Enriching Your Spiritual Life

Has this covid-19 pandemic made you more spiritually hungry? I know it has done that for me. I want and need to spend more time connecting with others spiritually. For example, I have been attending Sunday services via Zoom back at our Countryside Unitarian-Universalist Church in Palatine, Illinois, where we attended services for 19 years. http://ccuu.org/. Hubby Rick and I have been attending Saturday services via Zoom with the Prague Unitarians in the Czech Republic as well. https://www.facebook.com/groups/976749862357956. I even watched the entire Easter service Pope Francis led today from Rome, even though I am not Catholic. It was delivered in Latin, with some Greek in parts, and I still watched it from start to finish!

If you are also seeking out more spiritual comfort at this difficult time, you can also host spiritual services with like-minded friends on a regular basis. Rick is agnostic and I am a Buddhist Unitarian who believes in God. We have two American friends here in Spain who are Methodists. Sharing similar values with them and wanting to deepen our spiritual selves, we decided to join forces with them for monthly services together. Before the pandemic, we met at each other’s places and would do the services there and then share dinner together afterwards. Now we meet via Zoom and continue our spiritual gatherings online. We even follow a set order of worship that we developed together. I share it below and encourage you to use some version of this for yourselves if it would prove helpful.

SPIRITUAL SEEKERS ORDER OF WORSHIP

LIGHT THE CANDLE

SHARE JOYS AND CONCERNS

SHARE AND DISCUSS MEANINGFUL READINGS

PLAY/SING MUSICAL INTERLUDE

SHARE MINDFULNESS MOMENT OR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE

GOING FORWARD: APPLYING NEW LEARNINGS

EXTINGUISH THE CANDLE (Suggested closing words from Unitarian Universalist websites)

  • Walk softly. Speak truthfully. Love gently. Breathe deeply. Live wisely. Go in peace.
  • We receive fragments of holiness, glimpses of eternity, brief moments of insight. Let us gather them up for the precious gifts that they are, and, renewed by their grace, move boldly into the unknown.
  • Before we gather here again, may each of us bring happiness into another’s life; may we each be surprised by the gifts that surround us; may each of us be enlivened by constant curiosity — And may we remain together in spirit ’til the hour we meet again.

Here is a photo of our friends Kathy and Mark at our last spiritual seekers meeting. As you can see, we don’t wait necessarily wait until the service is over to have a glass of wine.

See the lit candle in the right foreground, as well as their lit candle, also in the right foreground.

One of the best parts of preparing for these monthly services is finding readings to share with the group. This requires us to search out and read a variety of different meaningful readings we have in books or look for them online. Here is the reading I ultimately chose for our meeting earlier this week. It is from Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan Buddhist.

Rick shared a reading by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese spiritual leader. Here it is:

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvellously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

Here is the reading shared by our friend Kathy, from Richard Rohr, a globally-recognized Franciscian friar.

It is God within us that loves God, so seek joy in God and peace within; seek to rest in the good, the true, and the beautiful. It is the only resting place that also allows us to bear the darkness. Hard and soft, difficult and easy, pain and ecstasy do not eliminate one another, but actually allow each other. They bow back and forth like dancers, although it is harder to bow to pain and to failure. If you look deeply inside every success, there are already seeds and signs of limits; if you look inside every failure, there are also seeds and signs of opportunity.

Lastly, here is the reading shared by our friend Mark. It is taken from Marcus Borg’s book Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored. 

“The metaphor of rebirth, being born of the Spirit, is an image of radical transformation. An old life has been left behind, and a new life has begun. . . .
[B]eing born again is utterly central to Christianity, one of the main images for the goal and promise of Christian life. It describes our transformation and, ultimately, the transformation of the world, for those who are born of the Spirit of God as it is known in Jesus share God’s passion for a more just and peaceful world.”

Do you see how just sharing these readings and discussing why they are meaningful to you can be a spiritual experience? This sharing of readings is the main part of our services, just as the sermon is key to a typical church service. But other parts of our serivces are meaingful as well, including sharing our joys and concerns, and listening to a piece of music that reflects the theme for our monthly service, if we have one, or simply reflects what we are going through at that particular time.

Once the lockdown began in Spain in mid-March, I chose this song Requiem for our service last month. It was written and performed by Eliza Gilkyson. She wrote it after the tsunami hit Asia at Christmas time in 2004.

Mother mary, full of grace, awaken
All our homes are gone, our loved ones taken
Taken by the sea
Mother mary, calm our fears, have mercy
Drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy
Hear our mournful plea
Our world has been shaken
We wander our homelands forsaken
In the dark night of the soul
Bring some comfort to us all
Oh mother mary come and carry us in your embrace
That our sorrows may be faced
Mary, fill the glass to overflowing
Illuminate the path where we are going
Have mercy on us all
In funeral fires burning
Each flame to your mystery returning
In the dark night of the soul
Your shattered dreamers, make them whole,
Oh mother mary find us where we’ve fallen out of grace
Lead us to a higher place
In the dark night of the soul
Our broken hearts you can make whole
Oh mother mary come and carry us in your embrace
Let us see your gentle face, mary

If we see the pandemic as a tsunami of its own, the words to this song perfectly fit the times we are experiencing right now. Surely, we are experiencing a dark night of the soul and would like our broken hearts to be made whole. So this is why I have written this blog post, to let you know that you, too, can find spiritual sustenance by creating your own spiritual seekers group right now.

4 thoughts on “Enriching Your Spiritual Life

  1. Hi Janis. It sounds like we have a lot of common interests. I look forward to getting to know you better when it’s safe to be out and about again. Thanks, again, for reading and commenting on my blog posts. It inspires me to continue blogging!

    Like

  2. I particularly enjoyed reading this article Nancy as I related to it very much. I am Buddhist in the Zen Tradition of ‘No Birth No Death’ I belong to the Plum Village Sangha started by Thich Nhat Hanh. Never a day goes by that I don’t ‘breath with my beloved brothers and sisters….I walk in mindfulness, eat in mindfulness and meditate for at least one hour daily….just happy to be here in the ‘here and now’. I walk for one hour every evening (yes, even during lockdown) without leaving the community. I am watering the seeds of mindfulness and dealing with sadness, grief, violence etc by listening and understanding. I love a candle and I burn incense to help my concentration, I would love to share some of this with you. I listen to the Dharma talks given by Thay and other teachers….I am present. We must talk out our spirituality when we can.
    Janis

    Liked by 1 person

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