practice as reaching out to touch my thread in the fabric of the tapestry of the world. When I get caught up in my own busyness, I lose sight of my “weaving” within the overall tapestry of life, that holding web of incarnation that I call Goddess, and I’d like to always remain mindful of that connectedness—or, at least to notice when I’ve lost it and reach out my hand to that which is always there, surrounding me.
Then, as I was thinking these thoughts and berating myself, and always continuously trying to be better and dang it failing every single day at being better (and, yet, trying again the next day!), I read this blog post today from Jen Louden called I’m Not Liking Myself and I’m Not Doing Anything About It. Say what? Do you mean I DON’T always have to “be better” and to have my life be one long, relentless, ever-failing self-improvement project?! Maybe this is possible: “So if you ever find yourself not liking yourself, put down the self-improvement and take a nap. But no mean thoughts allowed!”
Oh, and by the way…to what/why is this prayer of which you speak offered anyway?
This is actually part of the main subject of my upcoming guest posts on those other blog, but I’ll touch on it now anyway. Something that made me feel as if I belonged to our tiny little Unitarian Universalist church and like there was indeed a spiritual niche I fit into, was a hymn we sang during one of my first visits with a line of, “some call it evolution, and others call it God.” That notion that there is something widely felt by many, but called by different names and within vastly different systems of belief and understanding, is why I continue to identify as a UU, even though I’m not closely involved with the local church any longer. This force, this connecting “glue” that holds the universe together might be named by others “God” or “the Universe” or “Nature” or “Life Force” or “the Sacred” or “Divinity” or “the Tao”—I feel most satisfied when I personalize it as Goddess. I do also feel Her presence directly in my life—call it an energy, call it the sacred feminine, call it the divine, call it source, call it soul, call it spirit, call it the great mystery…I perceive a web of relatedness and love within the world and I choose to put a feminine form to that energy—to name it and know Her as “Goddess.” When I am embodied prayer, it is mindfulness of this connection and relatedness of which I speak.