Archive for June, 2006

Being ourselves, together

June 25, 2006

At Meeting today the first ministry was about roots of trees intertwining, and that being a metaphor for the way we connect with each other in a Quaker community.

This prompted a further response in me to Leith's WGYF report, which I read again yesterday as it'd just been published in the NZ Friends Newsletter. In it she spoke of being so challenged by beliefs so very different to her own, and yet being able to try love, and being accepted by those whose beliefs were at times contradictory to hers.

She wrote that Grace from (Australian YM) had summed up her experience by saying:

"I came here with my heart and mind prepared to meet all of you, and most importantly, to be myself and also to encourage all of you to be yourselves . . . through my time here, there have been some times when I’ve been sitting in this room and I’ve been so uncomfortable. And for these times I give thanks, because it’s in these times that many of you feel most at home. The most important thing that I’ve learned and embraced is that we’re all so different from each other. And yet this is the only place in my life where I feel I truly fit. So, if I can be me and fit here, and you can all be you and fit here, then that’s just totally amazing!"

I heard a few years ago of a theory of human needs, which said that we have a number of needs which are in tension with each other. We have, the theory states a need for significance, and a need for connectedness. We need to be individuals, to be ourselves, to be distinct from others, and to be noticed and appreciated for what we uniquely provide. We also need to be connected to others, to be love, and accepted as a part of a greater whole. If we become too significant (like a celebrity) we risk not being able to genuinely connect with anyone, and if we become too connected we risk losing our identity.

Many faith communities it seems to me ask a high price for the connectedness that comes from belonging to them. They ask people to subscribe to a particular doctrine, or set of beliefs, to behave a particular way. Other communities, like New Age ones for example allow people to be however they please, but appear to have little true spirituality which connects people together. In Quakers we seem somehow to have gotten the best of both worlds. In this community I feel like I can be fully and uniquely me. I can have my beliefs, my faith, my spirit develop at the pace I need it to, and to express itself in the way that is right for me. And at the same time, I can be connected to a wider community that will accept me just exactly as I am. Here I can be connected, and interdependent, and loved without having to change how I am, or the way I act.

During Meeting this all came together for me. The first speaker was the mother of people I went through children's Meeting, JYF and YF with. My roots are here, and now finally I'm beginning to understand why I've come back. At that moment I realised I was ready to apply for Membership. I have been asking when this would come, and waiting until it did. Tonight I'm going to write a letter of application to our Clerk.

This sort of expresses how I feel: 

To stand in this forest we do not have to be pine trees,
To grow here we do not have to stand in rows,
Or rustle just so because all the other trees do,
We do not have to be a particular colour, or height,
And we do not have to grow tall and straight,
We can be whatever shape we need,
And choose our own way to grow into the light,
We can be covered with birds singing,
Or stand quietly in the silence of the night,
And yet we are all essential parts of this forest,
Loving and sheltering each other,
And together we can celebrate,
And stand shaking in the wind of the spirit.

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Silent Ministry

June 18, 2006

Meeting today was silent for the first 45 minutes. For a couple of minutes someone had been coughing intermittently. One person got up and took them a glass of water from the table, and someone else got a cough lozenge from their bag and gave it to them.  These simple acts of care for each other said far more to me than spoken ministry could have.

Cold hands warm heart

June 15, 2006

We had our first really good solid frost in Christchurch this week.

I love the cold, and I love frosty mornings. While these sort of tempartures might send some people scurrying back off to the North Island, they make me feel alive. I think part of this is because I'm kind of naturally over heated. My ayurvedic prakruti is very dominanetly pitta, the 'fiery' kind of body/personality type. I can't really eat spicy food or take caffeine, they respectively make me sweat and burst into flames, and become fizzy and unfocused. When I'm off balance it manifests in frustration, and inflamation type ailments. Anything that cools me down seems to help. Being in nature, around water, and any kind of cold environment brings me back on balance.

What I also love about frosty mornings is that in Christchurch it means it's going to be a beautiful sunny day. That doesn't mean it'll be warm, but it does mean it won't be drizzly and dreary.

The funny things about my 'heated' mind/body composition is that I get really cold hands in the winter, and I don't anger easily. My Dad was very slow to anger too, it's interesting that the 'fieryness' doesn't lead to a predisposition for a flaring temper. I've always considered that a real blessing, that I can take time to think things through before responding. Not such a blessing is having to wear gloves all the time in winter, although I do quite like the way my black leather gloves look with my suit, and I love my merino wool and possum fur muppety gloves.

Ayurveda has taught me a lot about how to manage the unique mental and physical makeup I (and we all) have. With that, and the guidance of friends, I reckon I'm doing OK.

Run past fast

June 4, 2006

Wahoo, I did it. I ran my first half marathon. In 1:51. I didn’t really have any idea how long it would take me, I was more concerned about just finishing the race and hoping my legs would hold out. Dad helped me make a good plan though, sticking to 5 minute kilometers, and aiming for 1:45. So I just kept a slow and steady pace. I slipped back 3 or 4 minutes, but I wasn’t too bothered, as long as I was able to finish, and ideally come in under 2 hours.

At around 18k I was starting to feel really good, fairly certain that my legs would hold out. I sped up a bit, and started passing people. By 19k I was still feeling good, so I sped up a bit more. At 20k, with just 1k to go I thought I may as well go as fast as I could. It felt fantastic to be at the end of a race, at least 8k further than I’ve ever run, and to have the energy to go as fast as I could.

Seems like Dad was right. Taking it slow and steady, sticking to your plan, ignoring the hype of the crowd around you, running your race and no one elses…

Low and slow

June 1, 2006

In "Illusions" by Richard Bach one of the characters, a man who is a retired messiah, flies a plane in to a paddock that is theoretically too small for it to land.  The protagonist of the novel, Richard, was concerned to see the plane coming in 'low and slow', an aeronautical phrase meaning just what it says, with the implication that going too slow will cause the plane to stall, and crash.

I've been thinking about pace, and speed a lot recently.   I like to run, to go fast.  I get so much out of doing this, it's thrilling, exciting, and extremely compelling. Maybe I do worry though that if I'm not constantly moving, I might miss something, or crash.  In times of difficulty motion is always what has saved me.

Over the last 3 years that I've been jogging in the morning, I've often seen a pair of women out walking.  Three years ago they were both quite overweight.  Almost imperceptably, day by day, they've both gotten leaner, fitter, and their hellos more cheerful.  When we first put our garden in six years ago, the plants were little, and fragile.  Some of them took three or four years before they even started growing in size.  Now many of them are tall, strong, and lush.  

I once heard that many people significantly overestimate what they can achieve in a year, and significantly underestimate what they can achieve in five years.

A couple of nights ago I was talking to my Dad about a half marathon I'm planning to do in the weekend.  It'll be my first half marathon, and Dad has run many, and a number of full marathons.  I pulled a calf muscle last week, so was unsure whether I was going to do it, but it's come right.  Dad suggested I plan to just take it slow, and finish the race.  The key he said, is to plan the race before hand, choose a pace, and stick to it.  In the hype and energy of the crowd at the beginning, there's a temptation to go out fast.  But if you go out 5% faster than you should, you'll finish the race 20% slower overall.  Kind of a tortoise and hare thing.

So I'm going to try to run the race slow.  It'll be hard to do, but I think there's a lesson here that I need to learn