| Anne Williamson |

Oh, the ego! Such a tiny word, so many disparate opinions. Am I to love my ego or hate it? Embrace it or reject it? Is ambivalence a healthy choice?

For me, the jury is still out. However, I did recently run across an illuminating perspective. It comes from Vedic philosophy. (The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in India 3000 years ago; they are the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.) In this philosophy, there is a Sanskrit term ahamkara that is related to the ego. Essentially, my true self or soul, atma, enters a state of ahamkara when my mind begins identifying this true self/soul with external things, whether they be material (e.g., my body, possessions, kids) or conceptual (e.g. my thoughts, memories, preferences). In the Vedic tradition, this identification is an illusion.

In connecting this perspective to the Western term ego, some say ahamkara is the ego, others that the ego helps construct the illusion. Either way, my own experience supports this Vedic idea that to connect to - perhaps even reside in - my true self or soul is to stop my mind from identifying so heavily with the material or conceptual things around it. The truest, wisest part of me - the part that knows what really matters, what brings me real joy, what lessons I'm here to learn - is most accessible when I'm not in a state of ahamkara

I don't necessarily think this means the ego is entirely bad....

Read More



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. 

Theologian Kent Ira Groff says prayer is "... to practice the presence, to go to God by any means, by any means to let God come to you." Reading this definition was like a welcomed fissure in a dam. The new waters knock me down occasionally but before, my spirit was parched. 

Pray without ceasing. I realize now it wasn't a challenge. It was permission. Permission to practice the presence and by any means; because, this is the only way we could possibly do it without ceasing.

Of course, this 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 fall and get up. I meditate. I’m here. I open myself up to new ways of practicing, of prayer. I listen. Oh, and I talk. I still talk to God.   



I plan to practice Taizé for Advent. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you're not alone. Both are "churchy" words, not part of most folks' everyday lexicon. Even for people who recognize these words, they may not be able to explain them. 

We frequently run into the "churchy" or spiritual word problem at WAYfinding. Anytime you bring together individuals with different beliefs and backgrounds, words can be barriers. Heck, words can be barriers for siblings raised in the same home, worshipping at the same synagogue. Spirit, God, reconciliation, calling, justice, Universe, soul, light, darkness, blessing, Jesus, consciousness, grace, love, and on and on, these words elicit different emotional responses, mean different things to different people. Real comprehension of what another person is saying is not easy. Sometimes we don't know what we're saying ourselves.  

So, what do we do? Is the answer to all slowly acquire the same lexicon with the same meaning ascribed to each word? Maybe. This certainly can make community easier. Personally, though, I hope this isn't our solution. It would mean the eventual subjugation of all diversity to one dominant perspective - impossible, uninteresting, dangerous and an incorrect representation of "g/God." Personally, I hope we can be more creative than this. I hope we can learn to be more okay with ambiguity, mystery, freedom.

Once again, then, my plan: I am going to practice Taizé (an ecumenical monastic community in France, but for my purposes, the contemplative prayer services they use and are offered throughout Indianapolis each Sunday) for Advent (the four Sundays and accompanying weeks before Christmas when Christians lean into the Spirit as they wait for the incarnation of God). That is, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I'm going to do something meaningful to me, something that reminds me to listen and be love, amidst the craziness of the season. That's all. I may say "Taizé for Advent," but what I really mean is "or something like it."

This is all the LISTENing, LEARNing and LOVEing I'm offering this week, so I'll close by asking, "What practice would remind you to listen and be love this holiday season?" Be still and open to what may come. Your answer may require breaking with tradition or living more fully into one. It will definitely require your intention; hence, why I'm asking you now. The season will be here soon. Let's lean into the Spirit, love, whatever you call it, together. 

Read More



I love to garden. No, that's not broad enough: I love all yard work. I do. I love being outside, digging in the dirt and listening to nature. I love the physicality; sawing off a dead limb on a tree makes me feel strong and capable. And, I love its tangible results; spend a few minutes and that bush takes shape; spend a few hours and that garden bed is alive with new colors. It's satisfying. Me + it = something I can see, a project done. 

I love spirituality too, but hardly because it behaves similar to gardening. The nature thing is there, but often it's incredibly frustrating how head and heart and intangible the whole thing feels. Whether your chosen path to connect is meditation or chanting or "accepting Jesus" or whatever, you + it doesn't always = peace, enlightenment, you name it. Changing the shape of our hearts and minds, our lives, the world, is slow work, satisfying often only in time.   

This is why I'm starting to think it takes real practice and discipline. Why "they," whoever they are, were wise folks when they named the methods we use to connect and grow in love exactly that: spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines. I'm presently smack dab in the middle of a 21-day meditation challenge, and I can hear my spirit saying, "This is what is required, if you want peace." Not necessarily meditation, but a commitment to train my "spiritual muscles," a commitment to practice until and through new habits or ways of being take shape. What do you think? LISTEN on, LEARN, LOVE...

Read More