I had thought about sleeping in this morning… I’ve been so tired lately that I’ve taken naps in the morning after writing in my journal and having tea. But this morning I heard the voice in my head say, “get up, go outside” 45 minutes before my alarm. It felt so good to have that desire and pleasant dawning of awareness waking me rather than the sounds of an alarm. The Rumi poem “go to the study and take down a musical instrument” was moving through my mind too.
The last few days I’ve felt angry, betrayed, disappointed, frustrated..emotions that are not particularly pleasant to experience. In my experience these emotions require special care. It seems most of us mere mortals would prefer to not experience these sensations and we’ve each of us developed our own special aversion tactics. Burying and distracting are tactics of bypass, in which we simply deny that there is value to be found and attempt to make them go away. Away usually means to a stored place in our bodies where they cause physical pain and/or illness, or where they create new emotional triggers. Beating up on ourselves is a form of judgment and talking ourselves out of what we feel is the tyranny of the brain over the places it has no business being. I’ve tried it all and I am now slowly arriving at the personal conclusion that what feels best and most authentic is to create space around myself to experience these emotions for what they are; my very human response to the way things look from my perspective at this moment. I sat in the garden with the morning sun and stewed.
How could we rush so headlong towards destroying what we depend on for survival? Why are there so many people so set on continuing this system, one that serves so few and wrecks so much? Don’t we know we need clean water? Don’t we know we need species diversity? Don’t we know this place is an ecosystem not a storehouse of various resources? Don’t we get it that this is it, there is no other home for us?
My wisdom understands the answers to all of these question and is happy to walk in this time of change, to help steward in whatever ways I can; the child in me, the scared human simply feels betrayed and like the path of right action is heavy and convoluted, lonely and scary. Both are part of my truth right now.
Two weeks ago I stepped through a doorway and put my foot on a path; in an afternoon ceremony with 14 of my sisters in front of many friends and family, including my mother and aunt I was ordained as a minister of walking prayer with the Center for Sacred Studies. The program took two years and introduced us to a wide variety of traditions, practices, experiences, and moments of challenge and growth. It is interesting to look back on these two years and what has been emerging in me, it looks different in the context of this program than it has from my apartment. From here the changes and bumps all feel perfect, meaningful, and distinctly my own.
Though I had told many people about this passage, and was excited about it, the night before the ceremony I contemplated what it would mean to not finish, to choose to not be ordained…
I wasn’t completely certain what it meant to me yet, and the ideas of other people had started to pervade my own expectations. For a lot of people Minister is a title that means you have certain powers, like being able to marry people. A lot of people have focused on that aspect and asked, sometimes rather bemusedly if I could marry them and their friends. They certainly weren’t intending to be disrespectful or flip, it’s just that so many of us have lost connection with the importance of ceremony, and with the spirit of ceremony. Ceremony isn’t just words and actions, it is a container created with care to make space for spirit, for life, for mystery, and for profound experiences. Or at least, this is what ceremonies can be, when the intention is there to craft them in that way. Moreover, a wedding ceremony is a beautiful thing, but only a very small part of the spectrum of ceremony. And formal ceremony is only a part of the spectrum of the ceremony of living that is the real bread and butter of ministry. I had some resistance to responding to these casual marriage requests until I realized that most people coming up in this world simply don’t have a language for or an understanding of either the formal ceremonial sacred, or for the daily ceremony of living. It’s taken me these two years to feel like I have meaningful relationship with the concept of ceremony, to feel that it is something each of us can claim for ourselves as a personal passageway to honoring what is sacred in our own lives. Certainly religious wars and church doctrine that seems more invested in the maintenance of power has not helped people feel like ceremony has much for them. But in the most simple way, ceremony is about intention, humility, and relationship with the sacred. Whether your sacred goes by the name of creator or god, or nature, or love, or mother/father, yahweh, or even flying spaghetti monster, it is the relationship with that that is invoked and honored with gratitude in ceremony.
So the title and the powers that seemed to attract attention didn’t feel like the aspect of ministry that resonated with me, and until I had another idea of what it could be I didn’t want to receive a stole, the long vestment worn around the neck by religious or spiritual servants in some traditions. It was really hard for me to acknowledge that it just wouldn’t feel right. But I also felt relief and a sense of liberation to know that it felt better to do what was difficult (to defer) than it felt to go along with what was supposed to happen.
It took me letting go of my claim to the title minister for my own ministerial identity to emerge. In that moment of sitting empty, having let go of what I had been working on for two years, that I saw myself stepping through a doorway and simply placing my foot on a path. It was no arrival, simply a passage. Darlene, one of the spiritual directors was there next to me and I said “If this is not an arrival but a doorway, if I can simply place my foot on the path… than that is something I can do, that is something I want to do. I’m not a ceremonial monkey or a hunter of power, but if I can be of service by stepping through that door… then I can do that.” She was very happy. I was too. I felt like something I didn’t want and that wasn’t mine had been shed, and something more profound and meaningful had stepped through. On this path of the spirit we never arrive, and that is part of the beauty of it.
This is a path I have been on for two and a half years… since a day when I had a completely unexpected spiritual awakening. Yet walking through the doorway had implications that being in the training didn’t; namely accountability and a different level of service, to both myself, others, and the spirit that pervades all of what we see and understand as well as all that which we don’t see. While before I was a student, I am now a student and a teacher. If we follow the path well, I believe that student-hood never leaves us.
So here I am in the backyard, sitting with my own resistance to being a steward of change, my own resistance to the challenges I have always known it was my place to grapple with, and the glimmer of sunshine is that I am laughing at myself. I am watching myself be a petulant brat right now, watching with love and amusement as God, inner guidance/higher self, and ego/inner child play together at being human.
Love Reverend Dashielle