Monday, March 8, 2010

Embracing Monsters

I have been continuing to read Parker Palmer's book The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity and Caring.  In the book, Palmer argues that at the heart of the contemplative life is the embrace of those things scare us...the monsters that are our fears. These fears include our fears of failure, ridicule, looking foolish are the guides that lead us to depth and from that depth into relationship and community. 

I have to say that I feel the truth of these words, just as I also feel all the resistance to truly embracing this truth. Allowing fear of failure to rule my life means that I run or pull away when it starts to get hard.  I have been struggling with my fear and my desire.  I desire to go deeper, to sink down roots, to find out what it might mean to not be on my way to somewhere but really just the here and now.  Yet I fear being "found out."  Maybe I am not as good as others think I am.  What if I am wrong? What if I don't have all the answers?

While I was in graduate school, time was measured in semesters and I knew that I was only there for a short get my masters degree.  Living in student housing, having my spouse in school at the same time, everything felt very temporary.  How do you put down roots...risk going deep when you know that life is going to change very soon? 

Yet now I am no longer in school.  I am working at a job that I love in my field.  Yes there is more preparation to come if I want to finish the path to Unitarian Universalist ministerial fellowship and ordination. I am planning to enter the Religious Educators Credentialing program.   Of course there is always more to know and to learn.  Yet what might it mean to put down roots?  What might it mean to embrace and ride the monster that is my fear of failure?  What might it mean to risk being wrong?  What it might it mean to dive deep? 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Active-Contemplative Paradox

One of my challenges is finding the time for spiritual practice and reflection. I am hoping that this blog can become of the one places that I make time for reflection, for reading and lifting out of the day-to-day.  So in that spirit, I just picked up the book The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity and Caring by Parker Palmer.

As I started reading the book, I realize that I share Palmer's struggle to balance the contemplative life with an active life. This appeals to me as I don't have time to meditate for an hour a day or much time at all it seems to devote to a spiritual practice. What is it I need to remain grounded? to take care of myself? To not get so caught up in the day to day of the work that I forget why I do it?

He wrote the book after he left the intentional monastic community that was for people who are working, both men and women that did not require celibacy. He discovered that he was not a monk.

He groups the active life into work, creativity and caring. He says his aim it to show the contemplative-active paradox. I know for myself I have real moments of depth and connection and aliveness in my work. There is no place I would rather be than at my congregation on Sunday morning. There is aliveness to listening and talking to the college students as they trust me with their stories. It is a feeling that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. Yet I also know that the work can also take over...erasing boundaries. I can lose sight of having a personal life...of making time for my family of making time for myself.

So I look forward to reading more of the book and reflecting on how I can live in the active-contemplative paradox!