This fall will mark the completion of my 19th year in Hospice related work, either as a chaplain, trainer, volunteer and as an officiant for Funerals, Memorials and Celebrations of Life. Let’s face it, as change agents they don’t get any bigger than death.
I was instrumental in putting together a family meeting for the daughters of an elderly lady who is preparing to make her transition. Mom was struggling with what she was calling the lies her children were telling her. It was not so much lies as misinformation that each daughter held to be the truth: “Mom is only having a bad day”; “Mom will recover fully and be her old self soon, you’ll see.” No, Mom is on her way home. There were as many opinions as there were minds and they were all communicated to this poor woman who, to be fair, was totally unprepared for what was happening to her. If there is any truth to past lives she had died before but I know she wasn’t remembering it now.
Once we sat down together and all heard the same prognosis, the family circle of care and connection gathered around quickly and it began to unravel in the most startling of ways. Of the five daughters in the room, not one felt truly cared for by the others; neither did they feel as connected as they wanted to, but it took one brave woman to say it out loud for everyone in the room to open the truth of it.
You have heard me say many times that spiritual communities like ours are characterized by one element that sets them apart from mainstream churches. Like monasteries, retreat houses, ashrams and the kibbutz, the Centre for Spiritual Living exists to provide a framework for spiritual practice. The organization and its leadership are grounded in the practice. We teach how to do it, and then we provide opportunities for our members to practice. When Mark Anthony Lord, our guest next week, sent me the title for his lesson, I did one of those fist pumps at my desk: YESSSSS!!
His title: COMMUNITY: The place to accelerate & enjoy your spiritual practice. Whether we are talking about a family of five sisters or a community of 100 or 1000, the principle is the same. Engagement in a spiritual practice will challenge you because its purpose is to change you. I don’t have to tell you change is challenging.
What we have done with death in our society is our attempt to do away with everything uncomfortable and challenging, deny it, and make it go away. Spiritual Practice has exactly the opposite agenda. Spiritual Practice “paints it red.” You take a class; you learn something new that disturbs you and you finish the class and leave the Centre. The Centre encourages you to engage in committed giving and you come up against your limiting beliefs about money. You serve in some capacity on the Seva Team and you get into a conflict with another member and your peace of mind goes out the window, along with the care and connection the Team was supposed to foster. The spiritual practice of serving did precisely what is was designed to do. It showed you those areas of your spiritual practice that need attention, and maybe some truth telling… to yourself. Make no mistake, if this spiritual practice thing were easy everyone would be doing it.
The Circles exist for those moments that change the lives of the members; put strain on people; AND provide care and connection when most needed. Let’s face it, it’s easy to care about people when everything is going right and when nothing comes along to upset our comfortable routine. It’s kind of like the insurance company reminding you that your car is much safer if you leave it in the garage and don’t drive it. That’s fine except that’s not what your car was made for, and where is the feeling of exhilaration and joy in that?
Come to The White Rock Community Centre On Wednesday, July 12 at 7pm. You will undoubtedly enjoy hearing Rev. Mark speak on this subject while he assists the leadership in launching the Circles of Care and Connection.