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How do we learn to speak across difference?

As we enter into this 2019, one thing we know is that we need as a society to learn to speak across difference. The segmentation of the media and all the ways that we have now to hide in our own private spaces have let our skills of talking to those whose opinions are different from ours atrophy. And so many of us have experiences in which conflict has been scarring or difficult, so we don’t want to talk to those who might be in conflict with us today.

Too often we disagree with someone, we look for ways to avoid conversation or contact. This comes from the idea that there can be only one truth and we want to be with the people who know the truth. Learning our way into multiple truths is one of the spiritual disciplines that our faith invites us into.

It can be both true that we need to honor those who have dedicated years of service to our organizations and it can also be true that we need to hear the voices of those who inherit our world. All of us need to be open to ways to learn to listen without that right or wrong paradigm. In order to do this we must be willing to engage directly and not construct a bubble around us.

I’m deeply grateful to those who give me direct feedback and who are willing to talk about ways that they disagree with me. I have come to believe that our congregations learning to do this together might be one of the most important ways to live into our values and we can offer to ourselves into our world. In that spirit, I invite everyone to join us for a conversation on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. when we will talk about racial bias and our beloved congregation. This New Year may we continue to experiment, grow and learn about how we can engage in healthy conflict together.

January 4, 2019

This weekend between the holidays I took my dogs over to the Diablo Valley College campus, which was of course empty. I took them there because I’m rehabilitating my ankle and getting used to walking the 100 pounds of pulling canine again. And because I love the private explorations of public spaces in those odd interstitial times.

The abandoned campus was perfect because I wanted a place that was particularly flat and particularly uninhabited by distractions that would warrant pulling. I like to walk on public in public spaces, especially when they are quiet and vacant. I remember teaching my daughter how to drive in the local high school parking lot over the summer—and I saw three cars doing the same thing. I also saw a toddler riding his new bike, a fledgling Seque learner and a number of other canine parents. One man was very meticulously washing his car.

These holidays times let us see the familiar through those fresh eyes again. I remember walking a previous dog on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Campus where we allowed the dog the privilege of dictating where we would go. We would see the campus from a dog’s eye view, up stairwells and down stairwells and behind dumpsters and on and on. It was a very interesting experience.

This year may we have the gift of seeing the familiar anew.  And time for reflection and play and peace and healing.

Leslie’s Logos

A searing memory from my first real job was the time I gave my boss a ride and he picked up a book someone had left in my car. All these years later I remember the title—YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT—and the humiliation I felt that he would think it was mine. Now I see that the strive to be perfect is deeply woven into the dominant cultural waters in which we swim though none of us want to be called out as being a perfectionist. And just as with other unconscious actions, I want to see and name my perfectionism because that is how I will be freed from its jabbing elbows and pointing fingers.

I think my inner perfectionist sometimes hears calls for me to be a different way as calls for me to be perfect in that new way. And this can cause stress because I know I am not capable of doing this. This might make me hostile when I am called into a different way of seeing something or when I am called to be more conscious of my inner biases or my foibles or habitual ways of being.

Little Miss Inner Perfection works hard. I notice this when I get home from MDUUC on a long Sunday and the only thing that sticks in my head is the snarky comment about me being a control freak. I find myself REALLY wanting to explain that the policies and open processes they object to work better in a diverse setting—because informal means only the in-group can lead! I forget all the small good moments I got to witness and all the gifts shared by so many talented people in community. I forget what a gift it is to serve our dynamic community.

As this 2019 year unfolds, I hold a deep commitment to remember the both-and-ness of life and to enjoy the humor that life’s imperfections bring us. And to watch for little Miss P so when she is around, I can at least say, “Hey, now!”
With gratitude, Leslie

A meditation on the longest night of the year

Peace is a quality of heart and a decision of presence. Peace comes with mindfulness to what is rather than what might be or what could befall. Peace and the inner landscape of acceptance are bordered by possibility. Peace knows no dimensions or seasons, can be found in any heart at any time and in any circumstance. Peace and presence are choices we make with our very being. When we say peace on Earth, we mean it should rise up from the solid presence of the ground of our being into the hearts of all of Earth’s beings.

Let me be a bearer of peace in a world of strife. Let me celebrate growth and healing change in a time of stagnation. Let me have the strength to let go of ugliness and the fortitude to lift up the beauty in myself and in others around me for all to see. Let me be present to the reservoirs of peace within me. Let me know the gifts of peace and presence in my heart.

May the nurturing darkness of this night remind my heart of the desires in its deepest recesses. May I take time to appreciate the quiet and peace and to hold the losses before turning my spirit towards renewal and aspiration. May this longest night point to the largest commitments and may this deepest darkness remind me of my most-rooted commitments.

And then when it is time, may all of these ruminations be brought to the light.

December 14, 2018

We have had many cloudy days this week which added to shorter days. Holiday lights shine on bright against the longer nights and the stars are particularly brilliant when the cover of fog is lifted in the early morning.

This is the season of fallow, the season of contemplation and looking inward. Interesting to reflect that we fill it with so much activity as if we are running from any chance of quiet time and inner musing.

As the group of us moved together in our silent camaraderie and reflection during last week’s Breath and Spirit half-day meditation retreat, I wondered what it might be like if time for surveying our inner landscapes was built into our lives more often. What would it be like if we were to listen to those parts of us calling out for quiet and peace? What if we were to create, in our common life together, places for us to companion one each other without words and argument and strife?

This season, when my heart calls out for quiet, I am making note of that and making space to listen to its ruminations. As we enter into these longest nights, may we remember the wisdom of turning inward.

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