Embracing Enoughness – 12/07/20
Opening Music: ‘Spirit of Earth’ played by Sandra Smith
Hello everybody and welcome to this Kensington Unitarians’ Sunday gathering online. Welcome to our congregations members, to visitors and friends joining us today, and to all of you who may be listening to, or watching, this service on YouTube some time in the future. And though we choose to keep a physical distance for everybody’s well-being, yet we can still create a sense of togetherness, here in this community that encourages us to be ourselves, to be who we truly are, knowing that we are accepted here just as we are – whoever we are, however we are feeling, whatever is going on for us in life right now. We’re here to remind one another that we are, each of us, OK just as we are.
So let’s take a moment to have that message sink in – we are ok just as we are – let’s breathe that in and as we breathe out we might want to let go of any feeling that doesn’t support that message. Let’s breathe in the acceptance and breathe out any doubts we may have about our worth, about our value here in this world, and as we breathe in that warm sense of being accepted just as we are, let’s align ourselves with all that we hold to be of greatest worth, the spirit of love itself filling our very being and whispering to us an inner message of acceptance and welcome.
And so I light our chalice flame, this symbol of our Unitarian community the world over, the oneness of its light reminding us of the one light shining in all that exists. Let’s focus for a few moments on this flame ….. let’s imagine a light shining within each of us and beaming out to a world so in need of its illumination and warmth. And may its one flame remind us of one of life’s essential messages: we are each of us enough, just as we are.
Candles of Joy and Concern:
Each week when we meet here in church we share a simple ritual of candles of joy and concern, where we invite one another to light a candle and share something that is in our heart. So here in our Zoom service we’ve given a good few minutes for some of you to tell us of a joy or a concern, and to light a candle, real or imaginary. Speaking on Zoom can feel a bit awkward but persevere as it’s special to hear some other voices and perspectives, you’ll need to unmute your microphone when you want to speak, and then re-mute once you’ve finished speaking – and let’s stay aware of how long we’re speaking for so others have chance to speak too. If you are reading this service at home do light a candle for your own joys and concerns if you wish.
So let’s now think of the joys and concerns we’ve heard expressed today, let’s breathe them in as precious examples of what it is to be human, ….. and as we breathe out release anything that we feel ready to let go – that we might hold this human condition we all share as lightly and lovingly as we are able.
…May we remember those who have spoken, those they have named, and those issues we hold in silence in our hearts. And may everyone find someone to share their joys and concerns with this day if they so wish…..
Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzburg writes that ‘Only love is big enough to hold all the pain of this world’.
Let’s settle ourselves now in readiness for a time of reflection and prayer inviting the spirit of life and love to be with us all.
In this world where people so often feel that they are not good enough, may we learn to value our unique gifts, and learn to recognise the spark of the divine potential in all we meet – including ourselves.
May we learn to accept life’s imperfections in ourselves and others and in our wider world. May we understand the value of being ‘good enough’ – flawed and still ok.
In this world where so many people struggle with shortages – of money, of time, of food, of clean water, of places to live, of safe spaces, of freedom, of love, of companionship – may we do all we can to right injustices that there might be a fairer sharing of this world’s resources; may we truly understand how best to meet our needs rather than our greeds; may each of us find a peaceful space within ourselves where we can rest in the knowledge that we have what we need and that it is enough, that we are enough.
In a few moments of shared stillness I invite you to rest in this awareness of enough…….and from a place of plenty let us now direct our thoughts and prayers to places and people we know to be in need this day….. we might especially think of the people of Hong Kong whose democratic freedoms are now under such threat, …… we might pray for all those whose are bereaved or are very ill, that they might be surrounded by love and the very best care…….and for all those who hunger and thirst this day ………. May we be inspired to right life’s injustices …… And may love hold all the pain of this world in its embrace, this day and all days, amen.
And now let me hand over to Harold who has today’s reading for us.
I’m going to read a few extracts from spiritual writer Wayne Muller’s inspiring book A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough. He advocates living in the moment, simplicity, sufficiency, and gratitude.
“We sometimes forget what enough feels like.”
“Enough is a verb, a conversation, a fugue, a collaboration. It is not a static state, something achieved or accomplished. It is relational, by nature unpredictable, punctuated by wonder, surprise, and awe. (It may feel dangerous and inefficient.) It demands that we stay awake, pay attention to what is true in this moment, in our hearts, and make the choices always and only from that place. Then whatever we decide brings a sense of rightness and sufficiency, arriving with an exhale, a letting go, a sense that this, here, for now, is enough.”
“A life of enough is born in every moment — in the way we listen, the way we respond to the world, the way we see what is and tell the truth of who we are. Every single choice, every single moment, every change of course can bring us closer to a life of peace, contentment, authenticity, and easy sufficiency, a life of being, having, and doing enough.”
Eventually in life we must learn ‘that nothing, no thing or person or relationship or fortune, will ever belong to us. It is all on loan.’
“But here is the rub. Love, kindness, generosity, companionship, joy, delight, happiness — these are all beautiful, precious gifts and blessings that grow in the very same soil from which we harvest sorrow, pain, loss, and heartbreak. The greater our heart’s capacity for joy, the more we will learn to truly bear our sorrows.
“Here is the final thing we must know. We carry within us a fierce grace that will not be extinguished, does not break, cannot ever leave us comfortless. It lives in us. This life force, whatever it is that allows a blade of grass to push up, up through concrete to reach for sun and warmth, this lives in us, this is what we are made of. If we trust in this impossibly resilient capacity to bear all we are given, and recalibrate our speed in such a way that we allow ourselves to feel the searing burning loss of something or someone precious, then we can stand passionately and honestly before one another and offer our most deeply impossibly suffering heart’s fearless, honest, loving kindness. And it is from this shared kindness, born of our own sorrow and loss, that we find, with and for one another, in shared, loving companionship, some tender budding fragrance of enough.”
Spoken Meditation – with words from the Tao Te Ching
‘They who know they have enough are rich.’ Tao Te Ching
We’ve come to the meditative part of our gathering today, and there’ll be some words of introduction, suggestions of ways for us to relax our bodies and minds, leading into a couple of minutes of shared silence and that will come to an end with Erik Satie’s piano piece Gymnopedie No. 3. Satie’s music is a fine example of less being more, his notes are sparse and spaced, they create a space for us to imagine, a space for us to simply be. We’ll have about 6 minutes altogether for this meditation, so let’s get comfortable, perhaps softening our gaze or closing our eyes, paying attention to the quality of our breathing and slowing the breath down, or softly deepening it, breathing in to our belly; …… we might feel some of the tension leaving our shoulders as they move downwards towards the floor, ….. relaxing the muscles of the head, face and neck, maybe imagining a soothing hand brushing cares from our forehead, or wherever we hold tension, in our backs maybe or even in our feet and toes; we have so many different muscles that can hold tension without us realising, let’s use the rhythm of the breath to ease our bodies.
Music: Gymnopedies No 3 by Erik Satie played by Sandra Smith
Reflection on Enough
Here in Britain this week the problems of bringing a society out of a lockdown continue to fill our news broadcasts and newspaper front pages. Our government has an unenviable task of encouraging us all back into economic activity after months in which many of us will have existed quite happily on significantly reduced expenditure. So I’m grateful to the chancellor of the exchequer for making some of us laugh with an exciting offer of £10 off a meal out in August, but only on 3 days of the week, and no discounts on alcohol. Maybe laughter can help us see the shaky and unsustainable foundations on which our economic system is based. The title for our service today Embracing Enoughness came from the Franciscan teacher Father Richard Rohr’s writings and I’m grateful to him for the reminder of just how unhealthy our current world view is. I quote: ‘Most of us have grown up with a capitalist worldview which makes a virtue and goal out of accumulation, consumption, and collecting. It has taught us to assume, quite falsely, that more is better. But it’s hard for us to recognize this unsustainable and unhappy trap because it’s the only game in town. ……..“I produce therefore I am” and “I consume therefore I am” might be today’s answers to Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” These identities are all terribly mistaken, but we can’t discover the truth until we remove the clutter. The course we are on assures us of a predictable future of strained individualism, environmental destruction, severe competition as resources dwindle for a growing population, and perpetual war. Our culture ingrains in us the belief that there isn’t enough to go around, which determines most of our politics and spending.’
Words from Richard Rohr.
Enough. It’s only a little word but if we heard its message clearly enough it would tell us all we need to know about how to live sustainably on a planet with mostly finite resources. Enough.
Enough. It’s only a little word but it can provide such a helpful counterbalance for all of us who have absorbed messages from childhood that love and approval and positive regard are conditional. That idea that we must try harder, do better, be more, do more, have more if we are to gain the love and approval we yearn for from others.
It can take some of us a lifetime truly to take in and believe the message that we are good enough – just as we are – with no need for that endless striving, that painful self-criticism. And I reckon that most of us have some particular area of life where we doubt our own value – a quiet, shameful place of seeming self-knowledge – where we feel we have failed or are failing, where we are somehow ‘less than’ those around us.
Imagine for a moment each and every one of us in this world experiencing the restfulness of knowing that we are alright just as we are, that we are ok, that there’s nothing to do, nothing to prove, nothing to change, nothing to strive for. ‘We are alright just as we are’. Let’s breathe that in for a moment ….. and imagine sending it back out as a message of peace and ease to the people around us and out there in the busy streets – to people struggling with life in so many ways – a message of ‘it is enough, we are enough’. A message that could sink deep into every heart, reminding us all that we are inevitably imperfect, that our lives have many loose strands, that aiming for ‘good enough’ is a high enough ambition for most of us, most of the time.
And yes we know another truth, that our world contains some people who are not ok, people who have fallen from grace and are causing great trouble for others. People who think far too much of themselves and cannot understand how that damages themselves as well as others. And we know of the many people the world over who are struggling to feed themselves or their families, people who cannot pay the bills. The aching gap between rich and poor in our world is a crime that involves us all.
Our loving hearts ache for all those who are in need; all those who are in trouble; – and for all those who experience more hidden hungers – yet just as real – the hunger for companionship, the hunger for touch, the hunger for meaning and purpose in life, the hunger for kindness, the hunger for freedom. I wonder what hidden hungers you are particularly aware of within yourself, or within those you know and love? For surely most of us carry hidden yearnings, some of which we are aware of and know only too well, whilst other hungers hide their face from us and yet unconsciously direct our behaviours, our habits, our habitual natures.
We know some of the neuroscience behind our addictive searches for ‘more’ in life – we understand that it was the pre-historic human being most alert to the new discovery, the feeding opportunity, the chance to get ahead, to be there first, who succeeded and stayed alive, we understand that there’s a part of our brain which rewards us when we grasp and acquire and accumulate.
And what is now required of us, living as we do on a crowded planet, is that we temper our desires with other motivations. With Mahatma Gandhi’s words to encourage us – ‘there is enough for everyone’s needs but not enough for everyone’s greed’ – we can examine our lifestyles and make adjustments in response to environmental imperatives that become daily more urgent.
We can counter-balance our unconscious appetites with a very consciously chosen path of self-awareness. We can sit with an aching sense of loss, or of not being or having enough, and we can befriend our yearnings rather than being frightened of them. For some of our yearnings may be signposts, that could guide us forward in life, indicating where we want next to head towards.
And sometimes our yearnings cannot be our guides towards new choices. Sometimes our yearnings are the necessary regrets that assail most lives at times, especially as we get older. And in this may we find comfort from sharing those regrets with others and in knowing that we are not alone. As Wayne Muller wrote so beautifully in Harold’s reading earlier on: “And it is from this shared kindness, born of our own sorrow and loss, that we find, with and for one another, in shared, loving companionship, some tender budding fragrance of enough.”
Let’s each of us embrace the enoughness of our lives this day, amen.
Hymn: Come and Find the Quiet Centre
We’ve come to our hymn singing moment now – when we can all sing out really loud safe in the knowing that our microphones are muted. Be assured, we won’t hear one another. Today’s hymn ‘come and find the quiet centre’ has so many useful reminders for us all, about making space and clearing clutter:
Come and find the quiet centre
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the space where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.
so I suggest you just sing out really loud alongside the Unitarian Music Society who made this recording – and the words will be shown on the screen. And it’s sung to a lovely old folk tune from the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides – it’s fine just to listen if you’d rather.
Silence is a friend who claims us,
cools the heat and slows the pace;
God it is who speaks and names us,
knows our being, touches base,
making space within our thinking,
lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we’re shrinking,
finding scope for faith begun.
In the Spirit let us travel,
open to each other’s pain;
let our lives and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain:
there’s a place for deepest dreaming,
there’s a time for heart to care;
in the Spirit’s lively scheming
there is always room to spare.
And so some announcements: My thanks go to Jane and Jeannene for all the background work today, especially Jane for your rapid development of editing skills so we can all now watch these services again and again and again on our very own Kensington Unitarians YouTube channel. Thanks also to Sandra Smith our pianist today. All of you much appreciated.
It’s been such a pleasure to see all of you today, albeit on a screen rather than in person. We’ll be back again next week for a 10am service here on Zoom, and you’re also welcome to join us for our 10.30 coffee morning on Zoom on Tuesday and our poetry sharing session on Thursday this coming week – part of our Thursday@Three series of activities.
Like most organisations we’ve had a serious dip in our finances – and now we have an easy way to donate online – on the front page of our Kensington Unitarians website. Thanks to everyone who has already given us a donation or taken out a monthly standing order.
We’re going to have some closing words in a moment followed by Handel’s trumpet fanfare – I invite you to select gallery view on your screen now so that we can all see each other for the closing words.
I extinguish our chalice flame but not the warmth of this community. And I send the light of this candle out into the world that we all might learn that we are enough, just as we are. Let’s take a moment to look at one another, breathing in an awareness of the others here with us this day, as well as connecting in thought with others who could not join us, and breathing out a loving appreciation of one and all.
Ram Dass writes that ‘Our whole spiritual transformation brings us to the point where we realize that in our own being, we are enough.’
In the week ahead let’s remind ourselves that we are enough, let’s remind one another that each of us is good enough just as we are and let’s remember to examine our yearnings from time to time and use them to guide our ways of being in the world, so that our human community might learn to live sustainably for the greater good of all life, amen, go well everyone and blessed be.
Closing music: Handel’s Trumpet Fanfare played by Sandra Smith
Rev. Sarah Tinker
12th July 2020