“Within our darkest night / You give us the fire that never dies away”
Dear hearts –
Above, you see the lines to the chant I offer you today. It is simple, to the point, and reminds us that we contain within us “the fire that never dies away, that never dies away.”
Our light of worth and dignity is inextinguishable.
But it can feel as though it has gone out, and as though we must be different from whoever we are in order to be worthy of love. But we are Beloved, now. And we can love one another now, as Joanna Macy says of our responses to the climate crisis.
Furthermore, Carl Rogers reminds us, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset.”
And while I wrote last week about perfection, this week is about imperfection.
Self-Compassion Now, the Key to Fulfilled Hope
It is compassion for ourselves in our imperfection that allows us to slowly shift our patterns, to be gently persistent in our aspirations, and yet to love ourselves all along the way.
People used to admire my voice. I went to church five times each year for Christmas because I was singing, playing handbells or the piano, or directing a children’s choir. I sang for Pope John Paul II and all over Italy when I was young.
But several things have happened in my life that have ravaged my voice, not least of which were four pulmonary emboli I had in 2014, emboli which scarred my lungs. Sleep apnea and just years of singing hard and long and not resting my voice enough.
I became ashamed of my voice.
I hated the sound of it.
I sang for no one.
I never gave my singing voice to anyone anymore.
Slowly, though, music snuck back to me. I found that I missed it terribly, though I knew (or thought I knew) that I’d never sing for anyone ever again. It came back to me in the form of calling out in desperation for Love.
Imperfection as Spiritual Practice
Singing crept into my spiritual practice. I was asked to call out to the Divine through the open doorway of my heart, and music came naturally to me. “Ageless Beloved! Ageless Beloved! Ageless!” I sang over and over again, with tears streaming down my cheeks (which did nothing for the sound of my voice, I can tell you.)
I realized that where spiritual practice is concerned, it is the gift of it that is important, not its perfection. It is the routine of it, the dailiness of it that shifts our hearts, hones our intuition, and melts unnecessary iron-hard walls that we have put up against the world. (Note I say, “unnecessary.” It is not to say that veils to protect the tender places of our hearts—or even the well-being of our bodies are not necessary.)
So today I have shared with you a slice of my wintertime practice. I have recorded a little video, part of which is my singing as it is now, important, middle-aged, never again what it once was. Then again, none of us are what we once were; rather, we are what we are and we are becoming what we will become. Just as the name of God in Exodus is said to mean – I am what I am; I will be what I will be.
So both I and my voice are what they are, and I give them to you. I give them in hope that you, too, will allow your imperfections to show to the world, to be gifts to yourself and to others.
You needn’t sing to share the gift of practice. You need only have that practice yourself.
Afraid of writing? Feel like it has to be perfect all the time? Get thee to the page!
Sad about the sound of your voice? Use it to reach out to the Divine?
Don’t know how to pray? Just sit with compassion for yourself and ask for help having compassion for others too.
Enjoy exercise but find its repetition boring? Allow the movements, over and over, to become a mantra of love, the shapes your body makes shapes of daily, holy contemplation.
Today, I hope for you that in this complicated season, you will find a practice that nourishes you. Not as some kind of New Year’s resolution, but rather as a way of expressing your perfect imperfections. Not as a means of self-improvement, but as a way to reach out from isolation to love.
Love, such as I offer you today.
Blessings, Beloved, blessings and a thousand blessings –