A couple of weeks ago, I walked into the bedroom, closed the door, and collapsed on the floor in tears.
I was done in that moment. My inner storm clouds were too heavy and calling for release.
There's a lot going on in our world, isn't there? For many, there is a lot going on in their personal world as well.
Adding virtual school to my mix and constantly hearing, "Mom!" so many times that I've begun to hear it even when no one's calling, was my breaking point.
Conversations with others who are feeling the weight of the world and going through their own personal crises have revealed a "grin and bear it" attitude. Trying hard to ignore the tension and anxiety they continue on even as they feel the inner storm clouds growing more and more each day.
One thing I've learned from my indoor cat is that if she doesn't get her playtime in, she doesn't get her anxiety out which leads to other issues (i.e. not using the litterbox). She's got to release the tension of the day through leaping, running, and chasing.
Following her lead, I've tried to be mindful about moving anxiety out of my body, too—shaking, squeezing, twisting—through at-home Zumba, barre workouts, and yoga. This release is helpful but one thing is missing...cleansing.
Crying is physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually cleansing.
It needs to be added to our personal self-care practices. It already is an ancient spiritual practice for individuals and communities called lament (though you may hear of few congregations who practice it).
It's as natural for us to cry as clouds to rain. So why do we often "hold it in"?
When I offer Distance Reiki, in the majority of my sessions, I have tears come to my eyes at some point. As parts of a client's body release, I feel a rush of energy in my own body, causing the common "lump in my throat" followed by tears. What was released inside is ready to be released outside. Upon mentioning it to the client afterwards, they always shake their head, "yes." For they either began to cry during the session or felt the lump in the throat, knowing they need to give themselves permission for a good cleansing cry sooner than later.
I once had a client that wept and shook mightily during an in-person Reiki session (with eyes remaining closed but tears streaming). Afterwards they had no idea they were shaking so much but said they weren't surprised, for they came desiring long-held trauma to leave their body and it had.
So is it time for a good cleansing cry for you? Or will you continue to hold it in and put it off?
Imagine clouds getting heavier and heavier and refusing to let go and rain...can you feel those clouds in your body?
After a rainstorm, everything feels lighter.
That's what happened for me. An hour after light crying with intermittent gut-level sobbing, my head was clear, my body relaxed, I felt at peace. I opened the door, now ready to walk out and tend to whoever called, "Mom!" first.
It’s what we tend to do. Most Christians have an entire theology built on it. Someone/something must pay for others’ sins.
Sin is burdensome, whether it’s our own or the world’s!
It can’t be ignored (at least not forever). If ignored, it will still be felt in our physical bodies or relationships. The more it's ignored, the greater the natural consequences from the unacknowledged harm to ourselves, others, and/or the created world. So it’s no surprise that people have been trying to figure out what to do with the problem of sin for millennia.
We are a ritualistic people. In Leviticus 16 found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), it was a ritual with an actual goat (hence the term, “scapegoat”) that helped relieve the communal burden. The impurities of the community were transferred to the goat through the “laying on of hands.” Then the goat was beaten and released into the wilderness to take away the sins of the Israelite people. The despised goat symbolically took on their sins and carried them away from the community. In the New Testament, the writer of the book of John records John the Baptist pointing out the role of the scapegoat being taken on by Jesus when he proclaims, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
It’s human nature to look for a scapegoat, especially when we do not want to or do not know how to deal with sin. Watching small children (as well as our current politicians) will make that apparent quite quickly. Their mantra: "Make it someone else’s fault!"
It’s especially natural if we’ve grown up with a theology that espouses it. It’s too easy to believe that when Jesus takes away my sin, I no longer have to deal with it or the consequences of it (someone else has paid the ultimate price after all). The danger of this theology is that it can shift the focus to worshipping Jesus because of his offering of “fire insurance” for the life to come rather than following Jesus as a disciple in this one.
If we happen to be Christians who believe Jesus paid the price as the ultimate scapegoat (which made him the last needed scapegoat), why do we still continue to scapegoat others?—Democrats, Republicans, Black people, Indigenous people, White people, LGBTQ people, police officers, protestors, teachers, certain members of our families…
If Jesus is the ultimate scapegoat, that means we are now freed from scapegoating others!
We are a ritualistic people in need of a new ritual. If we don’t have anyone to blame or transfer our sin to, what happens next?
For those who have eyes to see, wisdom and spiritual nourishment are available to us everywhere, flowing through all religions, not just our own.
Yet we may remain blind due to fear instilled in us early on about other religions by well-meaning adults.
Rather than feel threatened, what if you allowed yourself to be curious like a child? I wonder if you, too, might discover your life enriched through other religions’ theological truths.
The words of the Tao Te Ching have been especially meaningful to me. I have read portions of this short 6th century “Book of the Way” credited to the Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, nearly every day for years.
In it, one reads about what it is like to be in harmony with the Tao (the Way).
And one is invited to be aligned with “Reality As It Is” in such a way that, like Jesus the Christ, one humbly becomes the Way. In the language of Christian mystics, this is called “union with God.”
Last night, I opened my pocket edition and saw my favorite passage staring back at me:
“Do you have the patience to wait
Several years ago, a very murky, even scary, situation came up that required careful discernment as to the way forward. Trying to figure out what to do, I was reminded of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”
I was also reminded of this passage from the Tao Te Ching.
So I grabbed an old Mason jar and large spoon, put on my raincoat, and went outside.
My kids were standing at the window watching with curiosity as I scooped sand from the sandbox and mud from the ground and put it in the jar while the rain kept pouring down. Then I came back inside, filled the jar with water, sealed and shook it, then placed it on top of our television cabinet announcing, “When the mud settles, then I’ll make a decision.”
They asked, “How long will it take?”
“I have no idea,” I told them, “but it will eventually clear. And the process can’t be rushed.”
What I watched externally started taking place within me…very slowly.
The anger, fear, expectations, adrenaline, helplessness, judgments, confusion, all started to settle. After a week, the sediment gave way to clarity. I could finally access “the mind of Christ” (“the Spirit within”) that is always there but can be hard to detect when my water is muddy.
Surprisingly, or maybe not, the right action that arose was non-action (a theme of the Tao Te Ching!). Even though everything in me wanted to defend myself, I knew I needed to stay silent and trust God. It was and still is the right action in this particular situation.
How about you? Have you allowed yourself to receive wisdom and spiritual nourishment from other religions and traditions? If not, why? If so, what have you discovered? How has your faith changed or deepened?
If you’d like to, but don't know where to start, I suggest the pocket edition of the Tao Te Ching!
Seeing through Merlin's Eyes
My daughter started a family ritual when the coronavirus quarantine first began...watching the 5 seasons of the BBC's Merlin on Netflix together.
We were not allowed to binge the show. She had us spread it out over five months (a show like this needs to be savored!). And we had to wait a couple of weeks to watch the very last episode, for she explained how she needed to mourn the end of the whole series first.
It wasn't just her, all four of us really got into the story-line and characters.
Throughout the show, we watched how young Merlin (who would become "the greatest sorcerer ever to walk the earth" according to the Arthurian legends) demonstrated such humility, it was mind-boggling. So many times we wanted him to take the credit he was due! So many times he allowed himself to be the fool, his wisdom remaining hidden.
What inspired his Christ-like devotion as servant to Arthur? What stirred his soul to seek to believe and bring out the best in him with little regard for self-promotion? Why would he choose to empty himself of his status known to the few with magic but unknown to the many with power?
"Some men are born to plow fields, some live to be great physicians, others to be great kings. Me? I was born to serve you, Arthur. And I'm proud of that. And I wouldn't change a thing."
Perhaps when we have a sense of why we're on this earth (however humble and hidden it may appear) we begin to see through Merlin's eyes. Each of us "has magic" after all.
I am still in awe after a session of Spiritual Direction (even after 17 years!). It thrills me how the time together has little to do with wisdom I might share and everything to do with calling forth the God-given wisdom of the individuals themselves. The insights they need come out of their own lives with the sound and tone of their own voice. Watching it happen is magical.
Yes, I was born to serve others as a Spiritual Director, a Servant to Wisdom within each person who sits with me. And I'm proud of that. And I wouldn't change a thing.
When did you come to believe
success comes with a scheduled
When the Spirit rarely sticks
to the script!
When the Sacred Presence refuses
to be restrained!
Scheduled or unscheduled,
Productive or unproductive,
May you come to believe
success comes with (and is)
the simple consent to
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.