Getting Through The Day

March 1, 2009 - 7:56 pm 6 Comments

A personal and spiritual approach to daily living.

Ever since learning about how Thoreau cared about the quality of each day, it
has been a reoccurring guiding theme for me- one that I often revisit as a part
of my assessment of goals, values, and ideals to hold, and to try to carry into
each day.

When I or when anyone engages in self-scutiny, t rying to appraise and
evaluate directions, motives, and goals there is an ongoing need to avoid
harsh judgment, and the willingness to be compassionate and conciliatory
towards the direction one seeks, or tries to master. Since accepting the
ministry as my primary vocation, this issue has called to me and confronted
me acutely- I have searched continually for a vital, involved approaches that
allow for a more comprehensive outlook, and an ongoing opportunity to
express my decisions, choices, and responses in a positive, affirmative,
theological and ethical ways.

Now I would LIKE to say that since becoming a minister, that my days have all
been growing, glorious, and gracious in their qualities and outcomes. But
since I also try to be honest about all that I am aware of, up front I have to
admit that some days it is grueling, and grasping, and I can feel that just
getting through the day itself, and making it to bedtime, appears to me to be
my greatest daily achievement!

Yet, the ministry asks me to heed the ever-present call to reach for and to try
to find my sense of God, grace, benevolence, and blessings in all the people
and all the circumstances that inhabit my world.

It is an unending challenge, and yet accepting that unending reality does not
make it hopeless, it always provides me with a “growing edge,” and it is an
ever-present ideal to reach for, and to accept that if even if it cannot be
reached, I am still better off for trying to attain it. For me, there is a particular
joy when I can assist others in finding more of whatever is worthwhile,
whatever is holy, healing, inspiring, and beautiful in themselves or in their
lives.

One way of remembering my essential task is to ask myself some pointed
questions that serve to check and direct my responses, my motives, and
results. I have to ask myself: “Where is God or what good is there to be found
in this attitude, action, thought or feeling? Am I putting the greater good first,
or am I being selfish? Not that I always remember to ask these questions, but
most often, these questions retain a relevance and a heartfelt resonance that
can direct my words and steps. My lifelong task is to learn how to use various
holy or spiritual ideas and ethical principles and try to apply them diligently to
every facet of my life.

A helpful way of reminding me what dail y life is all about is to remember P A
G L
— Peace, Assurance, Gratitude and Love.

These ideals were given to me at the start of my ministry by an unlikely
mentor. They were given to me by a New York psychiatrist named Thomas
Hora, a European, a classically trained therapist who created a system of
counseling based on walking through psychiatry…

Instead, he offered his patients relevant philosophical and spiritually timeless
attitudes and outlooks from the world religions in insightful ways that served
healing and wholeness. He called his system, ”Existential Meta-Psychiatry,”
to show that it was based in ideas and ideals that went beyond the
diagnostic medical model, and that its emphasis on present truth
incorporates symbolic metaphors. He advised that the best thing
we can do is avoid futile questions such as : Why? Or Why Me? In that way,
one’s practice and one’s world view can become a more philosophical and
mythological one- ones based on placing oneself in parables, stories, dreams,
that regard the whole person and one’s interior life.

Dr. Hora is among a long list of alternative thinkers, healers, and physicians
that have crossed my life’s path and left their deep impressions on me. The
psychiatrists have been Vicktor Frankel, John Lilly, Richard Moss; Brugh Joy,
Stanislov Grof, and Jerry May- all brave explorers who left traditional
approaches for a more inclusive, cross cultural view of mental health,
emotional balance, creativity, and each proposed new strategies for wellness
that drew from diverse sources. When I add Carl Jung, Rollo May, and
Abraham Maslow to the list of just the mental health related teachers, and, for
now, leaving out the list of theologians, mystics, shamans, gurus and social
reformers… You can easily see that my outlook on life has taken some
interesting twists and turns away from the cultural norm for most ministers,
and particularly away from the acceptance of religion and medicine as being
somehow separate and aloof- They have taught me the value of myth and
metaphor, how our personal stories and beliefs we have about ourselves
affect our health; They also emphasized that learning about oneself, and then
taking more personal responsibility for the myths and stories we live in or live
by can be a cooperative and synergistic approach to healing…

Ways that will compliment any psychotherapy and will supplement any drug
use we find necessary.

Last weekend, I learned from my friend, Dr. Joan Borysenko, that
approximately 16% of our American population is now classified as
being depressed, 1 in 8 people! ( and that was before the financial crisis!) And
she went on to say, that drug therapy only works in approximately 65% of the
people, and there is a full 35% who seek out help where drugs have little or no
benefit… So looking into nonmedical alternatives, to me, has much merit!
Now it would be somewhat impossible to try to encapsulate Hora’s Existential
Meta-Psychiatry, his links to Heiddegger, Kierkegaard, and the modern
influences of theologians like Paul Tillich in any short sermon, but I think I will
try…

Dr. Hora, when quoting the wisdom found in Proverbs, would say to his
students: As thou seeest, so thou be-est” and as a “Man thinketh, so in his
heart, is he.” What is the meaning of what appears to be?”

He taught that how we look at ourselves and our world, and how we allow or
permit our experiences to define us, is what or who we often do become. Dr.
Hora advises we have to be very careful about how we look at ourselves, and
how we view others, what we allow to program or influence us, for our
perceptions, whether they are fearful and insecure or hopeful and optimistic,
can influence our picture of reality… And consequently, those ways of seeing
and perceiving can have either an adverse or a beneficial effects on our
mental and emotional health!

So taking his four qualities of soul, or his four values and virtues that he taught
me that are essential for living a life of purpose and meaning,
I will share with you a summary of my understanding. These four words or
ideals are: P A G L… Peace, Assurance, Gratitude, and Love…

PEACE: I value a sustained sense of peace in my life. I prize serenity over
sensation, preferring quiet over too much stimulus. My task in this area begins
by acknowledging my tensions as my teachers; Like Jacob at Jabbock, or
what blinds Paul at Damascus, what can bind me or blind me can also free
me or bring me new vision. All it s takes is knowing the story, and allowing its
wisdom to teach me. My own life story might contain valuable clues and keys
that could eventually bless or free me. Whatever I want to see in my world
begins in my own heart, and then I have to become aware how those motives
needs to be carried forward into my responses and reactions that maintain
harmony, and that will foster the inner peace and quiet I seek.

On the most personal level, peace has to flow from an inner security and a
sense of acceptance. I cannot be peaceful if I am restlessly wanting, or
striving, or when I am battling with my insecurities. Whenever there is a sharp
word, a tense feeling, or some other form of discontent, I have to recall a
sense of peace that not just a docile acceptance, avoidance, or quick
surrender. It is an alert, yet serene.

It comes from my ability to be mindful; observe my innermost thoughts and
feelings, and then consciously decide on which thoughts and feelings I want to
invest with meaning, with purpose and with reality.

Peace requires me to be aware of the justice and equanimity within all my
motives, and to choose which actions can preserve it.

While it is true that “Blessed are the peacemakers,” I know that my tendency
toward making prophetic statements, and truth telling, does not assure me
that I will easily maintain much peace or tranquillity, or that I will be free from
agitation or restlessness. As Emerson states it, you can have truth or you can
have repose… But you cannot have both! People wish to be settled; but only
as far as they are unsettled, is there any hope for them!” Being restless in the
pursuit of ones own answers is a lifelong activity…

Because I fully realize that I cannot accomplish any sense of lasting peace
exclusively on my own, I hold that part of my sense of peace is participatory,
and interconnected to my work and my community. Peace comes to me fully
as being a shared value. The value of a church community is that it can offer
support and affirmation for peaceful resolutions and practices that we all want,
need, or desire to have in our world. The church=2 0can become that one
group in our complex and challenging lives that fosters peace and
understanding in the human heart and mind… And I believe that peace
multiplies its good when it is shared, and then made manifest to the outside
world.

ASSURANCE: Assurance takes the feelings and motives of peace and moves
me toward an inner stillness, toward an abiding sense of faith and trust. While
I know that this is often a hard quality for religious liberals to accept, I define
assurance as being attentive- paying attention to my inner voice of conscience
and faithful to my intimacy and ongoing relationship with God which I define
as the Source of inspiration and intelligence, wisdom and compassion that is
both beyond each of us, and importantly, it is a source to those qualities
that is within each of us.

For you former Methodists out there, there is an old Weslyan hymn that
begins with the phrase, “Blessed Assurance,” and whether you follow its
words literally or not, as a U-U, I know that it is trul y a blessing to feel secure
in ones heart, content in ones life. With a sufficient sense of assurance, trust
or faith, whatever events or circumstances come to us
can be processed and experienced in a growing and positive way that makes
“our extremities into God’s opportunities,” for insight and wisdom. Assurance
also strengthens our persistence, and gives us the requisite amount of
conscience and courage to choose the best course that meets our human
needs, and that preserves our souls, or what we call the center of our
awareness. Assurance, for me, gives a sense of security and comes from a
feeling I am cared for and valued, that I can maintain a sense of trust for what
my life direction seems to be.

GRATITUDE: Gratitude has always been a demand for the spiritual life.
Gratitude is often best expressed through little acts of remembrance;
remembering to say or do little things, such as a table grace before a meal, or
to say thank you when someone offers to help. I try to wake up each morning
with a thankful attitude; thankful for the day, thankful for what good the day
has in store for me. Not that I always succeed at screening out my worries,
doubts, or fears, but I do attempt to see that the day as containing
opportunities and blessings for me. What break s up my anticipatory anxieties
is to recall all the gratitude I have for the gifts of love and care I’ve received;
whether that is a warm hug, a loaf of homemade bread, friendly pet, or an
invitation to lunch, even on a day like today, some unexpected sunshine! As
monk and mystic Miester Eckhart put it” If there no other prayer you can say
except “thank you”, it is enough.”

Gratitude, for me, is also expressed in my respect for nature. As a personal
example, I experience gardening as a healing activity for myself and for the
earth; I feed the birds, because they gave up their land for my home. I
gratefully pay attention to what I eat and drink, how I exercise, and take care
of my body, as ways that I can give thanks for the gift of life…

Gratitude means beholding the good, being thankful for all good that I can
see. It helps the prophet in me to be a little less strident, a little more hopeful,
and it gives my mystical side some support and solace. Gratitude for my daily
life can have enormous and wondrous results!

LOVE: Of course, without a sense of love in ones life, few of us would get up
for work, or see that life itself would be worth the effort. One of the few things I
agree with Freud on is this: The two great motives or sources of meaning in a
man’s life are work and love. If he has one or the other, then he can survive,
he can endure most any of life’s trials. It is when you are stressed by both,
that is when his troubles can truly begin.

At its very core, in its very essence, love is a gift, and through its three
expressions, qualities or kinds we can freely bestow it on others. However, the
opposite is also true: I cannot give or offer to anyone else, what I am not
willing to give or accept for myself. Love completes our sense of peace,
assurance, and gratitude with an affectionate affirmation of what is truly of
value in our lives.

Love affirms and uplifts; that even though there may be the experience of
stress, and responsibility in our lives, Love is what fills me with hope to affirm
and believe that whatever is broken can be mended, whatever has been
wounded can be healed, whatever has been devalued, can be restored to its
dignity and truth.

Love, acts as a vigilant daily guide, it is not just a warm and sentimental
feeling; It is a deep and enduring, persistent and persevering investment. It
includes respect, equality, and dignity for others as its starting point.
Church work requires a certain loving attitude that is accepting and
nonjudgmental… It is not naive, but it is idealistic. Love does not ignore
egotism, but ask us to live out ones faith in a way that tries to affirm by both
eye and action, that this person or that this community deserves my attention,
and my empathetic support.

Since by metaphor and by sacred affirmation, we are all Gods children, we
can declare that all people are worthy of love and respect., Though I might
personally feel pressed and pressured by life’s demands, I can still remind
myself of that larger sense of divine companionship, and the Universalism that
declares that I am never outside of God’s love and care…. That blessing or
that grace is always with me, no matter my circumstances, no matter w here
the road of life happens to lead me…

Well, that is the beginning of my unfinished answer to how I survive and try to
thrive, getting through each day…. I hope that what I have related to you can
prove to be useful in your lives, and that it provided you with a deeper look
into who I am, and how I approach ministry and my daily life.

AMEN, So Be It, Blessed Be…

Delivered March 1, 2009

6 Responses to “Getting Through The Day”

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