This will not be a long post about the meanings, past or present, of the day, nor why it was named for the saint it was named for, nor any other complex treatise on the topic. Here, simply, is my Valentines Day wish for each and all of you whom I am so blessed to know, work with, or may meet one day yet to come.
Here you go:
I am truly hoping that today (and every day) your heart may rest in a sense of safety, your mind may flow with ideas that soothe or excite you, that your body is vibrant with good health and that your spirit shines bright
with the light of well-being.
Please, dear ones, bless and be kind and light candles, eat choclates, give flowers and balloons to, go for a hike with YOURSELF today. Offer yourself the “love language” you know your heart wants to recieve. This way, your fulfillment will bless all those you encounter as well.
With Much Love,
You can CLICK HERE for our VALENTINES DAY MINUTE MEDITATION.
One of the things those who work in hospice care are aware of, is that people nearing end-of-life experience a loss of parts of self: Body, abilities to do things they loved, things that constituted “identity”, mental abilities, actions that were once easy, sense of taste or sound or other sensory loss. . .
But “self” is not just the body, activities we identify with, even our mental abilities.
Self is something greater - whether you see that "greater" as the soul, heart, consciousness or something else, most of us have a sense that who and what we are is not just the pieces that we feel the loss of.
In pondering this, I reminded myself that this loss is not unique to those who are dying – we ALL experience a loss of parts of self – Where is that playful aspect I once had, or darn that old knee, or who am I now that I forget things so much?
Those lost parts can become like strangers to us. And so I invited my team - and I invite you now - to come with me on a little journey of reclaiming. . .
You can CLICK THIS LINK or visit the Meditations page to listen to the guided recording.
(Notice: When you click the link, it will take you to SOUND CLOUD. To turn OFF AUTOPLAY, go to lower right corner of tool bar at bottom of page, click on the pull down menu, and click the autoplay button to OFF position.)
Part of what I shared in our meeting was a few lines from the poem "Coleman's Bed" by the absolutely marvelous David Whyte.
The part I read was this:
Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.
You can read the entire poem here:
COLEMAN'S BED by DAVID WHYTE
or visit the POET'S WEBSITE here to explore more and buy his books.
And here is what I hope you will take away with you today:
Even if you cannot have that lost aspect of yourself back, say, in the physical, you CAN reclaim a sort of wholeness – holding the essence of your reclaimed parts in your safe heart, always. If this seems hard to imagine, have a listen to the recording and see how you feel.
Wishing us all good tracks home to ourselves and, as always, Heartful Living and Dying.
One of my professors from one of my seminaries recently sent out a request for thoughts from among our ministerial community. The amazing Rev. Susan Shannon is a chaplain at San Quentin prison in California. She works with inmates in her Buddhist Prison Ministry program. (You can click the links to learn more about Susan's wonderful ministry.)
Susan shared that she had one prisoner, a student in her prison program, who was deeply interested in the question of what it means to be an "Interfaith" practitioner. Specifically, Susan shared: "When I went through (seminary), I remember there was the sentiment that being truly interfaith is being rooted in one faith, then perceiving all truths through that lens, versus being immersed in a smorgasbord and not adhering to any. " and she asked we in the community of Interfaith ministers for our thoughts on this, to share with her student.
Because this very question has been asked of me by a number of people exploring Interfaith spirituality, I wanted to share with you the thoughts I shared with Susan and her student.
Here you go:
Dear Friend on The Path,
Here are some of my musings on what it means to be an "Interfaith" practitioner. It is a bit long and rambly, so bear with me; I do conclude with some thoughts that I hope might be interesting to you on your journey. Take what resonates for you, feel welcome to dump the rest!
In my wonderful job as Spiritual Advisor/Chaplain in hospice, I have been blessed to be the "clergy" half of a clinician/clergy team creating a program for integration of spirituality in health care in our hospice organization. In our first training, we invited people to share their definition of "Spirituality". I want to share one of my favorites; it is written by Helena Mailloux, Associate Director at Community Health and Counseling Services Hospice, Bangor, ME. Helena says:
“I believe spirituality is an expression/reflection of a person’s core nature. Spirituality is ever- changing and fluid as a person seeks to finding meaning and purpose in their life. One’s spiritual beliefs and how one defines spirituality are purposely influenced by the individual’s unique life experiences, their relationships and their intentional journey towards finding purpose, peace and gratitude in life’s blessings.”
I love this definition because is is both inclusive and alive! It infers that spirituality belongs to EVERYONE (even Atheists), and it offers each of us the invitation to evolve our spirituality as we grow and change as human beings.
And so if you are a person investigating Interspirituality, this definition gives you license to choose for yourself, without judgement. It invites you to be fluid in your experience of spirituality - - If you like this definition, then perhaps you could also be fluid in your ideas about how you want to name yourself, spiritually speaking, how you want to practice, how you want to see yourself in relation to your spirituality.
Another thought that might be of use is this:
Some years back, I was attending a monthly interfaith gathering. There were about 6-7 folks who regularly showed up, and one was adamant that she was there to assist us all in converting to her religion so we would not go to hell. One very quiet man, not surprisingly a Buddhist, who almost never spoke, shared. . . he went around the circle asking each of us how we arrived to the location that evening. When all had shared "I took a bus", "I walked here", "I got a ride from so and so..." the man simply and quietly said "Well. We are all HERE, aren't we." Implying, of course, that the point is not the path you took, but that all the paths lead to arrival, and (again, of course), the spiritual meaning being that it is not the religion you choose that "gets you there", but the fact that your intention and focus with what you hold sacred - whatever that sacred may be - will bring you Home if you ride it there. Sacred is Sacred, however you arrive. . .
I like the story because to me it gives us license to walk our path, whatever it is, however it winds. . . and to call it by whatever name we seek to call it.
Also, I am a part of an Interspiritual group of Spiritual Directors; my fellow SD's (most of whom have been practicing for at least a decade, many of us for many decades) and I have still different words (interfaith, interspiritual, etc), and different views on what makes one "interfaith". . . We agree to disagree and respect each other's choices and views anyway. And I ask this: can a truly spiritual person see their own views as greater or lesser than someone else's? I, personally, think NOT.
My view on what makes you truly an Interfaith practitioner is this:
Whether you feel a deep commitment to ONE faith and view others through that lens, or whether you own a connection to an eclectic "smorgasbord" of faith practices that heal or open or uplift you - - It is up to YOU to discern, define and describe yourself AS YOU SEE FIT. And maybe the fact that we humans continue to evolve - and thus shift - our definitions of SELF, and our experiences of The Spiritual - is exactly the point. For some, adherence to ONE faith, or one person, or one job, or one location (etc) is what brings them growth. For others, CHANGE is actually the vehicle of awakening. And no one but yourself can decide which is true for you. . .
For me, what is most important is always: your INNER BAROMETER. . . that still, quiet place within you that whispers a firm, solid "yes" (or "no") - separate from our emotional desires, separate from our logical mind's musings. . . the "still, small voice" (which I will say that in my case is often a big, loud yell) rises up from a combination - not of thought and feeling - but of The BODY's deep connection to AUTHENTICITY and the SPIRIT or SOUL's vast and unknowable connection to That Which Is Greater Than Ourselves.
So, from this vantage point, after the thinking and feeling and puzzling stage has worn itself out, there is nothing to do but lay back and expand - feel deeply into body-knowing of your bones and listen with the HEART to the whisperings of Beingness/Goddess/God/HigherSelf (or whatever your name for "It" may be at the moment.).
If you feel "Interfaith" is the name for your spirituality, then you get to choose that title, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.
Blessings upon your Amazing Journey!
TRIGGER WARNING: This post lightly discusses abuse trauma; if this is a topic you do not feel safe reading about, feel welcome to skip it and go on to the next!
Many of the people I work with have asked one question, specifically regarding healing from traumatic childhood abuse. The abuse may differ for each of us who experience it - physical, sexual, emotional, mental abuse, or a combination - - but the the question is the same; after a session - or sometimes weeks, months, years or even decades - working on the many layers that present themselves as we go through the process of recollecting our authentic selves after abuse. . . the question I refer to is this:
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN I AM HEALED?
Or: HOW DO I KNOW HOW HEALED I AM?
And here, my dears, is the simplest answer I can offer:
YOU KNOW HOW HEALED YOU ARE BY HOW WELL YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
This is not an answer many people like to hear - especially those of us who may not consider ourselves to have experienced any trauma or abuse. But this is the bottom line: If you are NOT taking the very best care of yourself - on all levels - physical, emotional, mental, spiritual - then somewhere within you is a particle of lack of self-worth. No one is born with low self-worth; it is learned, most often by some form of abuse. You may fight this, saying "it is not my lack of self-worth, but rather my job's demands that keep me from self care" or "but I can't take care of myself; my children (or parents, or patients, for friends...) need me and there is no time left for me" or any number of other "reasons" we come up with to defer caring for the very vessel that alows us life on earth; ourselves.
I will not ramble too deeply on this, but to say that when we are not treated with kindness, compassion, presence and awareness when we are young, we unknowingly build our brains to hold the sense of worth we were given. Then, later in life, we are likely to live the lives we feel we are worthy of - not necessarily consciously, but rather the lives our deepest, most vulnerable inner selves feel worthy of. Often, this means we routinely live with a lack of self care in one area or another of our lives. (As we begin to heal, we increase the care we are willing and able to take of ourselves.)
On the up-side, that lack of self care could be thought of as a golden thread - which, if we are brave and have good support, can be followed back to its roots. . . those roots which are the gateway to healing. So, if you are taking wonderful care of yourself on all levels, BRAVA BRAVO AND HIP HIP HOORAY to you!!! And if you assess your life and see that there are ways you are not quite caring for yourself at an A+ level, hooray for you in whatever moment of mending you are in; your AWARENESS is the key to your next steps toward healing!!
Take a breath; take a look. . . are you giving yourself all that you know you need? Are you offering presence, listening and healthy care-giving to your body's messages? To your emotional well-being? To your mental health? To your spiritual awakening?
How well you are caring for yourself is the simplest, clearest tool for assessing your own level of healing. . . it is an assessment that is always available and always absolutely free. AND, if you your assessment leaves you with a new consciousness of your need for deeper healing and you feel ready to move toward it, please reach out on your own behalf; there are many, many ways to investigate self-mending. (I am happy to assist with referrals to many types of practitioners, or if you want to work with me, personal session visits in office or by zoom.)
However you move toward letting go of what holds you back, and however you begin to embrace filling up with what you have been lacking, I wish you growth, care and
Much Love Always,
Rev. Maya Massar