I had the honor of delivering this message at my home church this morning.
I’ve had a lot of experiences that require public speaking, and I can honestly say this was the first time I have ever put so much effort into practicing and perfecting something. I practiced this at least seven times and revised it even more. I am so pleased with the final product and so proud of myself.
On Letting Go and Resolutions
Written in November 2018
Delivered on December 30, 2018
One of the first services I attended at Westside was the New Years’ service in 2010. When it came time to write down and burn what we wished to let go of, I wrote down the name of the boy who had recently dumped me for not going to church.
It was a big, dramatic teenage moment and it helped me feel better. But it did not change the fact that my heart was broken and needed time to heal.
2018 has been a hard year. I anticipate it will take some of us a long time to recover from the pains of this year, especially considering that we may still be healing from 2017, 2016, and beyond.
Sometimes, the hurt piles up in a way which makes it seem unconquerable. I’ve found that for me, the best way to facilitate healing is through feeling.
It is our instinct to shy away from pain or uncomfortable feelings. It comes naturally to try and distract ourselves from pain, to escape from discomfort, and to attempt to ease the suffering of those around us.
We don’t like to make things awkward. We don’t like to step on toes. We don’t like to make waves. We often fear being too much when being cordial and superficial are sufficient.
What if instead, we chose simply to sit in our pain? What if we chose to acknowledge and honor when we are angry, disappointed, frustrated, or sad?
What if instead of immediately trying to fix things, we allowed ourselves to just be?
When we meditate, we try to focus on our breath. A common misconception is that we are supposed to ignore or suppress thoughts as they occur in the meditative state. However, the key lies in acknowledging the thought without judgement, and then letting it go.
A therapist once told me that the longest recorded instance of someone going without a conscious thought was something like 8 seconds. It was reportedly achieved by a Buddhist monk during a brain scan. When I tried to research this claim, I did not find any definitive sources to back it up.
However, I did find a lot of research about Buddhist monks having their brains scanned, and I learned some interesting things, primarily that meditation diminishes mental barriers between the self and the environment on a physiological level, leading to a feeling of oneness with nature, other living beings, and the Universe.
One article referenced a compassion meditation, which I invite you to participate in as I guide you, if you are willing and able.
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed or unfocused.
- Breathe in and out slowly, focusing on your breath.
- As thoughts enter your mind, don’t try to ignore them. Just let them float by.
- When you are feeling relaxed, think of someone who makes you happy.
- If you could send them any message of love, what would it be? It could be you are loved, you are amazing, or you are enough, or it can be something more personal and specific.
- Focus on your feelings of love for them.
- This focus may last for just a few seconds at a time, and that’s okay.
- Keep coming back to it.
- Now, take those same phrases of love and direct them at yourself.
- I am loved.
- I am amazing.
- I am enough.
- Allow yourself the grace of hearing whatever you know you need to hear.
- Focus on the love within those phrases. If any thought other than love occurs to you, acknowledge it. Say hello and allow it to float away.
- Focus on the feeling of love for yourself.
- This feeling may last just a few seconds at a time, and that’s ok.
- Keep coming back to it.
When you are ready, return your focus to this room. Feel your body in space and take a moment to observe the energy of the environment. Return your attention to the chalice, the light coming through the windows, to anything here that demands your attention.
Now, ask yourself: How can I embrace this sense of self-love in the new year?
As we reflect on this past year and begin to make resolutions for the next, I’d like to share about one of my past resolutions rooted in self-love.
In 2018, I resolved to let go of avoiding things that scare me. I did not let go of fear. Fear has a purpose and I don’t think I could eliminate it if I tried.
However, I did make a conscious effort to be mindful of the roots of my fear.
Was it rooted in the possibility of true danger, or in the possibility of failure or rejection?
If it was the latter, I tried to take the risk when I was able.
I dyed my hair purple, then pink, silver, and blue. It was fun, and I had wanted to do it for years. I’m glad I did it.
I attended a speed dating event that was broadcast live on the radio. It was awkward and hilarious and I’m glad I did it.
I spontaneously quit a job that I did not like where I was not appreciated. It was scary, and it was unlike me. I’m glad I did it.
I set boundaries that served my own highest good first. It was uncomfortable and painful, and the repercussions are still happening. I’m glad I did it.
I started writing again and put my work out into the world. It was anxiety-inducing and I dreaded having to answer for my words. I’m glad I did it.
I decided to take a leap of faith by acknowledging a calling that has always been present but I never believed I was worthy of answering. It is empowering, and overwhelming at times. I’m glad I’m doing it.
Of course, there are times where fear is a good thing. It serves to protect us from dangers we may not consciously perceive. And luckily, there are also safe spaces where we can lay our burdens down and just be whatever we need to be in the moment.
My safe spaces include my therapist’s office, where I can trust that my joys and concerns will be met with unconditional positive regard.
They include the precious few moments after my son Henry falls asleep and before responsibility and obligation call me on to the next necessary task, where I can watch him sleeping, admire the curves of his little face and take a moment to remind myself just how incredibly beautiful life is.
For me, and I suspect for many of you as well, this community is a safe space. Choosing to be a part of the UU community says something about a person. It says that person has made a commitment to compassion and to doing what they can to make the world a kinder place. I know from experience when I approach a UU with a need, a problem, or an idea, it will be received and addressed in love.
As we move forward into 2019, I hope we can all let go of something which does not serve our highest good.
I hope we can all choose to answer the call of love at every opportunity.
I hope we can all acknowledge the pain we have been holding, and I hope we can let it go when we are ready.
I hope when we need a moment to pause or to lay our burdens down, we can, safe in the knowledge that the web of life will cradle us until we are ready to begin again.
May it be so.
Benediction: The flame which rests in this chalice will soon be put out until we meet again, but the light within each of us, the warmth where our hands meet, that place where our souls see one another’s, can never be extinguished.
As we go forward into this day and into this new year, may we remember this light is always present – and may we remember to keep coming back to it.