Monday, June 22, 2009

Sacred Play

Just hearing those two words together – sacred – play – doesn’t really seems like they fit. Sacred denotes solemn, earnestness, serious – sounds more like work! How could a word like sacred team up with a word like ‘play’?

Where does it show up in religion, in spirituality?

Looking at world religions – if we look – we see that there are the elements of play in every single one.

Zen Masters, Hasidic storytellers, Muslim Mystics – are full of stories that are playful, humorous and valuable and respected. Why is play useful to the spiritual seeker? Because the playfulness lowers our analytical instincts, brings down our ‘life is serious’ radar screen. Play opens us up….and when the story ending is unexpected – when it is humourous and not serious - it stops our mind. We see that there is something profound. What we thought was silly – is actually incredibly wise.

The word "silly" derives from the Greek "selig" meaning "blessed." There is something sacred in being able to be silly.

There is something special that happens when we play – because we are not using our logical or analytical brain – we are doing something – but for no purpose. Most of the time it is non-productive. Doesn’t make anything.

While we are engaged in play – what is happening to the rest of our being – while we are focused on fun and silliness? the rest of our being has a chance to rest, revive itself, take a break from the seriousness of life.

Play is Natural – people everywhere play – in all cultures, in all part of the world. Archeologists have discovered games that were used thousands of years ago. Games are something everyone can do – you don’t need anything. Even a child with nothing, will find a string, or a rock or a branch and in no time have created a play world.

Play begs us to use our imagination – it invokes our curiosity. Things/qualities that we don’t often use in every day life.

Play encourages us not to take ourselves too seriously. Play is the exuberant expression of our being. It is at the heart of our creativity and our most carefree moments of devotion. It helps us live with paradox and mystery. It feeds our joy and wonder. Play helps us in our search for meaning.

Play often elicits laughter and joy. Pure and simple. And we know the benefits and healing aspects of laughter. Laughter heals body, mind, and soul.

In rare moments of deep play, we can lay aside our sense of self, shed time's continuum, ignore pain, and sit quietly in the absolute present, watching the world's ordinary miracles. No analyzing or explaining. No questing for logic. No promises. No goals. No relationships. No worry. One is completely open to what may unfold. — Diane Ackerman in Deep Play

When we play, we sense no limitations. In fact, when we are playing, we are usually unaware of ourselves. Self-observation goes out the window. We forget all those past lessons of life, forget our potential foolishness, forget ourselves. When we immerse ourselves in the act of play we become free.

Play is for the moment; it is not hurried, even when the pace is fast and timing seems important. Play is a vital part of a spiritually enriching life. it has an important role in the spiritual life.

Of course seriousness and earnestness and work have a place in our lives. If you take just a moment to review – even the last week – you can probably easily see that most of the time you were not playing.

Most of us don't play enough. We're either too "busy,” or we're too serious, mistaking earnestness for accomplishment. We equate free-spiritedness with irresponsibility. The best treatment for these conditions is play. We need to lighten up.

As human beings, as spiritual beings, we need to be part of a healthy rhythm. Like breathing – in and out. This is part of what keeps us alive. And an easy rhythm of work and play is also what keeps us alive and healthy.

This natural rhythm is established even in the beginning of our spiritual heritage – in the creation story in Genesis. If we look at the story of creation it says: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth….And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Genesis 1:1; 2:2, 3.

That is what we call the Sabbath. A day of rest, recreation, play. A time for renewal.

You might say our week is spent in creation – our work, our homes, our relationships – are all under construction in one way or another. The Sabbath is a day to cease our creating; to rest and appreciate what we have done.

Keeping the Sabbath separates our doing from our being. The work from the play. Sabbath is not one particular day of the week. It is any time we take a rest from our usual activites. Every day we can do this - even for a few minutes.

Our play time is sacred. It is part of the Divine Order of the universe. Keeping time with the rhythm of creation. a time of bringing us back to wholeness.

Practice play by doing things on the spur of the moment.

Take time out to experiment.

Laugh heartily at jokes, situations, and yourself. Laughter is a holy thing. It is as sacred as music and silence and solemnity, maybe more sacred. Laughter is like a prayer, like a bridge over which creatures tiptoe to meet each other. Laughter is like mercy; it heals. When you can laugh at yourself, you are free. (from website)

From the book Spiritual Literacy: Playing around is a good and holy thing. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. It enables us to express ourselves, to use our intuition and imagination, to savor pleasure and the lightness of being, and to make our humble contribution to the unfinished masterpiece of the world.


A student went to see his meditation teacher and said, “My situation is horrible! I feel so distracted most of the time, or my legs ache, or I’m repeatedly falling asleep. It’s terrible.” Said the teacher matter-of-factly, “It will pass.”
A week later, the student returned to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive!” “It will pass,” replied the teacher.

Dear God, Are You really invisible or is it just a trick? Lucy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Abundant Life is Ours

Create What We Can, With What We Have, In the Vision that God Inspires.

Remembering this has really helped me through many situations where I felt stuck or did not know how to proceed.

So - Create What We Can, With What We Have …..what do we have? Look around……………you all got here this morning. That means you have ability to move about, a way to get here - whether by car, bus, your own feet,….it looks like everyone here is dressed - has clothing… probably if we wanted to - we had something to eat this morning…………even if we stop here - we already have much.

And what often happens is that we stop there. We see what we have through our physical senses and think - that is all we have. And often that does not feel like enough. We notice what we don’t have. What others have that we don’t. all the places that are lacking in our lives.

The outer things are only part of the picture. And often that is our focus and where we put our effort and attention.

But there is another very important aspect of our lives and that we are also spiritual beings. And as spiritual beings we have within us a whole lot more. As spiritual beings we are creations of the divine - of God. The same wisdom that God is - we have. The same strength that is God - is within us. There is no separation. it is closer than our breath. It is our pattern for perfection - it is our inheritance.

So what happens when we forget that Truth - when we are asleep to that reality?

We limit ourselves tremendously. Because our human strength and energy will only get us so far - and then what happens? If we don’t get the results we want what do we do? We work harder and do more - in the outer things.

if I work a little harder, if I can do this better, if they would do that differently…………we are totally caught up in our human “doing”.

How many times do we look for a higher answer - a better way - only when we are down on our knees? When we have exhausted all possibilities and we do not know what to do next. And only then - do we - hopefully - turn to our higher power, to God, to divine energy.

Some of you may remember from the last time I was in India about the harrowing bus ride from Delhi up into the Himalayas where I volunteered with the Tibetans. The bus ride is 14 hours overnight in a bus that is barely holding together and in some very narrow and steep roads. The worst part of the journey is the last few hours when the driver is - must be - getting tired and the roads are more hazardous. About 4 am I started to get anxious. I started with Prayer of Protection - noticed driver was Hindu - went to Hindi prayers, then thoughts of all the Tibetan Buddhists in the bus and thought I will add my prayers to theirs - and continued to 8 am when we arrived - in one piece - in MacLeod Ganj.

Isn’t this what we do – we don’t think of connecting with Divine Power until we are scared silly.

Can anyone relate to this? Even the disciples do this same thing and there is a great story that illustrates this - and give us the answer to this very human predicament.

Remember, in Unity we look at the stories and characters in the Bible as a vehicle to discovery. Discovery about ourselves - how we act - what we do - what we fail to do. Each person represents a part of us - we share the human experience with the people in these stories. So as you listen to this - reflect on how we do the same thing as the disciples.

Mark 4:35

Jesus is asleep in the stern. A storm blows up - they row an fight the storm as best they can and when it looks like they will be swamped - they cry out to Jesus - help - save us. Jesus awakes and says simply - peace be still. And the sea is calm.

Anyone been in a situation like this? Scared? Have done everything you can think of - and nothing is changing? Desperate? Here the disciples are feeling like the boat is going down - they have run out of ideas and they turn in desperation - help - do something - they call out to Jesus.

Now Jesus represents the Christ Presence - the perfection of God within us - our highest inner knowing.

So - notice - in this story. Jesus is in the boat. He is there all the time - quietly sleeping. Until he is called for - then he responds with those beautiful powerful words: peace be still.

We only need to ‘wake it up’. It is not going to throw itself on us - it is not going to control our lives - we are not puppets. It is waiting in potential - for us to activate it - to wake it up.

“Create what we can with what we have…” This Christ Presence, our divinity, is part of ‘what we have’. And we don’t have to wait until we are drowning to activate it. we don’t have to wait until we feel like we are out of options, when we are desperate - to wake it up.

A story is told that, early in his ministry, a group of seekers came to the Buddha, to sit at his feet and to receive his words of wisdom. They were very impressed and one of them finally asked,

“Who are you, anyway? Are you a GOD?”

“No,” the Buddha replied

“Are you a SAINT?” asked another.

“No,” he said.

“Are you a PROPHET?”

“No, not a prophet.”

“Well, then, who are you?”

And very calmly the Buddha replied: “I am awake.”

That’s what we want to be - Awake. Awake to the knowing that we already have an incredible reservoir of strength, wisdom, peace……within us right now.

There is a wealth of opportunities and resources available to us - right now. Let’s wake up!