All posts by Nancy Pfaltzgraf

Dancing with Angels

This past Monday morning, in preparation for Leading our Monday evening Online InterFaith/InterReligious Dance Chapel* that evening, I engaged in one of my sometimes rituals and opened my box of Angel Cards, with the intention of drawing one to give me some inspiration. Two cards stuck together, so I looked at both of them. They were the angels of Grace and Purification. Grace is an angel I dance with often – in fact my name Nancy, a derivative of Ann in Hebrew means “grace”. And since one of my middle names is Ann, my spiritual director told me I was double grace!  But purification, well that’s another matter altogether. So off I went to “google” the word to see what insight there might be. Some powerful images emerged, which I shared with our Dance Chapel on Monday evening. As we danced with these angels, some powerful insights arose from the gathered community.

Then on Thursday, before our Thursday Dance Chapel I again danced with these two angels and the following poem emerged:

“Come dance with me,”
the angel said.
“My name is Grace;
You know me well”
“Awe,” I said and smiled.
“Grace** that sense of ease,
that feeling of peace,
that deep joy!”
“Yes,” she said;
“But I am also beauty in action,
mercy,
pardon
and forgiveness.”
“Really? I said and asked
“What else?”
“Some say I AM
the Spirit of the Holy One
operating in you humans
to regenerate you
and give you the strength you need!”
“Awe,” I said and took a deep breath!
“But wait” her sister said.
“I also want to dance with you.”
“Who are you?” I asked
“I AM the Angel of Purification.”
“Purification,” I mused
“Why do you dance?”
“I join you to set you free
from anything that
debases,
pollutes,
contaminates your life-
those nagging bits of guilt!
I dance to clear your heart,
your mind,
your body,
and your spirit!”
“Awe,” I said;
I know you-
You are the angel that helps me exform***,
release,
let go!”
So Grace and Purification
Come dance with us
and show us your gifts!”

In both chapels as the various participants danced with these angels, we experienced a letting go, a clearing out, a sense of transformation and purification. Things that were stuck in some of us seemed to be released or transformed into new wisdom. The way was prepared as one participant was moving from one place and living arrangement into a new place and a new relationship. One participant felt  deep release of energies that had been weighing her down and she found new energy and enthusiasm. Joy bubbled up and laughter emerged. Peace enveloped us and Grace moved us. Even though we gathered online -some of us in Germany, Australia, and various places within the United States- we were held together in this amazing Dance which touched us body, mind, heart and spirit and empowers us to be light and love, healing and hope with the people we meet and in the places we go!

Thank you Grace! Thank you Purification! Your dance was divine!

 

*The Online InterFaith/InterReligious Dance Chapel is time where we come together to embody our prayers as we dance on behalf of each other and the world.

** In the system of InterPlay we talk about the Body Wisdom Tool know as the Physicality of Grace which includes feelings of peace, joy, relaxation, contentment and so much more.

***Exformation is another one of InterPlay’s Body Wisdom Tools. It refers to releasing the energy that can get stuck in our bodies, minds and spirits

If you want to know more about Interplay or our Dance Chapel. Let me know.

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Dancing with the Storms

Dancing with the Storms was written the morning of  September 7, 2017, the day after my InterPlay Deep Play group asked for Dances on Behalf of ( a form of embodied prayer) those whose lives had been so deeply affected by both the recent and the approaching hurricanes. I invite your reading, reflecting and commenting and your sharing of it, if it sparks anything within you.

Dancing with the Storms

Yesterday I danced
I danced
on behalf of
those devastated by storms
and
those waiting in fear
to see
to know
would they be next?
My heart felt their fear
my own fear as well
Should we go as planned
into a place
threatened by the monster storm Irma?
My heart said “no”
My husband said “yes…
maybe it will be all right”

I danced with the storms
and with my storm
Until I finally understood
My reluctance to go
was not solely based
on the fear of encountering the storm,
(after all my husband said, “Hurricanes rarely go as far inland
as Orlando)
But on the inappropriateness
of going to vacation in the place
where so many people were going
for safety
uncertain if they would have a home
to go home to!

Storms
Storms threaten to
destroy all we know
all we cherish
all that we love and hold dear

But storms have been whirling
about our lives
far longer than
Harvey
or Irma
or the other two storms forming
even now!

As I danced
a question rose from deep within my heart
“Could the energy of our personal storms
our political storms
our religious storms
our racial storms
our economic storms
have any thing to do with creating
Harvey
and Irma
and all the rest?”
Maybe yes?
Maybe no?
I don’t know.
But in the wake of the Harvey
the unlikely happened
Not only are people helping people
no matter their race
their religion
their ethnicity
or their immigration status,
But on Capitol Hill
In Washington D.C.
the Democrats -at least some of them
and
the Republicans -at least some of them
and
the President
came together
to send help
to make it possible
to find the phoenix
that will rise from the ashes
the love
that will overcome fear
the hope
that will light the way!

Is the only way through
the storms of life
to listen to our heart song
to follow our compassionate impulses
to use our power
and our strength
to help,
to hold,
to heal
and thus to grow
to learn,
and to take another step
toward
the Peace that will set us ALL free
the Love that will heal us ALL
the Beauty that will save us ALL
the play that will calm us ALL
and help us
see our way
TOGETHER!

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Be True, Be Kind, Pay Attention!

This week I was reading the text of a Commencement Address by Carrie Newcomer titled “Be True, Be Kind, Pay Attention,” which she shared in her book The Beautiful Not Yet: Poems, Essays and Lyrics, (published in 2016 by Available Light Publishing and available at www.carienewcommer.com).Her address touched me deeply and connected with wisdom I have received through the wonderful practice of Interplay (www.interplay.org) developed by Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter. Her words resonated with several of what Interplay calls Body Wisdom Tools. They especially connected with my understanding of the tool named affirmation, that invites us “to look for the good in any situation”; and the tool called body data, body knowledge and body wisdom, that calls us to “notice, notice, notice what is happening in us body, mind, heart and spirit in any given moment”; and the tool of internal authority, which invites us to “trust what we are noticing”. Her words also resonated with an insight from my Appreciative Inquiry teacher Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle who teaches that when we pay attention to what we deeply love to do, it is a key to discovering our own life’s purpose. The more I ponded Carrie’s words and the wisdom from these other sources,  the more I wanted to share my reflections on them.

I think now more than ever we need to be true, be kind and pay attention! And so it is that the following poem emerged.(those lines that are noted in quotations are direct quotes either from Carrie’s speech or from one of her songs) After you read it let me know what it sparks in you.

Be true

Be true to your heart

Be true to your deepest knowing

Be true to what you love to do

Be true to what brings joy and gratitude and hope

Be true to what makes you shine

Be true to what makes you smile

from the very depth of your soul

Be true to what makes your heart sing

Be true to the gift of who you are

Be true to the gift of all that love is bringing to life in you

Be true to your dreams, even if they change shape

a time or two along the way.

Be true and let beauty lead you home

Be true and trust your heart

Be true and trust your own deep wisdom

Be true and trust your soul to be your guide

Be true and listen for the whispers of grace

and the brush of angels wings

Be true to your heart and discover

ALL that you are born to be and do

Be True!

Be Kind

For kindness is love in action

Be kind to yourself “as kind as you would be to a close friend”

Be kind to your family

Be kind to your co-workers

Be kind to the clerk in the store

-even if he isn’t efficient,

-even if she isn’t friendly

-even the ones who are not kind to you!

Send kind thoughts to the driver who cuts you off in traffic

Send kind thoughts the person who annoys you

-because he always has to have center stage

-because she never pays attention

-because he is always putting someone down

-because she won’t listen to your point of view

-because he values things you don’t understand

-because she sees the world through different eyes

Be kind in your thoughts

Be kind in your words

Be kind in your actions

Be kind even as you are standing up for what you believe

Be kind because kindness matters

And “When forgiveness is hard to find,

help me at least to be kind!”

Be Kind!

Pay attention

Notice what brings ease and joy and grace to you

Notice what evokes a deep smile from a stranger or a friend

Notice and trust what you notice

See the resilience of the human spirit

Recognize the breath of Life and Love

-in the wind

-in the sun

-in the rain

-in the flowers

-in the touch of a lover

-in the laughter of a child

-in the comfort of a friend

-in the kindness of a stranger

Pay attention to what quickens your pulse

Pay attention to what triggers your fear

Pay attention to what takes your breath away

and fills your heart with joy

Pay attention to what seems like a mistake

and ask what lesson it can bring

Pay attention to the questions that rise from your soul

Pay attention to your life,

so you can live it

Pay attention to your life,

so you can be the best version of who you are

Pay attention to what you love and do it

Pay attention to your heart so it can guide you

Stop

Look

Listen

See

Hear

Be

Pay attention!

Be true, Be Kind, Pay attention

And live, truly live!

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Dancing Our Prayers

One of the blessings in my life is the opportunity to collaborate with Cynthia Winton-Henry in the leadership of what we have come to call the InterFaith Dance Chapel! We gather two different times each week, generally with two different groups of people -although sometimes people come twice in one week. We gather online! So we literally gather from around the world -Germany, Australia. Hong Kong, and many places in the United States. We tell stories together! We laugh together! We cry together! We move together! We support and encourage each other to dive deep into our own truth, to honor our own body wisdom, to call forth the best of who we are and who we can be. We use an amazing form of embodied prayer drawn from the InterPlay form called Dancing on Behalf Of. What we have discovered is that this form of prayer goes deeper than the words we might say and cuts across the boundaries of faith traditions and honors the presence of the Spirit in the depth of each and every soul.

This dance chapel is a place of honesty and deep respect. It is a place where we can come as we are with the knowledge and the hope that we will, in some way, be blessed because we have gathered.

Today, was such an amazingly powerful experience that I feel compelled to try to put into words what I experienced!

We began with an embodied and spoken prayer honoring the wisdom and the gifts of the North, the East, the South and the West. Then we moved through a time of warming up our bodies and allowing the our movement to awaken us in the very depths of our souls.

Then we shared stories! We shared stories of the excitement of discovering more about the artist within and the joy of painting with our hands. Stories of the difficulty of being patient while our bodies healed more slowly than we would like. Stories of walking together inside a building because it was too cold to walk outside and discovering the holiness of sharing with others moments of grief and laughter. We shared stories of cats pissing in anger on walls and furniture because it was too cold to be outside and the discovery of our shadow and our own ability to act in anger and in that recognition, the sudden awareness that, more than we want to admit,  we are like others we might disparage because of their violent behaviors. We shared stories of the tears that came while riding Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride, because when we look around the world it seems that too many of us have forgotten that there is “so much that we share, that its time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all”. We shared stories of the pain experienced by the violence in the world and the fear we experience as we listen to plans for the “new administration in the United States”. We shared stories of accompanying one who is dying and stories of the desire to move and live from the core of who we are. We shared stories of hope for a new home and hope for a more loving, more humane world. Stories, stories, stories.

As we shared our stories, I shared a bit of wisdom I gleaned from an e-mail Cynthia sent: “Even when I’m not in the mood or numb, I practice patterns of the behaviors I want, so that my body knows and feels it.”  So to join in that practice of remembering, we danced! First we danced on behalf of one another -dances that were were filled with unbelievable power, compassion, love and grace! Then we closed by dancing to a beautiful version of the song, “What a Wonderful World”! It was joyful and powerful. As we reached our hands out toward one another, laughing and blowing kisses and as we blessed ourselves and one another, I felt the Spirit move through my body with deep reassurance! I also felt the re-kindling of the flame of light and love, the flame of grace and beauty, the flame of wonder and connection that smolders deep in the heart of my soul and all of life! I felt alive! I felt joy! I felt a deep hope that is sprung from a wisdom beyond my own.

As it was time to end, one of the participants put into words what I think we all were feeling, when she said “It’s so hard to go!” That it was! I wanted to stay there, connected to those people, filled with such grace and beauty, such honesty and love.

But go we finally did, renewed, refreshed and embodying the peace and love, the grace and the hope we have for our world and all its inhabitants!

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Only Then…

Since the InterPlay Leaders Gathering and the powerful Color Wisdom shared by our Leaders of Color and others who are working to dismantle racisim, I have found myself, thinking a lot about what I am called to do! I have also been trying to be alert for moments of clarity. On August 20th, I had one at the grocery store which prompted the following poem, which I shared on Facebook. I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the responses I have received and by the number of people who have encouraged me to “publish it and share it more widely.” So here is the poem. Please take a moment to read it and ponder its meaning for your life. Thank you.

Only Then!
written by Nancy Zoelzer Pfaltzgraf
08-20-2016

Today as I was leaving the grocery store
I saw two young boys
about the size and age of my oldest grandson
they were laughing
just like he does
they were playing
just like he does
they were with their Dad
who reminded me of my son
tall, caring, making his way through the store
trying to manage the list
and the boys
perhaps on an errand
perhaps to shop for the week.
just like my son and grandson sometimes do;
except…..
except…..
except…..
their skin was of a darker hue,
their hair was tightly curled….
and as I watched them for the briefest of moments
my heart was seized
tears filled my eyes
an ache clutched my soul!
Because, just because of the color of their skin
and the weave of their hair
they will not know
the privileges my grandson knows!
Their road will be harder!
Their climb will be steeper!
Their way will be filled with challenges and dangers
my grandson will not face….
Unless…. unless…. unless…
I do what I can do to help others see…
Unless…. unless…. unless…
I do what can do to help others understand…
Unless…. unless…. unless…
I do what I can do to change the way it is
to the way it can be,
should be,
must be….
A world where every mother’s child
every father’s son
every grandmother’s delight
every grandfather’s dream
has the same opportunities,
the same privileges
the same chances
for a life richly lived
for talents extravagantly expressed
for dreams abundantly realized
for love graciously empowered
no matter what the hue of their skin
the slant of their eyes
the heritage of their ancestors
the language of their birth
the faith they proclaim
the way they name the One who is the
Source, Creator, Lover, Dreamer, Light, Love
IN US ALL!

Only then will my grandson and all the grandsons and granddaughters of this world
be truly free
to laugh and play
to dance and dream
to work and grow
to live and love!
Only then!

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Sometimes it pays to play!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!” My five year old grandson makes sure that won’t happen to me!

A few weeks ago as I was fixing breakfast and getting ready for the day I turned on the playlist on my iPhone that contains my favorite songs from the literally hundreds of songs I have downloaded from iTunes or uploaded from CD’s I had purchased -back when that was the primary way you got music! One of the first songs that played was titled Amazing Things by singer-songwriter Megan McDonough. The part of the song that jumped out at me was:

You don’t have to work it out,

Just stay in the here and now,

Let your mind rest for a little while,

Sometimes deepest answers come,

When you’re out there having fun,

So close your eyes, take a breath,

And smile.

Sometimes deepest answers come, When you’re out there having fun, …. I began to think about how many times I have had just such an experience while participating in or leading an InterPlay class. This is especially true in the Wisdom of the Body Deep Play classes which I teach. I think it is because these classes last longer and give more time and space to let go, let the mind rest and just focus on having fun; moving for the joy of moving; singing made-up songs for the delight of using your voice; talking about made-up words as if you are the authority, just because you can; ranting about something in a made up language without worrying what anybody thinks. These ways of playing, along with many, many more of the 26 InterPlay forms seem to create space for ideas to enter. They seem to allow for the openness that is necessary to discover my own deepest wisdom. They create the peace that is necessary for me to notice what is true for me.

But, let me be clear, these answers don’t always pop up in the midst of playing. And deciding to play, so that I will find an answer, usually short circuits the process. It’s when I play for the sheer joy and delight of playing; when I give myself over to the freedom to play and laugh and be silly in an environment where I feel safe and welcome and affirmed; it is then that I have opened the way for ideas and answers and wisdom to emerge.

There are certainly many ways to play and play -honest to goodness play- has so many positive affects on us body-mind-heart-spirit, that we need to find ways of having more play in our lives -no matter how old our young the calendar says that we are. Recent research has demonstrated that for adults as well as children play is important in relieving stress, improving brain function, stimulating creativity, improving relationships and increasing energy. As George Bernard Shaw once observed, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”

So find some ways to play: InterPlay, Laughter Yoga, dancing, riding your bike, taking a hike, whatever it is that engages you body, mind, heart and spirit, fills you with joy and lets your mind rest for a little while! And maybe, just maybe you will discover that for you too, sometimes deepest answers come, when you’re out there having fun; so close your eyes, take a breath and smile.”

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The Three Foot Difference!

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The week following Easter, I accompanied my husband, Tom,  to Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri, in part to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of his graduation from Eden and in part to attend the Spring Convocation. I was intrigued by the overall theme of the convocation Forward from Ferguson, but other than looking forward to presentations by Dr. Walter Brueggemann, I really had no idea what to expect or how powerful the event would be for me.

Dr. Brueggemann was brilliant, as always. His illumination of themes in the Hebrew Scriptures and the early followers of Jesus that have led to some of the painful circumstances that plague our world was powerful, but without digging out my notes I could not articulate much of what he said in nearly four hours of presentations on Tuesday.

But Wednesday was another story altogether. The day began with a powerful worship in which the sermon was a call to action on behalf of those in our society and world who are discounted, disenfranchised, dismissed and “diss-ed” in all sorts of ways because of the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, their gender identification, their age, etc. etc. etc. Then we moved on to the speaker of the day – Dr. Gregory Ellison II. Dr. Ellison is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Candler School of Theology. His topic was: Screams from the Shadows – Whispers in the Dark: Healing and Hope from the Margins. 

As Dr. Ellison was being introduced with glowing words of praise, I was busy, fussing with my stuff (getting my iPad ready to take notes, taking a drink of water and who knows what else), when I was suddenly aware of silence, a long prolonged silence. So I looked up to see what was going on and my eyes met Dr. Ellison’s. He seemed to be staring right at me (after all we were sitting in the second row of the chapel). At first it was unnerving, but then he seemed to move on to another set of eyes and another and another and another as he slowly walked down the center aisle and back up to the front. Then he stood there for a moment longer just looking at us all. Just looking…..Looking…. and Seeing! Then he said, “It is good to finally see you! It is GOOD to Finally SEE you! It IS GOOD to FINALLY SEE YOU!

Then he proceeded to  talk not only about the perils of people who feel muted and invisible -the unacknowledged people all around us- but then he invited us to consider this time a Laboratory of Discovery in which we would be invited to re-member times when we have been unseen and unheard; times when we have been unacknowledged and overlooked. For it is true that no matter the color of our skin, our age, our gender identification or sexual orientation, our martial status, our economic class, our ability, our mobility, or lack thereof, we all know deep in the core of our beings how it feels to be unseen and unheard. Some of us know it only for moments in time, some of us for most of our lifetime. But all of us know it. And what is even more important all of us, ALL OF US, ALL OF US, ALL OF US NEED to be seen with love, recognized with respect, acknowledged with appreciation.

As Dr. Ellison continued leading us through this Laboratory of Discovery with many powerful exercises, including what he called “the long loving look” -simply looking another person in the eye with appreciation for 30 seconds- I understood on a new level what InterPlay names the Five Daily Requirements for a Healthy Life and what our InterPlay Leaders of Color have named the Five Birthright Practices: movement, stillness, connection/contact, voice and story. I also had a new appreciation for the way that the Body Wisdom Tools and Forms of InterPlay help create an environment where all people can be seen and heard, recognized and acknowledged. Perhaps that is why InterPlay is so powerful for so many of us!

Near the end of his presentation, Dr. Ellison gave each of us a paper 3 foot tape measure and had us stretch it out in front, to the side and around us. Then he began telling us a story about a conversation he had with his grandmother -who seemed to be a source of great wisdom in his life. He said that he asked his grandmother how he could change the world and make it a better place for all people. She responded “Baby, I don’t know much about changing the world, but I do know you can change the three feet around you.” He didn’t say much after that. He just left us to ponder what that might mean in our lives.

  • What if we all changed the three feet around us, offering respect, really seeing, really hearing, really connecting with each and every person that comes across our path, hearing their stories, honoring their journey?
  • What if we made the three feet around us a safety zone for all people?
  • What if we filled the three feet around us with what Henri Nouwen calls Hospitality –Hospitality, … the creation of a free and open space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.

How might we and the world be changed if we all changed the three feet around us?

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The Transforming Power of Gratitude!

IMG_2424On February 6th, I had the privilege of leading an InterPlay workshop as part of the Midwest Women Spirit 2016 conference held in Chicago, IL. Since I wanted to make sure that I was onboard with the general theme of the conference, I arrived early enough to hear the keynote presentation given by Kate Braestrup. Kate is a UU Minister, a New York Times best-selling author and a Chaplain with the State of Maine Warden Service where she provides ministry to law enforcement officers and those they serve. Prior to becoming a UU minister Kate was married to a police officer who was killed in an on-duty accident leaving her with four children between the ages of 3 and 9 to raise on her own. Before his death her husband had been wrestling with a call to enter the ministry and their long conversations had evidently ignited a spark within her, because sometime after his death she entered seminary and was eventually ordained.

Since the theme of the conference was “Recognizing Our Calling” Kate had many powerful insights to share, from her own experiences and those of her children as they grew and matured. But the thing in her presentation that stood out the most for me was her challenge to us -especially those of us who feel some call to bring more peace, justice, hope, love, compassion and healing to the world- not to fall into the trap of despair and hopelessness regarding any of the many major problems we face. She shared some specific examples of the ways we as human beings have come together to avert almost certain disasters in the past, and her absolute confidence that we could do so again.

Then in the Q & A that followed her talk someone asked her about the environmental challenges we are currently facing and how she could have hope in the face of these. I don’t remember most of what she said in answer to that question, but I do remember the story she shared. To the best of my recollection it went something like this:

When I see a picture in the newspaper or magazine or watch a TV image of a disaster of some sort, in the midst of all the pain, suffering and devastation, I look for the helpers, those people who are there to offer comfort, medical assistance, food, shelter and the like. Helpers are always there! Sometimes I am one of those helpers and sometimes I just need the assurance that a helper will always come.

For some reason this image replayed itself again and again and eventually had me thinking about gratitude which led me to a book titled, Attitudes of Gratitudethat’s been on my shelf for many years.  As I thumbed through the pages of the book, I discovered  again many powerful testimonies from the author about the power of gratitude to transform us body, heart, mind and spirit.

One of the quotes the author shared from Susan Jeffers (“When we focus on abundance, our life feels abundant; when we focus on what we lack our life feels lacking. It’s truly a matter of what we focus on, ) seemed to link back to the story of the helpers in the midst of the disasters, so, I decided to focus my two online Dancing Our Prayers classes for the week on gratitude.

As we moved into each class I invited participants to focus on gratitude and then holding a tiny spark of gratitude in their hands to dance with it and allow it to grow and expand and carry them wherever it would. Each participant in both of the classes noticed the deep sense of joy, peace, ease and grace that seemed to take them over. It was like mixing a basic solution with an acidic one, gratitude neutralized the stress and tension many of them had been experiencing prior to the class.

I too felt this transformation.  I had awakened at 3am Monday morning to get ready to drive to the airport to fly back to Boston, so I would be there in time to teach the online class that night, only to discover that my flight had been canceled!  Now I really wanted to get back to Boston and I needed to be in a place with good internet in order to teach, so I let this stress me out. I was, therefore not even remotely close to being  in a place of calm, peace or gratitude when the class began. But little by little as I danced with the feeling of gratitude that at least I hadn’t been stuck at the airport or on a plane, gratitude began to work its magic. By the middle of the class I felt a deep sense of peace and joy. But that’s not the amazing part of the story!

The next morning I made it to the airport without incident and my plane took off pretty much on schedule. Once in the air, I did my usual bit of playing some games on my iPad and then reading one of my Kindle books. But then about an hour into the flight my eyes were tired (I had after all gotten up at 3am for the second morning in a row!) so I put on some meditative music and closed my eyes and just began breathing gratitude. With each breath my gratitude seemed to grow. With each breath my feelings of peace and joy deepened. With each breath my heart and mind seemed to expand. Then completely out of the blue came the absolute knowing that I needed to open a new document and begin working on the design for a new online class focusing on the wisdom contained in the book Move to Greatness: The Four Energies of a Whole and Balanced LeaderFor the next 30 minutes the ideas came in a steady stream. (This seemed especially astonishing since creating this design had been on my “to do list” for more than a few months.)

Since that day, I have been taking between 5-10 minutes some time each day to breath gratitude, to dance gratitude, to sing gratitude. Sometimes I think of specific things for which I am grateful, but sometimes I just dip into the well of feelings and pull up gratitude. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes its a bit slower. But in every case the transformation that gratitude brings is northing short of a miracle!

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Small Things with GREAT LOVE!

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My mother died May 7, 1993, it was a difficult time. But it was also a time that began to awaken my spirit to the power of small things.

When my mother’s pastor -who was also a close friend and spiritual mentor to me- asked what part I wanted to play in my mother’s funeral, I sat with that question for some time. There were things I knew I wanted to say, ways I wanted to honor my mother’s life, but I also knew that as a daughter I needed to be comforted and I didn’t want to have to put on my “clergy face” and burry my feelings. So, finally I told him that I would write something that he or someone else could read.

Over the next day or so, as the family gathered and preparations were being made, I asked my brother, my sister-in-law, my nieces and nephews and my own children what they would remember most about Althea Jane Hettinger Pfaltzgraf.

As they shared stories and memories, as we laughed and cried together, I began to understand that the power in my mother’s love was her ability to let the light of Divine Love shine through her words and her deeds. And as I pondered this realization the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta rose from somewhere in the depths of my memory bank: “We cannot all do great things in life, but we can all do small things with great love.” Hence was born a litany that contained short story sentences that began “Jane was a woman who….” after which the congregation would respond: “We cannot all do great things in life, but we can all do small things with great love.”

This past week in the face the terrorist attacks around the world and the ramping up of world-wide grief, fear and anxiety, as well as pervasive grief in the congregation where my husband serves as Interim Transitional Pastor following the death of one of the saints of the congregation, I sat with my spiritual life coach musing about how we can stay grounded and centered in the midst of so much pain and fear. She said something about how practicing exformational activities to keep her bodyspirit clear and staying centered in her life’s purpose helped her. My response was “Yes, I understand the importance of that. I know that my life purpose has to do with opening the way for love and grace to be more present in people’s lives and the world. My challenge is to trust that the little bit I do along with the  little bits others do really can make a difference in the face of so much grief, fear, hatred and pain.”

We talked about this from many different in many different ways and we did some breathing and moving with it. Then  just before the end of our session she asked, “have you every thought about writing about the theology of small things?”

To which I responded “No,” not even sure what she meant by her question. But since it was the end of our time, we concluded our session and I began to play with what she might mean. I danced a bit with it and then set the question aside to tend to other things that I needed to do.

Later I picked up the book that the prayer group I attend is using and began reading the reflection we would be discussing the next morning. The reflection began with the scripture from Matthew 28 that ends with the words “insofar as you did this to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” The rest of the meditation was focused on calling readers to do small things, using whatever gifts they have been given, to bring justice and love and grace to the world, one person, one act of kindness at a time. But most importantly an invitation to allow the spirit to soften us so that Divine Love might flow through all we do and say.

That’s when I remembered my mother and the quote from Mother Teresa: “We cannot all do great things in life, but we can all do small things with great love.”

Now I have to confess to you, that I have always felt deep in my bones that I am called to do something great to bring healing and love and hope to the world. And I have ALWAYS felt like I have failed miserably because I have not done any great things. The question I must now ponder, the truth I must now face is this, “Have I done small things with as much love as I can muster? Or perhaps more accurately, have I done small things with as much openness to the Source of Love as I can achieve in any given moment?”

I’m not sure if this is what my coach meant when she suggested I might write about the theology of small things, but the more I ponder her question and search my own body data, body knowledge and body wisdom, the more I am certain that all of life is made up of small things. Even those things that seem like great things -getting married, the birth of a child, the end of apartheid, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the passage of marriage equality laws in so many states, whatever you would call a great thing…. aren’t they all really made up of lots of small things fired and fueled by love? Now let me be clear, I’m talking about LOVE not sentimentality; love that sees the value and worth of each and every person, in fact of all of creation; love that desires the highest good for all; love that is an attitude; love that empowers us to care even about those we would call enemy; love that passes our human understanding; love that flows from the heart of the one I call God; the one others call Allah or Buddha, or Goddess or the Great Spirit or Creator or.…

Small things with great love! Maybe that will change the world! I hope so! It is my prayer! It is my promise to myself and others to keep asking the question and doing what i can do and trusting the One who loves us all to make it so!

Thank you for that example, Mom! Thank you for those words, Mother Teresa! Thank you to all those people who have filled my life with small things fueled by great love!

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Easy Focus is NOT Always Easy!

out-of-focus-1

Easy Focus is NOT always easy!   Man, did I discover that last night! It was the first night of our eight week Online InterPlay Body Wisdom Tools class. My co-teacher, Sharie was coming online from her home base an hour or so from Seattle and I was coming online from my second home base outside of Boston. Our 9 participants were joining us from 9 different locations -6 in various time zones in the USA, 2 from Australia and 1 from India! This was a first for almost all of us. But, because I was the one who had done a very small amount of online teaching, Cynthia (co-founder of InterPlay who had asked Sharie and I to teach the class) dubbed me as the “technical expert”! Hahahah. I think that’s where most of my distress -the opposite of easy focus-  originated.

Throughout our planning and preparation  process Sharie and I kept reminding one another to breathe deeply, sigh often and do lots of shaking of our arms, legs, bodies and voices (all good ways to foster easy focus!)! Even so, even a cursory scan of my body data told me that I was anxious. So, not only did I do my part in preparing to guide us through  the content  we would be covering, but I read documents and watched training videos so that I thought I knew every in and out of how to help our participants get signed on, use the meeting controls and have a positive experience.

I was not, however, prepared for what to do when every word almost any of us spoke reverberated with an echo traveling down a long tunnel! And what was the Body Wisdom Tool we were teaching? Easy Focus, of course. Easy Focus, that way of seeing the big picture and holding things lightly and playfully! Easy Focus, that encourages us to savor and enjoy our experiences. Easy Focus, that encourages us to relax our muscles, soften our attention and just be in the moment. But how how how  do do do you you you do do do that that that when when when every every every word word word echoes echoes echoes????

Well, we took lots of deep breaths with lots of sighs and lots of shaking. We danced. We played. We laughed. We practiced softening our focus in a guided meditation that Sharie led. And we noticed what all of that felt like in our bodies. Here are some of the things folks said they noticed:

I felt a progressive softening in my face and body…

I was more a part of everything

I was less tense

 I was more forgiving to myself.

I was allowing myself to float.

Easy focus increases my sense of connection to all and everyone that is

Amazing! By playing and practicing the things that help to bring easy focus….. we somehow found easy focus even in the midst of the echoing. And just as we moved from our exploration of the Body Wisdom Tool of Easy Focus to our exploration of the Body Wisdom Tool of Affirmation the echo stopped!!!! That’s right just as mysteriously as it began, it ended!

As I pondered all of this I began to think how life can imitate art… that is how when I remember to do what brings me to that place of playful ease called Easy Focus, even and especially when easy focus seems hard to achieve, then wa-lah there it is -Easy Focus! And with Easy Focus comes peace, ease, playfulness, creativity, and JOY!

Take a deep breath…. let it out with a big sigh…. shake out your right arm…. shake out your other right arm…. shake out your right leg…. shake out your other right leg…. shake out what you are sitting on…. shake out your voice…. repeat as needed!

 

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