The heartwork of coming alive

The heartwork of coming alive February 16, 2016

“Under all the harsh noise of the world coming in on us, this is how the things that last move: a small wave from the deep moves us on and the more we’re moved, the more we bend and bow and reach for each other. Our very life is the ground of practice by which we struggle to unlock the gate and let life in. It’s the murmur of life that fills us with another chance. Little by little, it’s the courage to assume our full stature one more time that enables us to do the heartwork that always makes us come alive. It’s the turn from hiding to giving that releases Heaven on Earth.” – Mark Nepo, The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be

Last night I climbed up on the kitchen stool and stood towering over the kitchen. My partner, concerned that I was so close to the rotating blades of the ceiling fan, asked me what I was doing. “Getting a different perspective,” I said. My partner thoughtfully turned off the ceiling fan so that I could take in a new view without fear of injury.

It had be a few long days in a row, filled with dialogues about bringing an anti-racist world view to the work of justice and social change, being present to beloveds as they mourned death in their family, grieving the death of extended family members of my own, making groceries for dozens of people, and trying to shift social and emotional gears from Carnival season into the time of Lent practiced culturally in my community. I had just finished a difficult conversation with a friend who is disappointed in me. I needed to take a moment to assume my full stature and remember that “our very life is the ground of practice by which we struggle to unlock the gate and let life in.” This being a human being requires courage to do “the heartwork that always makes us come alive.”

Years ago, a member of a Regional Subcommittee on Candidacy (RSCC – once an important step in ministerial formation for Unitarian Universalists) said to me “you seem ambivalent about being seen.” It’s true. I both want to be seen for who I am …AND I have been well trained by culture and family systems to hold my own counsel away from the world. I have deeply internalized the message that it is more acceptable to show up as I “should be” rather than as I “actually am.”  A clear focus for my own personal development and ministerial formation has been in the spiritual practice of showing up as who I am.  Much of the guidance provided to me by spiritual directors and teachers over the past few years has boiled down to “have courage and go forth to practice being a human being in public view.”

Perhaps this is a part of my call to the covenantal faith of Unitarian Universalism – a faith that asks me to practice assuming my full stature. This faith I practice does not call me in to unattainable perfection, but into humanity, into beloved community. It calls me out of hiding my faults and calls me in to bending towards kindness – first towards myself, which inevitably leads me towards a wider kindness. The more I am willing to be open to and about my own humanity, the more I am able to be open to the humanity of others – the good, the bad, the painful, the creative, the frustrating, and the healing.

So here I am, learning to turn from hiding to giving – this very writing, a practice of giving my true self into the world.

And, surprisingly, here I am, learning again and again to be grateful for this chance to be a part of heaven on earth, however imperfectly I bend and bow and reach.

tulip magnolia 2016 d.vandiver

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