Take a Breath

Take a breath. A deep breath! And release. What does your breath have to tell you about the pace of your life? About the stresses you are experiencing? The tension in your body? Your level of energy?

Science tells us that following stress and activity, the body must replenish. Why then do we find it so challenging to rest? To balance work and rest? Doing with being? Time together with time apart? In stopping to catch our breath, to rest, we literally provide the means for living the active life.

Parker Palmer, in The Active Life, reflects on the difference between living an active life and a state of frenzy:

For some of us, the primary path to aliveness is the active life. The active life is an extraordinary mix of blessing and curse. The blessing is obvious… But the active life also carries a curse. Many of us know what it is to live lives not of action but of frenzy, to go from day to day exhausted and unfulfilled by our attempts to work, create, and care. Many of us know the violence of the active life… Action poses some of our deepest spiritual crises as well as some of our most heartfelt joys.

Where would you place yourself on the continuum between the active life and the frenzied life?

Over the next few weeks pay attention to your breath… and your schedule.

Take a breath. A deep breath! And release.

The Summons

The Summons. Do you feel it? Are you haunted by an inescapable sense that you need to respond? That you can no longer remain silent? Most
likely this feeling has been building for a while now, born of a growing sense of disquiet over social, ecological, and spiritual divides.

Many bemoan that we have lost our way. Others try to pinpoint
when — a particular administration, the subprime mortgage crisis, the refugee crisis, global wars that rip us asunder. Still others step back
to study five-hundred-year cycles. For years now, there have been conversations pressing toward the flourishing of our communities; toward a triple bottom line of people, planet, and prosperity. The arguments in response: idealistic, but not really possible. Good in theory, not reality. All the while the Summons deepens.

The wholeness for which we hunger is not just of body, mind, and spirit, not just for humanity, but also for planet. The wholeness we seek is not
just an ethereal state of peace, but the economic realization of community- wide prosperity. Taken in context, wholeness is a social, political, and economic reality that seeks the welfare of the whole, not just a few. Indeed, our interdependence, be it local, national, or global, reflects the reality that individual wholeness is impossible apart from communal wholeness. Already, social and environmental entrepreneurs are modeling to us what it means to seek the wholeness of the communities to which we have been called in exile.

For such a time as this, we are called to join the dance of action and reflection. The Summons is a journey to nurture the poet and prophet within toward the flourishing of our communities. It seeks not perfection, but wholeness. It calls us to care for people and planet even while attending to profit: a triple bottom line. It begins with connecting soul with Source.

The Summons.

Connecting Soul with Source

I have always known Source.   

Who… what is Source? Some know Source through their faith tradition,
others as an energy, others a presence. For me, Source is relationship. When
I am connected to Source, I am in flow, fully alive. It is in these moments I find
myself serving out of the intersection of my strengths and passions, in
response to the contexts in which I love and work. So, why ever disconnect?

Sometimes, the awareness of self and others is too much to bear. Sometimes,
the vulnerability too tender. There have been seasons when
I chose to disconnect, the essential loneliness too much to bear (more about
that later) and the ego’s tug too seductive to resist. Thankfully, the divine
embrace has always welcomed me home.

One colleague believes it impossible to disconnect from Source. That is not
my experience. Nor does my reading of spiritual teachings across
traditions support such a belief. Source will not force relationship. We must
choose to connect.

As leaders, we work hard to remain physically fit, emotionally healthy, and
mentally sharp, only to find the void remains. The hunger is deep. We want to
grow up, and wake up, spiritually. We know that connecting soul with Source
is essential; that we cannot give what we do not have. The challenge, of
course, is that there are no short cuts on this spiritual journey called life.

It would be so simple if we could just attend to the task at hand. The reality is
that to have an outer transformation, first there must be inner
transformation. Without nurture of soul, we cannot lead intentional change
for the flourishing of our communities.

But what is soul? Ruth Haley Barton in Strengthening the Soul of Your
Leadership provides a compelling definition:

When I refer to soul, I am not talking about some ill-defined,
amorphous, soft- around-the-edges sort of thing. I am talking about
the part of you that is most real—the very essence of you… (before
physical form) … the part that will exist after you go into the ground.
This is the “you” that exists beyond any role you play, any job you
perform, any relationships that seems to define you, or any notoriety or
success you may have achieved. It is the part of you that longs for more
of (Source).

Soul, the essence of all of us. Soul, the part that longs for Source.

Welcome the Stranger

As I ponder the times, I am struck by the extreme expressions of fear and love. I am also reminded that where there is fear, there is hatred. Where there is love, there is life. A core practice for our times is the practice of hospitality. As a intentional practice, hospitality calls us to welcome the stranger on a daily basis.

Henri Nouwen believes that the paradox of hospitality is that it calls us “to create an emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness, where strangers can enter and discover themselves created free, free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.” Clearly, the practice of hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his or her own.

One Greek word incorporates a profound truth: xenos , the word that means stranger, also means guest and host. This one word signals the essential mutuality that is at the heart of hospitality. Think of our language’s use of xenos: philoxenia—hospitality, a love of guest or stranger; and xenophobia— fear of the stranger. We do well to remember both the danger and the need.

This month, spend some time reflecting on Henri Nouwen’s wisdom above. How does the practice of emptying relate to the practice of hospitality? Why is this important? Reflect on the word xenos. How are we called to nurture the stranger, guest and host within that we might welcome the stranger without? And, then set your intention to practice hospitality.

May we be radical in welcoming of the stranger in our midst!