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  • Living Being

    In the creation story told in the Bible, “Then the LORD God formed a human [ha-adam] from the dust of the ground and breathed [rua’h] into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being [nephesh]” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew words rua’hha-adam, and nephesh indicate that because the very breath/spirit of the Divine Creative Energy is within each of us. We are not merely “created” beings but “living” beings. Our every breath is an expression of the presence of Divine Spirit.

    What do the two words living being really mean? I answer this question in these acronyms.

    • Love. G0d is Love. You ARE Love. As you are in God, so you are IN love. Being in love is not merely an experience you might share with someone romantically. There is nothing you need to do to be in love. Know that you are already in it.

    • Inimitable. You are unique. There is no one else like you. As you show up in your unique authentic self, the world is blessed. When you stay connected to the truth of who you are, you radiate joy, live in peace, express love, and showcase the beauty of authenticity.  

    • Victorious, powerful & courageous. The possibilities for winning and overcoming are in your spiritual DNA. You’ve got the power within. And you are not alone – angels and ancestors journey with you, supporting your success, achievement, and excellence.

    • Imaginative & creative. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”

    • Natural wonder. “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). The good you do in the world allows others to see the natural wonder you were born.  

    • Great Gift for the world. As William Arthur Ward said, “Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service & character.” The seeds of greatness are within you. Nourish them with love to grow.

    • Beautiful. God sings over you, “You are so beautiful to me. You’re everything I hoped for. You’re everything I need. You are so beautiful me.” Despite what you may think or what others may have said about you, listen closely and delight in this Divine serenade.

    • Embodiment of the divine. Hindu monk Vivekananda said, We want to worship a living God. Where shall we go to find God if we cannot see God in our own hearts and in every living being?” Your breath and all aspects of your being manifest Divine Spirit.

    • Intimate connection. The capacity for deep, meaningful connection is at our core. It help keep us alive. Breaking through the fears of being hurt that cause us to barricade our hearts behind self-protective walls, enables us to experience life more fully and richly.  

    • Non-anxious. Never giving up, but knowing when to let go becomes possible as you trust Spirit to guide you. As you trust Spirit, anxiety goes down. As you are non-anxious, you are able to make wiser choices and create healthier boundaries.

    • Grace- & compassion-filled. As you embrace what it means to be a living being – perfectly imperfect, you can extend more grace and compassion to yourself and others.  As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.”

    What difference can these words make in your life as you fully embrace them? You are a living being. Ase.

  • No Worries!

    This year, I am engaging in an intentional period of spiritual practice guided by two spiritual traditions – Sadhana (Hinduism and Buddhism, February 17-March 28) and Lent (Christianity, February 19-March 30).The combination has been powerful for me. Inspired by Lent, I have been more intentional about meditating on the truth stated by Julian of Norwich: “All is well. All manner of things will be well. All will be well.”

    I meditate on these words when I am feeling overwhelmed by financial shortages, uncertainties regarding next steps to take, grieving losses, juggling personal and professional life balance, and more. As I have meditated on these words peace that surpasses understanding blankets over me and breathes within me. As the peace fills me, I am more able to make clearer decisions and recognize the supports that God has already provided.

    Inspired by Sadhana, instead of starting my mornings with work-related writing and emailing, I have begun my mornings with journal-writing, prayer, and meditation. Slowing down at the outset of each day has enabled me to stay more connected with the truth that all is well. Instead of being overwhelmed by all of the emails, meetings, and deadlines, I have been more able to stay in peace. When I have left my state of peace, I’ve been able to return to peace more quickly. When I slow down, I feel more connected with the supports – visible and invisible – that are available to me. Also I am reminded that I am not alone, I don’t have to figure things out by myself, I do not need to strive, and I don’t need to worry for all is well. All might not be easy, or the way I would prefer, or work in the timing I desire. But ultimately, all is well. Even the most difficult experiences take me to places of new possibilities, new growth, and expanded understandings of my strength and power.

    As stated in a Sadhana reflection, “The power of the universe will come to your assistance if your heart and mind are in unity.”(Lakota saying, passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman). Whether inspired by Lent, Sadhana or any other spiritual practice, know this truth: “God has already provided everything you will ever need.” Know this truth and live in peace. Often your mind (intellect and ego) works overtime trying to figure out things that can only be discerned and perceived spiritually. When your mind becomes frustrated or scared because it can’t figure things out or can’t see how things are going to work, it sends the warning message to your heart (emotions and body) for you to worry.

    Your mind believes that it is your only resource for navigating through life. But it is not. The whole universe is at work with you supporting you. You access this power as you bring your head and heard into unity. ​Your spirit is the unifier – bringing your head and heart into harmony. Your spirit also brings you into unity with the power of the universe. Your spirit knows that all is well, and therefore, “No worries.”

  • Humility Does Not Equal Shame

    Twenty-one years ago, I failed my bar exam. I failed by two points. Given how much I had prepared and prayed to pass, I was shocked and devastated when I didn’t. I was even more devastated that hundreds of people knew I had failed. Person after person wanted an explanation for this unexpected outcome. “You’re one of the smartest people I know. I don’t understand why you didn’t pass.” I responded, “I don’t know why, but it sure is teaching me humility.” Judy, a church member said, “But you’re one of the most humble people I know.” “Perhaps,” I reflected, “I need more humility for whatever God is calling me to do.” Spiritually I understood the truth of those words, but emotionally I felt humiliated – that is, publicly shamed.

    Until the bar exam experience, I was not consciously aware of how often I felt ashamed because feelings of shame were so common for me. Shame is based in a belief that something I said or did was wrong or unacceptable, and as a result, I am not deserving of love and respect. What I didn’t ask myself was what shaped my belief. Was my belief truthful and did my belief support me in being whole and happy? I realized that my shame was often based in narratives – stories I treated as fact – stories that were not truth. I recognized my narratives were based in fear-based notions of what I needed to look like to others in order for me to be safe, loved, and feel like I belonged.

    Why release shame and how to do that? Shame distorts how you perceive yourself. Shame tells you that you are not good enough, unworthy of love and respect and sets the stage for you to accept abuse from others. You release shame by separating what you did (or perceived you did) from who you are. You are a unique manifestation of Spirit and in God you are safe, loved, and you belong. What often looks like humility is low self-worth. When I graduated from law school, I planned to have one party to celebrate both my graduation and my swearing in as an officer of the court. I could not conceive of inviting people to celebrate with me two times within several months. I thought this decision was an expression of my humility, but it was really a narrative that I was not important enough to be celebrated.

    What I was taught by my parents, brothers, pastors and others was that in order to be truly humble, I should not value myself and not recognize my own worth. By asking the questions: was my belief really truth and did my belief support me in being whole and happy, I knew I needed to rewrite this narrative. Here are three strategies to transform low self-worth to self-valuing. One, remind yourself – sometimes out loud – “I am a unique manifestation of God.” The very breath in your body is a reflection of Divine presence within you. Two, when you are about to make choices in your personal and professional life, ask how does your choice support self-value and wholeness. As Maya Angelou said, “We teach people how to treat us.” How you value yourself sets the standard for how others will treat you. Three, invite those closest to you (including ancestors) to help you recognize when you are acting from old default patterns.

    As I was writing this blog, the idea came to me to have a party celebrating my graduation from law school. While I am planning my party, I hope you will plan some way to celebrate something about yourself. Letting go of shame is critical to being able to celebrate yourself, even 21 years later.

  • A Day Called January

    Living in the northeastern U.S., the month of January can feel longer than any other 31-day month in the year. With its shorter daylight, colder temperatures, and barren trees, January can sometimes feel like it will never yield itself to February and push toward Spring. When I was a student in seminary, I took an intensive one-month course in Ancient Hebrew. I was in class 5 days per week, 4 hours per day, and then studied 8-10 chapters / pages??? per day seven days per week. With this intense focus, the month that usually felt like it lasted a year, now felt like one day.

    I lived in the relativity of time that month more than any experience before. After I emerged from my day-called-January experience—and washed my laundry and caught up with other things I didn’t do in that day—I reflected a lot on how I relate with time. I realized that I often said, “I don’t have enough time.” Directed by this scarcity narrative, I focused my time only on the things that I valued as most important, such as work, academic studies, and helping others. I gave limited time to doing things for my own self-care and nurture. As well, I was often so focused on what I needed to get done in the next hour, day, month or year that I didn’t live fully in the present moment and experience all of its richness.

    The narrative of “I don’t have much time” kept me trapped by responsibilities, demands, and expectations I accepted from other people. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, Inc. said, “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” To distinguish your inner voice from the voices of religion, society, family, and work necessitates that you value and trust the “still small voice” that speaks within you when it speaks lifeaffirming messages for yourself and others.

    To follow your own intuition requires that you take time to be still enough on the inside to be able to hear your intuition’s voice. To be still enough to hear your inner voice, requires you to let go of any narratives that tell you there is not enough time for you or that you are not important enough for you to spend time on. The Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God.” This text urges you to know that you have enough time because you are not alone. God is with you. The ancestors and angels are with you, supporting your efforts. Ganesh (Hindu) is clearing obstacles. Saint Anthony (Catholic) is helping you find lost things. Oya (Yoruba) is bringing the changes you need.

    Whatever your spiritual tradition may be, access the spiritual supports that are ready and available to you. Invite the help you may need for you are not alone. All the things that are crammed into your day called January, there is still enough time for you to focus on you. You have enough time to be your full, authentic self. As you meditate on this truth every day of January and throughout the year, watch your life bloom into its Spring.

  • It’s All Catawampus!

    “Black Bodies Matter” has been the rallying cry across the U.S. and beyond in reaction to the recent court decisions regarding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police officers. This rallying cry is an effort to re-construct the historically-held narrative devaluing black people in America.

    Truth is, the narrative which set these deaths and court rulings in place is catawampus (catywampus, in the black community I grew up in Baltimore). Catawampus means askew, awry, out-of-whack, or out-of-balance. Catawampus is a perfect word to describe the arrests, incarcerations, and senseless deaths of countless numbers of black and brown men in this country every year.

    “Manifest destiny” was one of the major guiding principles upon which the U.S.A. was founded and sets the stage for overall race politics in the U.S. since its founding. Manifest destiny is the belief that human progress is interconnected with American expansionism, and that this expansionism is a part of America’s destiny on behalf of humankind. From the beginning, the collective theologically-based belief has been that humankind is better when this specific group/nation impresses its will and its way upon others.

    This narrative of divine calling led Europeans settlers to regard the bodies of Native Americans, and anyone else who did not look like them, did not matter relative to them and their calling. This catawampus, theologically-based narrative has run strongly throughout the U.S. story with regard to which bodies matter, nationally and globally. It is the narrative that supported the genocide of millions of Native Americans, the interment of thousands of Japanese Americans, the annexation of Mexican peoples and their land, the enslavement of Africans, and so on.

    Because a theologically-based, catawampus narrative put into motion the race and color-based ways of perceiving and devaluing bodies of color (and other bodies including women, children, elders, poor people, disabled persons, and more), a theologically-based narrative is critical to setting a system right-side-up.

    Jesus offers a theologically-based narrative that I believe can transform the systems that devalue certain bodies. Forgiveness.

    After being betrayed, tried based on trumped up charges, and being sentenced disproportionate to his alleged crime, Jesus says, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” In my words, that means, their thinking is catawampus. Jesus extends forgiveness to both the religious and political leaders of his day because he recognizes that their actions are guided by their catawampus narratives. 

    Forgiveness is not a denial of wrong-doing, acting as if no harm was done. Nor does it require the silence of those who have been violated. Forgiveness is not asking the ones who have been harmed to go off into the sunset, “holding hands” with those who harmed them. It is not “letting people off the hook” of accountability for their actions.

    Forgiveness is breaking the connective chord with catawampus thinking. When a harm has been done, especially when repeated again and again, as in the case of the treatment of black bodies in this country, a chain reaction of catawampus-ness occurs. This chain reaction show ups in three ways: internalized oppression, violence and destruction, and distrust and hatred of all those who look like the initial perpetrator. All three of these reactions ultimately injure and re-injure those who have already been harmed.

    Without forgiveness, the catawampus narrative that set the stage for the harms continues to have full sway, guiding actions and reactions. Forgiveness is the critical strategy to break the chains of those narratives and transform ways of thinking. Forgiveness enables us to:

    (1)Recognize that catawampus reactions to the catawampus action of others does not put things in right order to foster justice, but escalates the degree of catawampus-ness.

    (2) Recognize what was driving the harmful action and to think more strategically about how to respond, rather than merely react in knee-jerk action.

    (3) Implement guiding principles that hold individuals/groups accountable for their actions in ways that are not merely punitive or retaliatory, but up-building for everyone.

    (4) Develop strategies and decisions guided by the truth that all human beings are connected and mutually affected for generations by our individual and collection actions.

    As we move forward in response to the needless deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many others, may we engage forgiveness for others and ourselves in order to break the chains of catawampus thinking. The strategies we have used thus far have shown us they can’t heal, repair and transform our nation. God forgive America for we know not what we do. Help us, God, to forgive one another.