Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

To My Selves

This poem was written by one of the co-authors of the Heart Talk curriculum that our congregation taught on Sunday mornings in the fall of 2008. She and I were having an email exchange where I was suddenly struck with the interdependence of life and one of the maxims of nonviolent communication – my needs can only ultimately be met by considering your needs, and that beloved community means coming up with strategies for meeting needs that also meet the needs of everyone, and of this beautiful world. No one was born to sacrifice their needs for another. Out of this interaction she wrote this poem which I share with you below.

This will be my last blog for a while as I will be in Guatemala for the next month (most of April 2009). I will be thinking of compassionate conservation while there and how this consciousness may facilitate conservation projects and promote the flourishing of the beings that they serve. For these beings are also ourselves.

To My Selves
Veronica Lassen

You are not alone
There is no alone.
You’ve never been alone.
For we are One.
Even in your despair
One with the Life Force

That was too much to hold by yourself

Rhythmically pulsing all throughout existence

The trees held you in their arms

One with the dancing planets

The earth understood you
One with the singing of fixing
Nitrogen bacteria and tree root

Companions you’ve never met
One with the love that permeates

Were praying that you would open to love

This cherished Uni-verse

Meditating between the notes
This one-song.
Filling all matter and space with


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Anger Pleas to Please to Peace

This morning in our congregation Rev. Meredith Garmon is speaking about anger and of it’s natural place in our lives as we work with it to build peace in the beloved community. Anger is part of “hard wiring” in the basic primal emotional groups of emotions: mad, glad, sad, and afraid. To be human, is to respond in anger. Immediately however, signals of anger shoot up from our more primitive brain that responds with “fight or fright” to our cognitive centers and we begin to tell stories of why we are angry. Behind every anger response then is a “should.” We can be mad at our selves for what we should have done, mad at others for what they did or didn’t do, and underneath all of this, mad at existence for putting us in this awful pickle of being human and suffering all that we do as humans – loss, aging, death, pain, etc. In these “shoulds” then we have a chance to connect to life-giving needs, and from that to mourning, celebration in gratitude, and making specific requests as we move from victim hood to contributing to ourselves and the neighborhood. .

For example this happened to me this morning.

I opened the front page of the Gainesville Sun and there was a sticker saying “vote yes on Amendment 1” which is the amendment that would take away anti-discrimination protections from gay, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. The claim is that we need this amendment to keep men out of women’s restrooms. I had a surge of anger that came from shoulds: The Sun shouldn’t run this advertisement when they are against Amendment 1. People shouldn’t be fearful and prejudiced, and shouldn’t misrepresent the issues, etc. Translating this anger into needs I see that I long for equality, freedom, clarity, inclusiveness and understanding. Just writing these needs I feel the anger shift to empathy for the human species and a shift from “fight or fright/flight” to wanting to engage in the issue with compassion and with perseverance. If I stay in the shoulds I might flea with a plea on my tongue, “mend this world,” or might shift to thinking that those who hold different views from mine merit any less of my compassionate presence. I have faith that my compassionate presence and engagement with life will yield greater results than responding to the anger stimulus without consciously choosing what my actions and words might be. I choose peace.

Anger is a plea to please pay attention to needs, and when we do, we offer peace to ourselves and the world.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pretty Please With Sugar On Top

This evening I am wondering if you have heard recently any hard to hear complaints from anyone in your life? Has anyone said something that appears to judge or blame you or someone else? Do you feel like withdrawing from the relationship or perhaps become defensive in thought or word? Well, me too. When this happens I try to step back and take a couple of deep breaths so that I can connect to live through understanding universal needs, of how heart and hope and justice is striving to get through in all our conversations. Then I try these two things:
1. Place myself in their shoes. What might they be feeling and needing. Breath with this a while and connect to the energy of these needs without telling stories about whether the person "should" have these needs or whether they are demanding something of you or the world or not.
2. Hear in their words "please." In their howling and growling they are really shouting out with their hearts, "please, someone, anyone, help me." Or perhaps, "fix it!" or "mend my life!" Breath with this for a while and imagine them saying please, pretty please, with sugar on top. Their words and body language might not have suggested this compassionate language to you, and might never. You don't have control over them. You can only change yourself. So take a few moments, a few hours, even a life time and hear the please in others, in yourself, and in the world. It is a cry for you to connect to the beauty of the needs. And out of that connection might just come the turn of heart in yourself and others to have all the needs of others valued and on the table. Once you get everyone at that table, there will be plenty of pretty please with sugar on top to feed the world with a wonderful dessert of compassion, just deserts for all life. Maybe you won’t get what you want, but the sweet sorrow will feed your heart.

For the hope not of a sweet tooth, but a sugary please,
(let us not bite, but delight),

Sunday, March 1, 2009

All You Need is Time

(Members of our congregation protesting the Charter Amendment
- Independent Aligator)

Recently I’ve been reflecting on time management and how my life has so many balls in the air I’m juggling. I wonder too if you are busy with home, family, community, and congregation? Do you find that on some days you have an “edge” because you aren’t getting your needs for ease and rest met, and you have less energy to engage with others, or to offer yourself empathy?

I shared my concerns with nonviolent communication trainer Sura Hart this past week of how I see the people in our congregation doing so much that we have troubles communicating, remembering, and focusing on what will bring us the most life fulfilling connections and activities. She said that she really feels that the “lack of time” is what is the most significant contribution to difficulty in parenting relationships with partners and with children. So how do we decide what to let go of, and what to grab on tight to with all our heart and energy? We live in a new age where even in the last few years I see an acceleration of time grabbers through technological advances on the Internet. It seems we don’t have the tools to know how to slow down, and how to choose between saving and savoring the day. Compassionate Communication may offer us some insights into tools that we can use together.

1. Before you arise each morning think of the most compelling needs you have for that day. Don’t move into thinking of how to meet those needs, just rest in the “energy” and “feeling” of those needs. What would it feel like to have those needs met? This will help you embody your needs and in the long run will help you take clear action steps.

2. Before you begin a meeting or gathering of others, share with one another the most compelling needs you have for that day, or for that week. It is a bit like sharing joys and sorrows. The group doesn’t move into thinking how to meet those needs, or what projects or activities to do, but together you share the energy and feeling of those needs. What would it feel like for each to have their needs met? This will help the group learn from each individual what are the more important needs alive in us, and will help us take clear action steps that let go of perfection and aim for authentic heart-filling days.

I have seen how groups can struggle if they don’t do this heart check-in. For instance, I serve on the Florida Unitarian Universalist District Board and for several meetings we were at an impasse regarding next steps for the district’s anti-racism, anti-oppression, multiculturism work. (ARAOMC). We didn’t know what to do. Then we had a time for sharing our stories of how oppression had impacted our lives and what we longed for. Almost immediately the way became clear as our hearts merged into one. Now ARAOMC is a priority for our district.

Similarly we are in the middle of a heart struggle in our congregation. There is anti-discrimination legislature that might be repealed at an upcoming City of Gainesville election on March 24, 2009. If passed this will negatively impact our GLBT people, and hence all of us. Over the last few months the congregation did not take an official stand against this action and now some of us share regret with one another that perhaps we missed a chance to really focus on what is important to those we care for, for ourselves, and for our Gainesville community. If we had taken more time over the course of the last months on this to share our hearts, needs, longings, and mournings, would the way have become clearer on what is ours to do?

The wonderful thing about Compassionate Communication is that it is never too late. Now we are sharing our hearts regarding this upcoming vote, and as we let go of perfection over our past actions, I believe we are more clearly aiming, together, for shared authentic heart-filling days so that we may take clear action steps. May it be so.