Monthly Archives: September 2016

Leadership

I just started reading John C. Maxwell’s “Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of leading.” Now I read a lot of leadership books. It was part of my training in psychology and as a minister. For whatever reason, I was blessed with folks even outside my official teachers that kept steering me back in the direction of studying leadership. So I know I’m slogging through the wrong book when I sit there thinking, “I could have written this and why is the author dumbing it down so much?!?” I know I’m on the right track when I’m highlighting every other word and/or planning a class or how I can fit certain ideas into a Sunday talk. Leadership Gold is of the second group, in case you’re wondering. Since this is a library book, I can’t highlight. I’ve already got my talk for this week written on a slightly different subject. Luckily… I blog.

I’ve barely made it through the introduction and I can tell you right now, this book is really about spirituality and the job of a bodhisattva. Did you know I’m a bodhisattva? Did you know that you are, too? Being a bodhisattva is the best job in the world. A bodhisattva is the best kind of spiritual leader – someone who comes and reminds folks of their own inherent wisdom and power and maybe nudges them toward certain practices or tools along the way. Okay, so I nag. We all have our talents.

The bodhisattva as described by Maxwell starts by first learning for him or herself the art and science of leadership. Step one in leadership is always going to be knowing how to use the tools of the trade. If I can’t do it, I can’t teach it. And if I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t speak about it simply so that other folks can learn it. So I have to live this stuff. Now, if I make it all complicated it’s called theology. If I make it esoteric and ineffable, it’s called mystic philosophy.

In spirituality, it’s really just being a decent human being. Yep, that’s all we bodhisattvas do. It really boils down to “Be nice.” We gussy it up in ritual and burn incense and write long books we call scripture, but that’s what spirituality really is. Being nice means I listen attentively and respectfully. Being nice means I don’t want to take away from other people or tell some folks they can’t be part of our group. If I were being professional that would be called being racist or homophobic and/or having a “lack and limitation” consciousness, but it’s really just a variation on not saying “Give me your lunch money and no, you can’t sit with us.”

A bodhisattva’s main job is to help other people become, well, bodhisattvas really. Leadership is really teaching other people to be all they can be, coaching and encouraging them. I can’t be a leader if I’m walking alone. That’s a hiker, not a leader. I need folks to walk with me. These days, leadership doesn’t even look like walking at the head of the line –it’s more like being part of a group of hikers, but knowing the trail better than the others. As Maxwell wrote, you’re a tour guide not a travel agent.

So if you’re part of my community and I get to the do this in person – keep up, don’t wander off and definitely ask questions (h/t to Doctor Who). If you’re just passing through, take what you found useful and toss the rest. You know which is which. And either way, yes, you can sit with us and I’ll trade half my ham and cheese for some of your baloney… hey, that’s deep

The Vows

Most of you know that I was raised Catholic. I thought all the clergy took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. However, I’m taking a class right now that says that ain’t so! According to our teacher, many spiritual folks don’t realize that there’s a cultural belief, or something in the race consciousness that says to be spiritual, you must take these vows. What the heck was I thinking?

Poverty doesn’t just mean that people will watch to see what car I drive. It means that if there’s something good going on, I should apologize for it. Who am I, a servant of the Divine, to take the best of what’s offered? Now, as I type that, it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve caught myself explaining that my new(ish) car was actually a gift from my mom’s estate. Oh, and I really needed a new car. Oh, and it’s ecologically sound and I got the most basic model. See where I’m going with this? I took the vow at some point, albeit unconsciously.

And then there’s chastity. Want to end an awkward date? Or get out of having to go on one in the first place? Tell him you’re a minister. Go ahead. No really. Best if you wait until he’s been flirting, or even better, told a dirty joke. I was raised Catholic, remember? Clergy doesn’t date. Now that’s just me, but I’m willing to point out that “hedonist” is usually not a compliment. In modern terms, then, chastity means not enjoying sensual pleasures, like silk pj’s or really good wine. It can mean lots of things to lots of people, but I’m off to confession because last night’s chicken was truly exceptional, so you’ll have to figure that one out yourself.

And that leads to obedience. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do being told what to do. I don’t react well at all to being given orders. Do you know a meta-physician who does? Neither do I. Our teacher explained that in modern terms, obedience means needing to work really, really hard in order to be a good servant. I’m a spiritual person so I must get up super early to meditate and read self-help books and scripture (where’s the sarcasm font on this thing?). To be a good person, or at least one who is spiritual, our culture says you can’t get angry or impatient. One who is obedient to the Divine does not rest when there is more work to do (and there will always be more work to do).

So those are the vows. Are you recognizing yourself in any (or goddess help us, all) of these? What would your life look like if you excused yourself from those vows? How about all the other ways we play small in this life? You don’t have to go live large right now – don’t freak out. Just think about it.

I’ll be over here, with my glass of wine and some chocolate. Doing my penance.

Spirit was willing….

This morning if I hadn’t had an appointment, I don’t think I’d have gotten up. There’s nothing wrong – I just decided to ignore linear time and play on social media. Ever notice that reading about doing stuff (DIY projects, how to meditate, etc.) is not the same actually doing it? I’ve been clipping pictures of gardens for a couple years now, but my own meditation garden area is still dirt, concrete and a few weeds.

This is why I both love and dislike our philosophy. Nothing happens until I actually use it. I can tailor the tools to fit my needs and my personality. It’s all about me and how I experience the Divine. At the same time, this spiritual work is like any physical exercise. You can’t really pay someone else to do it for you. If that was possible, I’d be paying fitness coaches lots and probably working full-time doing the spiritual work for other people. Somehow it’s easier to do this stuff for other people rather than myself. But that’s kind of a different topic.

The good part is that Spirit is always willing. Spirit will wait for all of us to sit down and listen (read: meditate). Spirit will wait for us to decide and then say what we really want (read: pray). Spirit is waiting for us to notice how powerful we are, how loved we are, how beautiful we are.

The even better part is that sometimes Spirit conspires for our good. I had an appointment this morning and didn’t know the other person had to cancel until I was already up, dressed and in the office. So here I am, doing my work and loving it. And I’ll have extra time to do my personal work, and love it.

Are you willing today to let Spirit “trick” you into loving yourself? Into feeling loved by the Universe? Into looking into the Universal mirror and seeing your own beauty?

Mercury in Retrograde

I tried to come to work on Saturday, I really did. I woke up not feeling like doing anything, but I figured once I got here the energy might kick in. I got here and there was a praying mantis balanced perfectly on the doorknob. I didn’t want to knock him off, so I went around the building to go in another door. Then I spent about half an hour trying to get my computer to turn on. It thought it was on and all the lights were lit, but I had nothing on the screen. So I decided to go back home and use my own computer to write my talk. I couldn’t get the printer to print. After much prayer (well, I said God a lot) and a trip out for ink, I figured it out. And then I remembered that Mercury is retrograde right now, so of course I was having trouble.

Except that’s not why I think I was having so much trouble. I had decided that I had no energy to do work and so I created all sorts of obstacles for myself. I wanted to want to write, both my Sunday talk and this blog post, but in truth I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my day. Since I was sending mixed signals to the Universe, I got mixed signals back. I was able to eventually get things done and even use the technology available to me. Still, it was a struggle. And I knew I was creating it.

Sometimes I am smart enough to remember what I teach. I’ve taught over and over again that beating ourselves up for whatever we’ve created is a waste of time. It’s far faster to skip the guilt and just create something else. I learned when I was in school that if a paper wasn’t ready to be written, it wasn’t going to write. Or I’d force the issue and end up with something highly delete-able. I finally figured out to walk away and do something else, then sit down again later and let the paper write itself. Shaming myself for not having it all together when the calendar says I’m scheduled to be creative is something I do less and less. I’m generally smart enough to wait for the Universe to write talks and blog posts. So here I am, Sunday morning, with a talk that wrote itself last night and blog post that is flowing this morning.

Mercury can retrograde all it wants to. Spirit and I have this covered.