Earth life is slow

We are creatures of Earth; our life is part of the life of the Earth, and we draw our nourishment from it just as plants and animals do. Earth life is slow; autumn and winter are as essential to it as spring and summer, and rest is as essential as motion.

-Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

It is winter, the days are dark, and nature does not offer up the comfort of warmth. But instead of complaining or decrying this, we can accept it as a part of the creative cycle.

Our bodies need rest. So do our minds. This time of year we can take more time for that by recognizing that everything has a time and place and season. Trust that you will progress and grow, when it is the right time. Spring brings energy, transition, a pushing outward. Winter brings quiet, inner reflection, an evening gathering with friends that is a natural response to the short days, and finally, sleep.

Let the bare trees of this season remind us that we are also needing to look at the bare facts of ourselves, the naked truth of who we are. That will be the starting point for all our love and all our work in the year to come.


Trust Issues

It’s rough when you realize your loved ones don’t trust you.

Last year I had a conversation with my brother about Unitarianism. I wondered aloud about what would happen when my non-believing family showed up to our next family reunion.

This is how my brother responded:

I would think that if I were attending a reunion that was Christian and I was not, I would expect to be respectful and adapt, rather than expecting everyone else to change. Maybe you need to think about what your goals really are—what are you trying to accomplish with the family and your involvement in Unitarianism?

A fair point. But he immediately assumed I had an agenda. That I had a goal of converting everyone in my family to Unitarianism. I told him I was not trying to change anyone’s mind. He also assumed I would approach the reunion aggressively and disrespectfully.

There is a history here. My family tends to regard people who speak with enthusiasm as salesy, untrustworthy types. They can easily mistake my energy for argumentativeness about topics they are uncomfortable about.

I probably needed to curb my enthusiasm a bit in this conversation. But I realized that it is also a matter of low trust.

The low trust is a result of my separation and divorce several years ago, as well as my departure from the Lutheran ministry. My family took it very personally. In many ways I was on a pedestal, in an awkward unspoken way, and when I got off of the pedestal, everyone felt betrayed. They don’t ever say that directly. But the look in their eyes and their lack of trust is always evident, just under the surface.

It hurts to know my family doesn’t trust me. But it is getting better. With lots of emotional investment, presence, and patience.


Don’t Push the River

Midweek Devotion

December 9, 2015

Don’t push the river. -Richard Rohr 

Imagine standing on the bank of a river trying to figure out how to shove it forward.

A river doesn’t really need our help. It doesn’t worry about the rocks and trees in its path. It will find a way around them.

White Water

I like that analogy because it reminds me how often we push too hard. Life will flow on without all of our trying. 

I teach violin, and the more I work with children, the more I am reminded of this principle. Even when there seems to be no focus, no direction, and no progress in the practicing, we have to trust that our child’s natural growth process is occurring.

Shin’ichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki method, calls it the “mother tongue” approach. Children learn how to speak their native language by exposure, indeed they cannot not learn it. They will learn to play music as part of their natural development if they have an environment of music, an environment of daily repetition, an environment of support.

The same is true of life. The things we yearn for, the progress we would like to see, the accomplishments we strive after, will come as part of the natural course of things, if we allow ourselves to be open and influenced by an environment where they will flourish.

So don’t push the river. Don’t worry about the rate at which you or your child is progressing. I tell parents: “Just get them playing and listening, support them in that effort, and we’ll take care of the rest in lessons.” In life the same is true: just get playing, get out and into the environments that feel right to you, and the resources you need to support you will come in time.

Take a GoodMinute

In what ways am I trying to push the river?

What environments do I respond to energetically and positively? What can I do to put myself into those environments even more?

How can I help the children in my life to flourish in their natural development and growth, without pushing the river?