Archive | September, 2014

Shortest Wedding Ever

As an interfaith* minister, I get to perform some interesting ceremonies. They are traditional in function: wedding, baby blessing, house blessing, memorial. But they are never traditional in form – which I love.

I have performed more than 30 weddings at this point, but yesterday I officiated at what was, by far, the shortest wedding I have yet done.

From the time I put my car in park, to the time I started it and pulled out of the lot, it was 10 minutes.

That included everything:

  1. filling out the license
  2. walking to the spot
  3. performing the ceremony
  4. walking back.

There was no fluff.

The ceremony was really heartfelt and lovely, it was just short.

In this ceremony, I finally got to say some important things to the couple (they were a bride-and-groom set, although I have done same-sex weddings, too). Wisdom from my own marriage- and watching others fall apart. It felt good to be able to offer them something of value beyond performing the ceremony.

I am including the ceremony below. Because I think it says a lot about marriage and what we want and need to hear on our wedding day.

Of note: This couple needed and wanted to get married with a very short ceremony and on short notice, but they also wanted a more detailed ceremony in a Faraway Land in a few months. There are references to both in this ceremony (don’t want you to be confused!).

 

Shortest Wedding Ever – Text

There are lots of reasons to get married. And today we gather for one of the most common reasons: practicality. Now, that doesn’t sound very exciting, and maybe it isn’t. But the fact is, practicality is a big part of real love.

And it is real love that has brought us here today. If it weren’t for the fact that you – Man and Woman – were able to live together, share space, care for one another’s pets, communicate and support one another, we wouldn’t be here. You’re standing on a solid foundation of love and support and that is something to celebrate.

So, let’s just celebrate the fact that you’re solidifying this foundation today. In the near future you can have an amazing wedding that truly represents you and your love. Today, we celebrate real love, next steps, and taking care of each other.

Now I am going to ask you to turn towards one another, and hold hands. You are going to share vows with each other to solemnize this wedding.

 

Man, repeat after me:

Woman, I marry you today
So that you may have love and safety
Both within my arms and in the world

I promise to remain true to who I am,
To help you remain true to who you are, and
be honest in my love for you.

I will love you and care for you
with my words and my actions.

 

Woman, repeat after me:

Man, I marry you today
So that you may have love and safety
Both within my arms and in the world.

I promise to remain true to who I am,
To help you remain true to who you are, and
be honest in my love for you.

I will love you and care for you
with my words and my actions.

 

[BREATHE.] <—sometimes I have to give myself directions so I don’t talk too fast. :o)

 

I want to take a moment and talk about something that is important- whether you get married today or some day in the next few months.

A lot of people don’t get married because they are afraid marriage will change them. But the fact is, you are the ones who determine what your marriage will be.

Society has an idea of what marriage should be. But, you might have noticed, that doesn’t work for a lot of people. Getting married today doesn’t mean you suddenly have to become a wifey, nor does it mean you have to become husband-ish. What you have done so far has worked- keep doing it.

If you stay true to who you are, as individuals, and true to your relationship, you will have a successful marriage. What you have done in the past two weeks- encountered something new, figuring out what you needed, communicating about it, and supporting each other in getting those needs met- that’s marriage. You already know how to do it. And you already know how to do it your way. Keep doing it your way.

Marriage doesn’t need to change you. But it can deepen you- if you keep being who you are and keep supporting each other.

Okay, off my soapbox.

Woman and Man, you have made vows to one another. You are now married in the eyes of the law, in your own hearts, and by your daily actions with each other.

And so, it is my right as a minister, and also my great privilege to pronounce that you are husband and wife.

You may kiss!

– – – – – – – – – – – –

That was it. They kissed and they went home. And it was just perfect for them and what they needed. Ritual can be a powerful force for good- and that is the joy of being a minister.

 

*Interfaith spirituality looks at all the places where different religions and systems of belief share things. It might be perspectives, it might be rituals, or texts or holy days. It sees religion and spirituality as more of a puzzle, to which we all share a piece- and if we can be compassionate and kind enough to listen, we might all have a better idea about what ‘God’ really is.

I graduated from The New Seminary- where they focus on helping students learn about many faiths (at a moderate level) rather than one faith very deeply. I took the course as more of a personal development thing, but ended up very interested in the deep value of ritual. So I got ordained as part of the process. Interfaith is probably the only path that has really nourished me spiritually.

 

 

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On Resistance: I don’t want to be That Chick.

For a very brief period, I worked at a financial services firm. It was, at all levels, a transitional job.

I learned a lot of things there, but mostly about the excess of banks, and the spiritual deficits of greed. A few months in, I transferred all my accounts to a credit union- monetary absolution and morality necessitated the change.

One time, I asked one of the dudes in the Big Deal Department where all the jokes about the financial industry were- did he know of any?

Really I was asking for someone to recognize the absurdity of the industry with me. The industry was (and is) frightening and laughable, and I wanted evidence to validate myself. Someone must have been making fun of the ridiculous parts, somewhere, right?!? [Note to Self: you don’t need validation for any of your awesome thinkings or intuitions.]

Anyway, he didn’t know of any jokes, so I went looking and found a few cartoons and other jokes that gave me hope (someone else knew this was bat-shit ridiculous!). I forwarded some of them to him and asked something- I don’t remember what- but it had to do with his ability to make fun of the industry. His reply to me was fast and intense: “I don’t want to be That Guy.”

When I read the answer, I felt the force behind it, like when you’re clothes-lined playing Red Rover, Red Rover. I was flat on my back with the determination of his answer. I had unexpectedly unleashed the lion of his convictions.

I emailed back something benign, but the force of that answer has always stayed with me; he was SURE.

When I have thought about that interaction in the past, I always thought the dude didn’t want to be That Guy as a way of keeping his Work Mask on. You know, the persona we bring to the office- which may be partly us, or mostly us, but is still a mask for the most part. Well, who he was at work was Not a Laughing Matter (literally and figuratively).

I also thought he was seriously repressed (jesus, the amount of repression in that place was palpable). He was the sort of guy who always wore khakis and a button-down, even on casual Fridays. I could never imagine him in a t-shirt and jeans- I always imagined him mowing the lawn in khakis and a button-down.

[My projection of his repression made for some awesome characters and interactions in my erotica. But, that says more about me than it does about him, I think. Ha! Anyway…]

The point is: he was sure. Very, very sure that he did not want to be That Guy.

[Interesting note: while I was on vacation in England, I was going up one of those tremendously large escalators in the Underground and on one of the steps above me, was a sticker that said, “THAT GUY.” It was one of those moments that  makes you think: “If I had gotten here 30 seconds earlier, it would have been below me and I’d never have seen it. If I had gotten here 30 seconds later, it would have been so far away that I couldn’t read it.” It makes you wonder if God leaves sticky notes, like “Pay Attention!” or “Isn’t this interesting?!?” or “Hey, look!” but forgets to point you towards the actual topic that relates to those instructions. Sticky notes from God, I think that’s another post, right there.]

– – – – – – – – – – – –

A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor invited me out for some wine with her friends. I said no – it was after a school function and I felt as tired as the kids did. Time for bed, not wine.

They drink a lot of wine, those ladies.
And, in all honesty, they use it as a crutch to open up about their lives.

I am judging here.

Because I see a difference between people (perhaps especially the Drinking Mommies) who actually enjoy a glass of wine (or three) while they are talking, and people who can’t talk without the glass of wine first. Who can’t unwind without the wine.

Those people worry me.

They worry me because they can’t stand their own vulnerability, so they open the door with alcohol.
They worry me because they don’t know other tools for opening themselves and sharing honestly.
They worry me because they are not owning the true experience of their feelings and words- it can all be explained and forgiven by the wine.

I understand why they do this.
Being vulnerable is damn hard.
And yet, I feel sad for them.

Any recovering addict knows: covering what’s real with alcohol  (or anything) just makes it worse. Feeling all that we have within us is so much more alive and honest- and not as painful as hiding behind the bottle/credit card/sex/drugs/whatevs.

As I was considering all this, I realized: I don’t want to be That Chick.
I don’t want to hide behind anything.
I wanted to be alive and honest and vulnerable and ALIVE – without a crutch. (Or, only a few crutches.)
With the same force and vehemence as that dude: I was sure.

 

Never have I death with anything more difficult than my own soul.

 

The funny thing is, I am very scared about parts of my life.

Despite all my openness and willing to experiment, I am scared.
I am afraid to open up. To be vulnerable. To feel it all.

I think I have a lot to give this world (I believe we all do), but stepping into that ‘bigness’ scares the shit out of me.

I also want to feel really alive- do to things that make me light up from inside.
A lot of them.

But I shy away from them because: security, fear, mommy-ness, it’s new, I don’t know how, change might fuck things up. Et cetera.

I resist.
I resist my own desire for life.

 

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes. Quote from Jung.

 

There are two things I know, now that I’ve grappled with life a bit.

The first is this: resistance is a shadow with two bright spots.

The first light/truth is that where you resist you probably need to go. Whatever I am resisting is probably a place of deep healing, understanding, energy, and power. I am subconsciously frightened to go there precisely because it is so amazing (and, dang, we fear our amazingness!).

But if I do not go there, the resistance will subvert and confuse and fester. Not going into the places I resist will actually kill me, as opposed to thinking it will kill me if I do go there.

My life will grow and open if I go towards what I’m resisting.

Stephen Pressfield says that the more we resist the thing, the more we need to go there. I know this to be true.

 

The second light/truth of resistance is that my resistance is my own potential pushing back at me.

Yeah.

It is a corollary to the first truth- however much the thing I’m resisting scares me, or just how much I am resisting, is an indicator of my own potential.

The more I resist, the more energy there is to move forward with.
Less resistance, less energy, less potential.
More resistance, more energy, more potential.

That’s some scary shit.

The second thing I know, having grown older and done some stuff, is this: my desire to live is stronger than the screaming of my fears.

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) wrote on her Facebook page this week (it’s the entry for September 19th, 2014) about how boring our fears are. They are not precious. They are just the same as everyone else’s fears. A dime a dozen. (I can’t link to it- go find it, it is grounded truth.)

Fears are boring. And loud.
But that doesn’t mean they’re useful.
They’re just loud.

If I turn the sound down on them, my desire to be alive – with as few crutches as possible – is much louder.
And more appealing.
(Sexy, I might say!)

I want to be alive.
I don’t want to resist anymore.
I don’t want to be That Chick.

 

When I understood and accepted my own darkness, I was consumed by my own light.

 

All of this is to say: I hired a sensuality coach.

I hired one because I want to be more myself and I want to make more love with life.

I want to feel the way Sophia Lauren looks.
Full of herself.
Sultry.
Sexy at every age.

I want the kind of mature sexuality and sensuality that only a few women possess.

I know how to ask for an orgasm, and to get one, and to direct one.
What I want is the inner flame and knowing smile that comes from the inner orgasm.
The deep, sexy connection to myself.

That.

I have learned and read a lot, but it’s time for help from an expert.
My coach is further down the road, and I’m ready to be a student.

To lay down my resistance.
To surrender.
To begin a new way of being myself.

sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free

 

 

Edited to Add: It’s funny, you know. You get your nose rubbed in things sometimes. Like, being judgmental. I just found out that one of the mommies I mentioned in this post does actually have a way to be vulnerable and authentic without the wine. It’s a secret Facebook account. Wish I’d thought of that! Props to her!

 

 

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Psalm 2

Blessed is she
who touches mystery,

who is not caught and held
only by what she knows.

How can she know the ways of the sun
if she does not know the ways of the moon?

Sunflowers need not count their seeds,
nor bees reveal the secrets of their hives.

She goes in peace
who listens well.

The planet turns
on one long, perfect tone,

and Woman’s song
echoes the planet’s turning.

She is secure in Love
which is the other Name.

Blessed is she
who learns the mysteries.

 

Psalm 2 by Caryl A. Porter
from Women’s Uncommon Prayers: Our Lives Revealed, Nurtured, Celebrated

 

 

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Modern Hymnal: Sacred Sex

Oh, it’s time for something joyful! So, another edition of Songs for the Modern Hymnal.

The Modern Hymnal

The Modern Hymnal is my own creation. It’s full of songs you’ll never hear in a traditional church.

They are songs that I feel express some deep experience of being human. They are songs that should be in a church.

I hear them in the depths of my heart and soul; the most sacred place there is.
They are songs that speak to my soul, as a modern mystic.

This time around, I’ve got two songs about Sacred Sex.

 

Take Me to Church by Hozier

First up is this gorgeous song by Hozier, aptly titled ‘Take Me to Church.’ It is a bluesy, gospel, and ascendant song about the tension between the church and sexuality, in particular sexual orientation.

Hozier talks about the meaning of the song: (from The Cut)

“Take Me to Church” is essentially about sex, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek attack at organizations that would … well, it’s about sex and it’s about humanity, and obviously sex and humanity are incredibly tied. Sexuality, and sexual orientation — regardless of orientation — is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation — that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love. Turning your back on the theoretical thing, something that’s not tangible, and choosing to worship or love something that is tangible and real — something that can be experienced.

But it’s not an attack on faith. Coming from Ireland, obviously, there’s a bit of a cultural hangover from the influence of the church. You’ve got a lot of people walking around with a heavy weight in their hearts and a disappointment, and that shit carries from generation to generation. So the song is just about that — it’s an assertion of self, reclaiming humanity back for something that is the most natural and worthwhile. Electing, in this case a female, to choose a love who is worth loving.

If I didn’t love this song for its own beauty in music and lyrics, I’d just love it for the intellect behind it. (Brains = sexy, ya’ll.)

The song is beautiful to listen to and the video is powerful and painful. It shows two men in a gay relationship and how they are persecuted when their community finds out about their relationship. (It is a blatant commentary on recent homophobic shifts in Russia.)

And while the song grapples with ideals and practicalities and the tension between Sex and Church, it beautifully acknowledges the communion of Sex and Spirit. I have found it inspiring both while sitting on a long plane ride and laying on my bed, awaiting my lover’s return.

There are too many beautiful lines to quote, but my favorite is this:

There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin. 

Oh, so gorgeous.
Go. Listen.

 

Nirvana by Sam Smith

This song absolutely wrecks me every time I listen to it. And it’s been rotating on my playlist a lot lately.

This song holds the momentum of every encounter you’ve ever had when you know, you know, that the erotic energy is going to pull you forward, no matter what.

It also contains the darkness and the weight of those moments when I have been so close to the Other- so close I can feel every inch of my own body, its glorious weight and rhythm. And I can also feel every inch of them, too. What space there is between us – precious little – is charged and magnetic.

 

I just want to go grab someone and dance in the dark, just writing about it.
oh.my.goodness.

It’s another song of ‘forbidden’ love. (Is there ever such a thing?)

We both know the truth/
If this were the real me and you/
It wouldn’t be the right thing to do/

The heart wants what it wants.

And Sam Smith sings it so beautifully.
This is one you hear and feel.

Two songs for the modern hymnal. Enjoy…until next time.

 

 

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The Kali Season

Ever so slowly, Autumn is arriving here in the Northern hemisphere.

The leaves, although still green, have started to fall from the maple in my yard. Soon it will be ablaze with leaves of yellow, orange, and red so dense it makes you stop and stare.

It is a season of fire, death, and burial.

What we lay down now, on all levels, can rest, be returned to the Earth, and find a re-birth in the future. What we let go of now can feed what is to come.

I have, in the past few weeks, come face to face with my Shadow. Again.

The Shadow is the part of ourself that we don’t like.
That we don’t let anyone else see.
That we often don’t let ourselves see.

The Shadow holds our doubts and fears.
Also our greed, lust, and anger. Hatred.
The Shadow holds our shame and secrets and cravings.

It shows itself in the most inopportune times.
And calls to us in the dark: you are not good.
Not worthy.
Unloveable.
Stupid.
Bad.

Recently, my actions (and therefore, I)  have been held up in front of the mirror of the Shadow to see my

racism

classism

sexism

homophobia

ageism

greed

lust

anger

It has been a painful few weeks.
I have been brought to the fire of reckoning: who am I in the darkest parts of myself?

 

The Shadow and Her Truths

I grew up in a very diverse part of the world. Lots of people from lots of different places. Lots of skin colors. Lots of cultures. Lots of food (yum). Lots of languages. To me, sitting in an auditorium with many types of people feels normal.

And yet, as the race riots in Ferguson became heated (pretty damn hot right from the start, actually) I was reminded of all the ways in which I still value and use my White Privilege. All the ways in which I was not doing anything to help because I was white and not sure if I should step in to do anything. Trained as a social worker, I didn’t want to disempower anyone by offering help or power from my position of privilege.

Because I didn’t step in, even from such a geographic distance, I was still being racist.

Dark Shadow, right inside me.

Although I grew up in an ethnically diverse place, I didn’t grow up with a lot of socio-economic diversity. Middle class we were. For miles in every direction.

To this day, poor people scare me and rich people make me angry.
I feel powerless among both groups.

My feelings of isolation and misunderstanding give way to hateful actions.

And down the Shadow list we go.

I often think women are better than men. In almost every way.
I bias towards the feminine and female ways of doing things.

I made a thoughtless comment on Facebook about how well the gay dudes at the airport were dressed (everyone else looked like a schlub). It wasn’t exactly supportive or celebratory.
Someone called me on it.

Hello, dark side.

Greed, lust, and anger. I’m just getting to see these three up close.

I put them way back inside me. So far into the dark.

“I am not greedy.
I am not lustful.
I am not angry. Well, not too much.”

And then he said something and I wanted to rip his head off verbally. I would have clawed someone to death, I was so angry.

Wow.
Didn’t know that was in there.

And then I open the door on them.
Start to look around.

I’ll be damned.

I’m quite angry.
I’ve got rivers of lust flowing inside my body.
And I Want It All. Fuck you. It’s mine.

I look at all this and, suddenly, the Shadow ignites the image I have of myself.
Like a tree with green leaves, suddenly set on fire by the Autumn changing.
Heat. Light. Gone.

 

Autumn tree with leaves of red, orange, and yellow, with a sky background the color of purple.

 

Kali

All of this opening to my Shadow side, and the accompanying loss of self-image, reminds me of the Goddess Kali.

She is the Goddess of Death and Rebirth.

Many hands full of bodiless heads.
Swords flashing.
A necklace of skulls.
Fire in her eyes and mouth.
She is fearsome.

She decimates whatever is before her.
No stone untouched.
No stalk left standing.
No ego image un-burned.

You are left with nothing.
Who you thought you were is gone.

Kali leaves nothing but scorched Earth.

 

Ashes Nourish the Next Growth

One of the worst feelings on the path of spiritual development is when you say to yourself, “Shit. I’ve come all this way and I don’t know a god-damn thing about myself.”

You feel like the biggest dupe ever.
Only, it’s at your own hand.

But when I get to that point (and I’ve had this happen more than a few times), I know: whatever in me has been burned is not the truth anyhow.

Kali only stopped her killing when Lord Shiva lay himself under her foot.
She noticed him, quite surprised, and immediately quit her killing spree.

That which was ultimate, true, and wise could not be destroyed.

That which is ultimate, true, and wise in me cannot be destroyed.

Love.
Compassion.
Joy.
Empathy.
Truth.

These remain. Only what is untrue can be burned away.
And what is untrue is burned away to reveal more truth. If we let it.

 

Like farmland, the ashes of what has been destroyed can nourish the ground for what is to come.

When I come face to face with my racism, my sexism, my lust and greed, it burns down my idea of who I am.

But in the fallow state, when the ground is ashes and nothing appears to be happening on the surface, the seeds for growth can be planted deep within.

I can examine the last pieces of my racism and then begin to change my thoughts and actions.
I can explore my feminine-bias and also get curious about masculinity and its finer qualities.
I might point my lust in a different direction and let it fuel something positive (like lusting after a house, perhaps).

In this way Kali begins the re-birth process.

The tree is leafless in winter, gathering its energy for Spring.
And then it unfurls its new leaves when the work is done.
Alive again.
Growing.
Stronger.

Facing the Shadow can makes us better people. At the very least, we can come to know ourselves better by engaging with the Shadow aspects of ourselves (even if we don’t do anything about them).

If we dare to work with this side though, we can expect big changes.
Death. To who we thought we were.
Fallowness. To let go, explore, and choose.
Re-birth. Into the clearer, ultimate part of who we really are.

It is a fiery process. But I know it to be incredibly valuable.

 

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