A month or so ago, a fellow WAYfinder sent me Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark. What a gift this book has been to me. Such a gift that I’ve decided, this spring round, to share it with all of you. Each week we’ll gather to discuss a chapter or two, as well as (as always) engage in a spiritual practice and “check in” with one another. Read a beautiful description of the book below and then sign up to join us for conversation and connection this spring. …Read More
| Anne C. Williamson |
We’ve spent the last six weeks exploring prayer and Sabbath. The intention has been to learn and listen for, when it comes to prayer and Sabbath, what makes sense to you – in terms of how you understand these practices – and what works for you – that is, offers you c/Connection, peace, growth, joy.
I did not “set out” this round to spend so much time here; but, it makes sense. If we are wanderers on the way of love but do not practice being still (internally), do not practice making space for rest and reconnection, do not practice listening and being glad and going to g/God – however we understand g/God – by any means, then we will still love, of course; but, my experience has been other active emotions – like resentment, fatigue, shame, anger, cynicism, pride – will join us on the journey and begin to crowd out love.
We've read, watched, listened to many ideas over these weeks; in part, this was to remind us that people understand and approach prayer and Sabbath in many ways. In this remembrance, there may have been ideas you’d like to try again or for the first time; wonderful! Mostly, though, I hoped it would give you permission; permission to practice prayer and Sabbath in whatever ways are most c/Connective and restoring for you; permission to figure it out and then change your mind again and again.
I also hoped…Read More
| Anne C. Williamson | Originally posted February 15, 2015. Edited March 2019.
I remember my Ethics professor in seminary saying, "The worst thing Mr. Rogers did for you kids is convince you of your specialness." Intentionally provocative, he also believed it. In an academic field that plays so often in absolutes and the consequences of conduct, catering to the individual can be a dangerous game.
I understand this perspective. Too often in our society, the world, we over emphasize the unique, special individual. This leads to myopic points of view. I fail to see - or choose to ignore - how my choices impact others and the Earth, and consequently, they suffer. It also leads to some nauseatingly terrible commercials: two words, perfumes and cars.
We can also under emphasize our specialness, though. I’ve been listening to Layla Saad’s “Good Ancestor Podcast” recently and many of her womanist guests speak to how black women are not a monolith and need to stop being represented as such. In fact, much of what white supremacy and patriarchy does is try and convince people of color and women that they, that we, are created to be this one way, instead of the boundless and dynamic “multiverse” within us. Problematic, indeed.
So, can there exist a happy middle ground? Can we be both special and One? …Read More
| Anne C. Williamson | Originally posted October 28, 2014. Edited February 2019.
I see an America confused at its limits. After centuries of take, take, take, we're (slowly) waking up to the reality that this planet is not infinite. Earth has limits. Where once wages increased with productivity, now it's poverty, and millions suffer under the golden calf called the bottom line. People have limits too. And, even for the relatively wealthy, baked in a culture of more, more, more, we're beginning to wonder, "Are all these things and activities worth it? Do I have more joy? Do my neighbors?"
Instead of resisting these limits - hanging onto a familiar but crumbling model - what if we embraced them? What if we chose to see them as the spiritual lesson they are? Time and resources and energies are limited. Maybe this is okay. Maybe it's even a gift….Read More
| Anne Williamson |
Mine has been a checkered history with prayer. I imagine most of us would say the same. As my understandings of God changed, the ways I prayed made less and less sense. So I stopped praying those ways; I felt both relief and grief. I found my way to new forms of prayer – some did not call them prayers at all. I stopped caring what they called them.
But, lately, I have wanted to pray in old ways again. I find myself wanting to lament and petition and intercede and thank, as well as what I have learned to do so much better: listen, be silent and still, receptive. I am struggling with this a little (mostly, why these prayers again, when I don’t believe in a Super Being God on the other end) but only a little, for I think I understand why. ...Read More
| ANNE WILLIAMSON |
I had been in seminary a year when I found myself in an hotel room, alone, and feeling incredibly sad. It was the start of vacation, no papers were due, nothing to distract. So, I had to listen, listen to a truth I'd been pushing down for months: my beliefs about God did not make sense to me anymore. There, I'd said it. And the truth kept rolling: maybe they had always not made sense to me. Maybe this is why I went to seminary.
It felt like a kind of death. The God I knew was no more. And, I was sad. Sad and worried: what would become of my faith? A grief, and its process, that I realized then had already begun months earlier, swept over me. I let myself cry.
I also remember, though, experiencing a kind of lightening of the air around me. I think now I'd call it hope. I hoped in that moment there would be another way to imagine God. I chose to continue trusting the spirit-filled reality I knew, even though I now no longer had words to explain it.
In the years that followed, words came. I was introduced to new images, metaphors, ideas, theologies. They made sense to me. I found God again without abandoning myself.
Interestingly, translating these new images into my daily, personal relationship with God was much harder. Intellectually things made sense but my ability to be present with God suffered. I could think and talk about God all day long, but ask me to practice the presence of God, to pray, and nothing. I would sit there like a novice trying desperately to repeat a necessary technique she'd only ever lucked into the first time.
The problem, of course, was my understanding of prayer hadn't yet caught up to my new ideas about God. What was prayer to look like now? How should I begin? Do I still say "Dear God"? Or, "Dear Sacred Spirit, Energy, the One Who is Both Us and Greater Than Us"? Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. How did prayer work now? Does God still intervene? Does prayer work at all?
These are the questions we'll be wondering about together in group this week. Consider adding your voice. If not, read on and LEARN : LISTEN : LOVE.Read More
| Anne C. Williamson | Originally posted January 27, 2015. Edited 2019.
Pray without ceasing. That's what the Bible says. I used to interpret this as some sort of pious challenge reserved for monks, nuns and those kids who memorized Bible verses. (Okay, I was one of those kids, but only briefly, and secretly.) It was impractical. How many "now I lay me"s and "dear god"s can one say in a day and get anything else done?
Because, of course, that's what prayer was: talking to God. Talking to God with rules. Do be honest, but not if your issue is with God. It's strange to bow but perfectly normal to close your eyes and clasp your hands. Before making any requests, praise and give thanks. For a long while, despite all these rules, prayer as talking to God worked well for me; I loved sharing my heart.
Eventually, things changed. I got angry, and God was not exempt. I saw hundreds of people bow in unison and found it beautiful. My image of God changed, and with it, I found more peace and movement in silence than praise. I could not pray the way I once did, and honestly, I felt both relief and a deep ache.
I remember when I read theologian Kent Ira Groff’s definition of prayer: "to practice the presence, to go to God by any means, by any means to let God come to you." I was in seminary and reading this was like a welcomed fissure in a dam. The new waters knocked me down occasionally but before, my spirit was parched.
Pray without ceasing. I came to realize it wasn't a challenge; it was permission. Permission to practice the presence and by any means; this is the only way we can possibly do it without ceasing.
Of course, it still isn't easy. For me, it's a way of being that feels very far away some days. But, I hope in it, and I practice. I walk and breathe. I meditate. I’m here. I lean into being here a little more. I pay attention. I consider my actions as well as my stories; I consider their many ripples. I forget or willfully ignore. I forgive myself. I listen and try again. And, I talk; sometimes I do still talk to God.
| Anne C. Williamson | Originally posted January 20, 2015
I'm sitting here listening to my husband try to teach our daughter how to calm down through breathing. The source of her exasperation: bread. She loves it and usually has to wait for it to toast and get smeared with peanut butter. This lapse in time often proves too much, and she begins to meltdown. Of course, her response is disproportionate - as her parents, at least one of our jobs is to make sure, as an adult, she doesn't erupt in tears at the bagel shop; but, I do relate to her passion, even admire it a little.
This struggle echoes in my spiritual journey: I want peace, wholeness, the "undistracted state" as Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön calls it, but I also fear this state will tamper my passion. I love bread too... er, I mean life and justice. Can we be both passionate about life and "zen"? It's confusing because both eastern and western spiritual philosophies have taught life itself is the distraction. But, isn't life also the joy? Isn't it the people and environments, the food and good fights that offer us meaning, that offer purpose?
This is where I love when Pema Chödrön, in the below video, talks about being wide-awake. Yes, life can distract; this is undeniable. But, detoxing from these distractions doesn't mean the end of joy, passion, purpose. Instead, the undistracted state means we're wide-awake to experience life more deeply, to taste more acutely, to fight fairer, to love better. It's life #nofilter.
| Anne C. Williamson | - Originally posted January 11, 2015
Confession: It's been a tough week. Of course, I know full well, relatively speaking, it hasn't really been that tough; my family has the necessities: food, water, heat, Frozen on DVD. But, regardless, I've been stumbling this week, trying and failing to push beyond circumstances and the wonky way my mind sometimes works.
I believe these weeks find me occasionally for a purpose: they bring me to my knees, remind me life is not about control but surrender... in the best possible way. My heart feels small so I must break it open with a prayer of "help." I stop managing it all well enough, long enough to see grace again... to really need grace again.
Beginnings can look like this. They often do. And, not just in late January. All year long we find ourselves slid back into old patterns, thoughts, distractions that then propel us to choose, once again, to begin again.
For me, this is one of the main reasons I crave deep, thoughtful, spiritual community. It often gives me more grace than I give myself, while at the same time, holds me accountable to the kind of life I want to lead. It is kind faces with whom I share my story, and wise perspectives I never would have heard on my own. It's the space to practice, to begin something new or for the umpteenth time. It's time set apart to c/Connect.
This is what WAYfinding is for me and for many of you. I am so glad, and I look forward to kicking off another round of groups - of blessed discussions, experiences, sharing - this week!
There is always room for more voices at the table. If you're curious, consider checking-out a group this week - or in the weeks to come. Simply fill out this form. Groups this round meet:
Mondays, 7:30 – 9:00p – Mom’s Group (Meridian-Kessler) (Org. Facilitator: Lindsay)
Wednesdays, 11:30a - 1:00p (Meridian-Kessler) (Org. Facilitator: Rick)
Wednesdays, 7:00 – 9:00p (Downtown) (Org. Facilitator: Stew)
Thursdays, 7:00 - 9:00p (Meridian Hills) (Org. Facilitator: Jess)
Author’s 2019 Note: It’s interesting that much of the above blog applies to my experience this past week too - except Frozen has been replaced with Moana… Disney, you’re just too good! And yet, and this is gratifying to notice, this week was also not as hard as that week years ago, and I don’t think it has much to do with circumstances. I see the ways in which I am approaching life and my own “wonky mind” differently now. For example, I am teaching myself to not try and “push beyond” circumstances and the way my mind works sometimes but rather relax into them, allow them to be what they are, and notice, release, move from there. It’s subtle, and it’s helping. I share this because, first, and this is important: yea! And, second, the journey to one’s own spirit, to our True Self, does help. Who knows if we ever “arrive.” Lately, I’m thinking that’s not the point anyway. But, it seems to me, that when I follow my curiosity and creativity, my capacity for love and empathy - toward self and others and the Earth - and thus my capacity for joy does grow. It is not a straight line up in one direction but it is a moving toward, maybe a moving in that mysteriously also brings me more out than ever before. How nice to get this reminder. So, I thought I’d share it with you too. May it be so.
We'll be back January 6th with information about our upcoming WAYkids' program and winter adult WAYfinding round. If you'd like to save-the-dates, our WAYkids' program will begin Sunday, January 13th and meet every 2nd and 4th Sunday afternoon (4:00 - 5:30p) of the month (January - June). Our WAYfinding winter round will begin the week of January 21st.
| Anne C. Williamson |
A couple weeks ago, good friends invited us over to celebrate Hanukkah. After listening to the story behind this Jewish ritual and tradition, the candles were lite, prayers recited and songs sung. Then, as the menorah was carried to the window and placed there, we learned this piece of the tradition is about being open, publicly sharing one's beliefs, as well as bringing a little more light to the world.
I loved the whole thing. I think my girls did too; but, of course, there was the typical young children drama around who got to light which candles as well as ecstatic focus on the chocolate gelt soon to come. So, I didn't know how much had been understood and appreciated.
The next day, at our own home, as the light outside had nearly gone, I heard my 5 year old suddenly exclaim, "The Christmas tree! We need to light it so we can bring light to the world." My eyes still tear up. Something about that moment encompasses so much of what I hope for my children.... That when the darkness surrounds them, they would hold on to the magic, mystery and beauty ever present in this world too. That they would find joy and meaning in their own tradition while understanding, deeply, that all traditions share a loving s/Source and thus can reflect and enrich one another. That they would believe they are part of bringing light to the world, that their daily actions and loving being matter.
Depending on the stage of life and context in which we find ourselves, the holidays can look so different from year-to-year and person-to-person. I don't know the sadness you may be carrying now, or the joy. But, in my own Christian Advent tradition, each Sunday I light a candle for you. I hold the light in my heart, give it physical form with a match, wick and wax, and pray for my own, for my girls' and husband's, for our community's and for the whole world's well-being. I pray for peace on earth, and with a tiny flame, that it would begin (again and again) with me.
| Anne Williamson |
In the Kurt Vonnegut version of the biblical Genesis story, man politely asks God, "What is the purpose of all of this?" God's response is perhaps less than satisfactory; essentially, God replies, "You decide." God's response is not the part of the story I find most interesting, though. It's man's question, or rather according to this story, man's first assumption: that there is one purpose and it applies to everything.
Now, I like this idea. I like believing, underneath all the micro purposes, there exists one - one purpose that if comprehensively integrated would bring not universal peace but much, much more of it. I don't know this to be true, of course. And, I don't know what it is. I simply - or most days, incredibly not simply - have faith in it.
What I do know to be true, though, is how necessary the presence, stories, ideas, questions of others has been on the journey to finding the one….Read More
We're spending the next two weeks in groups talking about community. Specifically, what kind of community is needed now in our society and how do we create it? We're going to be discussing "fitting in," common enemy intimacy, loneliness, social media and the trickiness of in-person community too, vulnerability and boundaries, empathy, forgiveness, and our inextricable human connection.
The below video, though focused on addiction, speaks so beautifully to our need for connection that I wanted to share it with you here. My favorite excerpt:
“Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect. When we are happy and healthy we will bond with the people around us. But when we can’t because we’re traumatized, isolated or beaten down by life, we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief. It might be checking our smartphones constantly. It might be pornography. It might be gambling, etc. but we will bond with something because that is our human nature. The path out of unhealthy bonding is to form healthy bonds – to be connected to people who you want to be present with. Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that’s happening all around us. We all feel it....
For too long, we’ve talked only about individual recovery from addiction, but we need now to talk about social recovery. Because something has gone wrong with us as a group.... We are going to have to change the unnatural way we live and rediscover each other. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.”
I hope you'll watch the whole video. It's worth it!
| Anne Williamson |
We gather because it helps.
Life is hard and hard to figure out. It helps to give voice to this, to collectively belong to the questions and vulnerability, and to encourage one another in them. It helps – or more likely is absolutely necessary – to hear new narratives and perspectives in this questioning, “figuring out,” and living well.
This possible, "macro" reason for gathering is all about the benefits of community. And, clearly, not just any community; a community that truly helps holds certain values, engages in certain practices. Many of these are research-based, and we'll be discussing them in the coming weeks. But, this week, as we begin diving deeper into the topic of "Why Gather?," we're going to discuss Brene Brown's assertion that the kinds of communities for which we long are not possible without first belonging to one's self. She calls this "true belonging" - defined above - and this week we explore this idea for our own sake as well as the communities we long to create and sustain.
SCHEDULE & DESCRIPTION
The fall round begins the week of September 10th and ends the week of November 5th. It's 8 weeks with a one-week break at the halfway point (groups will not meet the week of October 8th). This round will include a community week in late October.
Why gather in spiritual groups like these? Why gather for spiritual or religious reasons on Sundays or Fridays or whenever? What is the point? Does it do anything for us? For the world? What do we, as humans, need now, at this specific time in history, from these spaces? Can they deliver?
Join WAYfinding this fall as we explore these questions. Each week will begin with a possible answer, falling under one of three “macro” reasons for gathering: We gather because it helps. We gather to h/Hear s/Something deep and true. We gather to b/Be s/Something deep and true. Authors (and, for many, spiritual guides) Sue Monk Kidd, Parker Palmer, Brene Brown and Shawn Achor, among others, will be our teachers.
As always with WAYfinding, you will be encouraged and led to question, challenge, wonder, discuss and dive deep into your own experience. If you’ve ever been simultaneously drawn to and resistant to spiritual or religious gatherings, this will be a great round for you, helping you discover what is true for you and resting easier in it.
Hope to have your voice in the conversation this fall!
Mondays, 7:30 – 9:00p – Mom’s Group (Meridian-Kessler) (Facilitator & Host: Anne)
Tuesdays, 12:00 - 1:45p (Meridian-Kessler) (Facilitators & Hosts: Rotating**)
Wednesdays, 10:30a - 12:00p (Meridian-Kessler) (Facilitators: Carolyn & Rick; Host: Anne) (Childcare available; cost split between parents.)
Wednesdays, 7:00 – 9:00p (Irvington) (Facilitators & Hosts: Rotating**)
Wednesdays, 7:00 - 9:00p (Downtown) (Facilitator: Julie; Host: Stew)
Thursdays, 7:00 - 9:00p (Meridian Hills) (Facilitator & Host: Bob)
** Newcomers are not asked to facilitate or host. Of course, you’re welcome to, if you’d like.
For those who can afford it, there is a cost with the WAYfinding experience. Each round we ask you make an investment in yourself of $50 - $150. It's a sliding scale; you pay what you can. And, if you can't pay, simply select our Scholarship Fund when signing up - that's all there is to it. Invest online here.
Or, you may become a sustaining member of WAYfinding by making a recurring donation of at least $30 per month. This option is not just an investment in yourself - all rounds are included - but in others. Your recurring donation (or quarterly/yearly, if you prefer) helps us sponsor new and existing participants, "get the word out," invest in public speakers and new programs, etc. You can learn more about our different investment levels here.
If you'd prefer to listen to this announcement, click here.
Hello. I hope I find you well and enjoying the last few weeks of summer. Rather than our usual blog on a wide range of spiritual topics, this week I want to share with you what’s coming up for WAYfinding.
I shared with many of you in the spring round that I believe the next best step for WAYfinding is to begin offering a Sunday gathering. The reasons for this are numerous and include practical, organizational reasons like groups not being logistically possible for some people and families. But, the biggest reason – the reason that propels me to risk this change and responsibility – is that I believe a Sunday gathering is what is needed now.
All day long stories and ways of being swirl around us. Stories and ways of being that are largely divisive and fearful. Stories and ways of being that are masterful at convincing us the source of our sense of s/Self is external. It’s a kind of twisted liturgy we (almost unavoidably) walk in.
WAYsundays – that’s what we’re calling it now – will be about creating an alternative liturgy for our lives, lifting up alternative stories and ways of being. Stories and ways rooted in inclusiveness and love. Liturgies capable of holding and expressing “what it means to live a life” with all its complexities and dichotomies, beauty and sorrow. Liturgies that bolster us in standing against injustice while also reminding us that those who stand in our way still belong to us. Stories and ways of being that recall what is deep and true and already within us.
Though they’ll certainly be reimagined, WAYsundays will use some Christian stories, rituals and rhythms of the year to ground our experience. We are all humans simply glimpsing the Infinite Mystery; all traditions share this fate; and Christianity is what I know, what I know well enough to criticize, what I still love – after it’s freed from the deadening filters of certitude, patriarchy and more – and what, let’s be honest, still needs freeing from these things.
As ever, WAYfinding, as expressed in WAYsundays, will be beyond the belief box. Just like in groups, though we’ll certainly explore what we believe, how we believe what we believe will be the focus; particularity is okay but it must not become an idol. Our gatherings will express the WAYfinding belief that openness amid diversity is key to growing in love. So, for example, every third Sunday our teacher will be an “outsider,” providing us with a different perspective and a more complete hearing of the divine v/Voice. We also won’t meet the last Sunday of the month, leaving it open for other c/Connective practices and people.
Also, as ever with WAYfinding, WAYsundays will be an experiment. We’ll have to live into it to fully know its shape and purpose. I hope you’ll risk it and stay open and curious with me – whether by simply “checking it out” once it comes to be or by helping shape it into being. If the latter is of interest to you or if you have questions, please email me. I want to hear from you, and there is something for everyone to do. We will be getting started no later than January, with at least one gathering in December (if not starting then outright).
Finally, resuming with the Fall 2018 Round, groups will continue to be the important c/Connective spaces they’ve always been for thoughtful theological, social and personal reflection and growth. The fall round will begin the week of September 10th, go for 8 weeks, with a one-week break at the halfway point. This round will include a community week in mid-October. Our topic is “Why Gather?” Why gather in spiritual groups like these? Why gather for spiritual reasons on Sundays or Fridays or whenever? Why gather at all? What is the point and purpose? What does it do for us? Each week will begin with a possible answer, and groups will be lead and encouraged – individually and together – to wonder, challenge, and explore. If you’ve ever, like me, been simultaneously drawn to and resistant to spiritual or religious gatherings, this will be a great round for you, helping you to discover what is true for you and resting easier in it. (I will be pulling together facilitators (which determine group days and times) and locations in the coming few weeks. If you are willing to co-facilitate and/or host, please let me know.)
Thank you. Thank you for reading this long letter. Thank you for being on this WAYfinding journey with me thus far. Thank you for continuing it with me, or on your own or with others; we simply need more people willing to explore the big questions with openness and curiosity, vulnerability and courage, more people willing to dig deep and learn to love better today than you, than I, than we did yesterday. However you’re doing this, I am grateful.
Note from Anne: Hello WAYfinding community! I am back to work and looking forward to all that is in store for WAYfinding this fall. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements in the coming weeks, including details about our Fall 2018 Round - which will begin in mid-September.
Many of you have jumped back into "fall" routines or are easing your way into such space. I am too. One truth I became acutely aware of over the past month is life does not stop so I can make new (healthier) habits. While each seasonal beginning brings an opportunity to reflect, edit and add, new ways of being necessarily take shape in the midst of the mess of it all. So, as I encourage myself in this truth, I encourage you too.
What edit, add, shift would help you to live more fully and compassionately this fall? And, how can you help yourself accept that its implementation will be irregular, imperfect because, well, you're a human living a human life?
"Inch by inch... and do it again... one day you'll see... you set yourself free." - India Arie
| Ashley Parsons |
Up until 15 years ago, my food choices were haphazard at best. If I wanted McDs, I would stop at a drive through, order a “Number 2” and get blue Powerade as the healthier option. What I ate very much depended on what I was craving at the time. I trusted that the food on the grocery store shelves was nourishing or they wouldn’t put it there, right?
It wasn’t until about 8 years ago that I had to seriously examine my food choices and relationship with food. Looking back, I actually started feeling ill about 12-13 years ago. It started with a weird skin thing that was supposedly harmless. Then I started feeling tired and moody a lot; I figured this was normal for a working mom with a toddler. As the years passed, my fatigue got worse. I developed anxiety, insomnia, and battled a myriad of infections and illnesses. I remember one night, waking up, thinking I cannot survive like this. Doctors ran tests and said I was a little inflamed but other than that, nothing seemed wrong with me. After scouring the internet and self diagnosing, I realized I needed to seriously reconsider and shift how I was eating...
Just as with loved ones, our relationship with food can be complex. Sometimes we experience love, joy, and comfort at mealtime. Other times, we experience anxiety, guilt, and shame. Most of us experience a range of these emotions at one time or another. If our relationship with a loved one ever becomes unhealthy or destructive, we have the choice to end the relationship or try to heal it. Because we depend on food for survival, we are not afforded the option to “break up” with it. Therefore, when the relationship becomes unhealthy or toxic we have two choices: continue on as usual or we can work to heal it.
My journey with food and health led me to become a health coach. I could not believe the impact my food choices had on my health, and I wanted to share this knowledge with others. As I started looking into ways to heal our relationship with food, two terms kept popping up: mindful eating and intuitive eating. At first, I thought they were the same; but, after digging deeper, I came to understand they compliment each other but have some important differences. Both are great ways to become more in tune with your body’s nutritional needs, aware of the influencing factors around your food choices and your emotional connection to food.
The practice of mindful eating is about being fully present at mealtime. In today’s society, we pride ourselves on multitasking. If we can accomplish 2-3 things at one time, why wouldn’t we? This can have a major impact on our digestion. Our body functions in two opposing states: “rest and digest” or “fight or flight”. Back in the day, if a saber tooth tiger was chasing us, it would stimulate our fight-or-flight mode and certain mechanisms in the body would either speed up or slow down. During this process, digestion was turned off so we could use that energy to fight or flee. Now, instead of the saber tooth tiger chasing us, we have a full inbox, a project deadline or we might be juggling multiple carpool destinations. When we try to eat amidst these stressful experiences, our body is unable to break down food to absorb the nutrients.
Mindful eating teaches us to slow down and become more aware of our external and internal environments, without judgement, at mealtime. It is about turning off technology and using all five senses to experience food. We may reflect on the origin of the food and feel gratitude for the people, plants and animals involved in the process to get the food on our plate. If you were involved in WAYfinding a few years ago, you may remember doing a mindful eating exercise with an orange. We observed the orange, we enjoyed the fragrance as we peeled it, we ate it one segment at a time and chewed thoroughly, savoring the experience. When we slow down the process of eating, our bodies are able to secrete more enzymes to more readily digest whatever we are eating. Simply slowing down and intentionally chewing can be so beneficial.
Intuitive eating has a slightly different goal. With intuitive eating we are recognizing and honoring our body’s cues. It is abandoning the diet mentality. Intuitive eating is about exploration with food versus following a set of rules. When I think about intuitive eating, I think about my dog. I notice she is adamant about having food in her bowl by 8:30 am but once its there, she nibbles on it throughout the day. In the summer she eats less, in the winter she eats more. If she is sick she doesn’t eat very much. We were born intuitive eaters but then, very quickly, we are taught to eat on a schedule and eat a certain amount (2oz bottles every 4 hours). Now that we are older, we are bombarded with fad diets and foods created by scientists in a lab. Depending on the decade, certain foods were demonized - fats, carbs, etc. Can you think of some ways your approach to eating may have been shaped by these trends?
Take a moment to reflect on your relationship with food. Is your approach to eating working for you? Could practicing mindful eating or intuitive eating help you bring more joy to your dining experience? Every person’s journey with food is completely unique. Healing our relationship with food requires an abundance of patience, grace and forgiveness. Start slow and take it meal by meal.
After traversing the country from west coast to east, Ashley met her husband in Chicago and settled in Indianapolis in 2008 to raise their two children. Ashley grew up in a household where only the occasional Sunday was spent at the nondenominational church nearby. It was after taking a world religions course at UC Santa Cruz that a new curiosity for spirituality and faith was sparked. WAYfinding has been a place where Ashley can openly discuss her questions, while learning ways to introduce her children to the fascinating exploration of faith. Ashley is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach through Institute of Integrative Nutrition and co-owner of Stepping Stone Health in Indianapolis. In her free time, Ashley enjoys practicing yoga and spending time outdoors with her family.
| Carolyn Lesmeister |
Young children live for joy and wonder.
It’s what they do.
It’s who they are.
Our role is to provide them with experiences and things that are worthy of their wonder.
Those insights provided the foundation for a recent intensive training on how the Montessori Method can be applied to children’s spiritual formation.*
Throughout the training, I was surprised to find myself moved to tears and having new insights about stories and symbols I thought I already understood. After all, I have two masters’ degrees in theological fields and have been serving as a Lutheran pastor for almost 9 years; the presentations from which I was learning so much were meant for 3-to-6-year-olds! It was truly humbling and awe-inspiring.
One of the key assumptions of the whole approach is that children are hard-wired with a desire to connect with something greater than themselves; in other words, that all children have an innate spiritual longing that seeks fulfillment, just as they have innate drives for other types of learning according to the more traditional Montessori Method.
The role of the adults – whether teachers or parents – in the process is to introduce the child to that greater t/Thing and then allow joy and wonder to take it from there. My favorite metaphor for the process was that it’s like setting up a blind date: you introduce the two parties, but you don’t go on the date!
Because the approach comes out of the Catholic church and thus is Christian, a lot of the details involve introducing the child to key stories from the Bible in such a way that allows them to get “hands on” with it by moving around simple yet gorgeous figurines while the story is read, and then pondering very general questions such as: “I wonder how the sheep felt?” Or, “I wonder who this God might be?”
The goal is not to get the child to come to a particular “right” answer, as is so often the case in more traditional approaches to religious education, but to genuinely spark their sense of curiosity and wonder. The adult is not to affirm nor correct anything the child might say; instead, s/he is to wonder right alongside the child. Then, whatever insights or answers the child might find are truly their own, making the insights both held more deeply but also more flexible and open to the child’s continuing process of growing, questioning, and learning. It’s about exploration, not indoctrination.
I wonder how different many people’s experiences with church might have been had they been invited into such a beautiful process of wondering from the start, and if that wondering had been encouraged as they grew older and their questions became more sophisticated and more challenging. The training was meant to equip people to work with 3-to-6-year-olds, but so much of it could apply to anyone and everyone; I believe that all people have an innate longing to connect with something greater than themselves, regardless of how they might conceive of that t/Thing or what name – if any – they might give i/It.
I wonder how we can continue to cultivate that sense of joy and wonder … in ourselves, with one another, and most especially with the children in our lives?
*The training Carolyn attended is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Carolyn has served as a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor for more than 8 years but is currently transitioning out of that role and into some new ones. She has an MDiv from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and an MA in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union, both in Berkeley, CA; right now she loves learning about joy and wonder (and mindfulness) from her almost 2-year-old son, Xavier.
| Anne Williamson |
For at least 6 months now, maybe longer, I have received this message every time I open my computer: “Your startup disk is full. You need to make more space available on your startup disk by deleting files.” So naturally, I simply moved a few things around, deleted just enough files, to keep working.
I didn’t get it.
Even after sensing I needed and taking a “break” in January, I kept pushing. I used that time to get caught up on administrative “to-do’s”. Physically, I continued plowing through cold after cold, knowing my body was trying to tell me something but ultimately ignoring it.
Then, about two months ago, I opened my computer and got this message: “Your hard drive is full.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a good cry. I could feel it deep in my bones. I am creatively, spiritually, even emotionally, spent.
So, I am taking some time. July 2nd – August 6th to be exact.
The black feminist activist Audre Lorde famously said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I plan to learn from Ms. Lorde over the coming weeks. I am not a person of color, so I will never have that significant daily “battle” with which to contend. But, I am a woman, a wife and a mother… and in our culture, these roles are expected to, I was socialized to, give and give (for no pay, of course). Add onto this identity, minister, and I have felt myself, I have let myself, be slowly washed away.
So, I am leaning into holding these roles in new ways in my life… using my privilege to shine light on the truth and carve new ways forward for myself and others. I am doing this for me… because I love myself… and for my girls, my husband, my family and friends, WAYfinding, and all those who could use another sustained voice for justice, mental health, boundaries, joy and equality.
Here’s to the next leg of the journey. May we all continue to find our way.
In this Sunday's blog, an original song by WAYfinder Leslie Dyar. Leslie has been involved in WAYfinding since 2012. After 17 years as Director of an early childhood program in Indianapolis, her spiritual journey led her to the healing arts. She now practices reflexology, among other healing modalities. Leslie enjoys spending time with her family (especially her grandchildren), songwriting, hiking and living the simple life in a cabin in the woods of Brown County. She believes faith is a living, changing entity that should be continuously examined and questioned. WAYfinding helps her do this!
The song she shares with us here was inspired by the winter and spring rounds.