Category Archives: Acceptance

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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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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