Wednesday, February 28, 2007

discernment, passion, etc.

God is endlessly imaginative, and the function of discernment is to enter creatively into God's vision for the world and to collaborate with the Spirit in making that vision a reality. -- David Lonsdale, 20th century English Jesuit writer

This quote began my church newsletter for March, and I like it very much because I feel like it gets at the balance between God's will and the responsibility of an individual to participate in the act of creation -- creating relationships, art, peace, fill-in-your-desires here.

Another take on this idea is that when you are fulfilling God's vision for your life, you feel deep joy. I have experienced this feeling, and it has been true for me. Perhaps because I've spent a lot of my life caught up in other's expectations of me, this ringing true, full-body joy is incredibly important to me.

It's important for me to say joy, and not happiness, because I am often quite scared and fraught as I take these journeys. I wish it was easier. Actually, it's the showing up that is hard. The actual work tends to be quite wonderful.

Monday, February 26, 2007

getting a grip

B. and I have been talking about producing an animated documentary about bipolar disorder for about a year now.

Yesterday, we met and actually put ideas on paper!

I was gripped by anxiety for and aft. But I broke the process down step by step (get out of bed. take a shower. eat cereal, drink coffee. get dressed. get stuff together. get in car. get over the fact that you are an hour late. call B. and make sure it's ok that you are going to be late. etc.).

I think the anxiety and insomnia I've been dealing with lately has something to do with actually feeling fearsome feeling, rather than shoving them down. It is my sincere hope that ultimately, hanging out with the hard stuff (which includes both difficult and very pleasurable emotions) will lead to a more of an integrated Dawn, better to handle moods and strong emotions.

Shoving down, squelching, swallowing, however you want to put it -- leads to exhaustion, sadness, and difficulty taking in -- really getting on a gut level -- my accomplishments, contributions to the universe, etc.

SO...the main point of this post is, we did it! We took an important step forward. The anxiety, however sucky it was to experience, didn't stop me from showing up.


Thursday, February 22, 2007


Last July, I wrote a blog entry called "Ugly Thoughts" (click on "Ugly Thoughts" to read it, if you want to).

It involved my time on a selection committee for the Hines Fellowship, and being kind of jealous of the four young women who were receiving the opportunity to travel internationally and domestically to do documentary work with organizations that focus on children.

We're in the selection process again, and I'm just grateful that I've apparently gotten my sense of possibility back into place. I'm unstuck, which is great. I'm not feeling jealous anymore, but inspired.

What do I want to do? It's a fun question, and I have lots of ideas...stay tuned!

What Actually Happened on Ash Wednesday

Through a perfect storm of work craziness, tiredness, and a state of anxiety due to hunger (writing those down, I see themes emerging as far as emotional vulnerability is concerned), I missed my DBT group session yesterday. DBT is short for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a combination of group and individuals sessions that teach skills to help manage emotions, negotiate life in very practical ways, and basically, to thrive in the world as a sensitive person (or you could say, “a person who struggles with a mood disorder of one kind or another”). One of the therapists says that she wants us to become “sturdier.” The fact that I missed a session is kind of a big deal because you're "allowed" four absences in the fourteen month program – after that, you have to pay the $50 per session whether you show up or not. So I think it’s ironic that I missed the session by failing to use the skills I’m trying to practice in the group.

A little before 6 p.m. I managed pull myself into the present moment, and made the decision to miss the last 30 minutes of the DBT group in order arrive at the Ash Wednesday service on time. I arrived a few moments after 6 p.m., only to find that the service didn’t start until 7 p.m.

There’s a chapel at Calvary, small-ish, that I like quite a lot. There is an altar with lots of candles, so I lit one, closed the door, and set my phone to go off in thirty minutes. For the first time in a while, I was able to meditate.

Sitting on the floor of the chapel with my legs crossed, I focused on the candle flame. First I could feel my body gradually coming into itself. Legs connected to floor. I felt balanced, comfortable with my legs crossed, leaning back a little. I could feel the tension in my back, arms, and shoulders.

At the meditation retreat I attended over New Year’s, I cornered the (amazing, wonderful) instructor and asked, “Really, no, really. What does a peaceful mind look like? What am I trying to do?” She took my question seriously, and the most helpful thing she said was, “You may have to come back to your breathing 10 times, 100 times, a 100,000 times. The meditation is the spaces between the times you remember to come back.”

With her permission to fail/succeed a 100,000 times, I felt the freedom to explore meditation, and felt less frustrated, less wrong.

So the meditating in the Chapel was good. There were moments of stillness, quiet. There’s a great quote (source unknown) that goes: “If you’re busy, meditate. If you’re really busy, meditate more.”

I have less to say about the actual service, except that the scripture included one Psalm 51, one of my favorites:

Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.

Though it leads up to a dark time in the Christian calendar I like Lent. It’s popular to skip Christ-on-the-Cross and jump straight to the bunnies and baby chicks of Easter, but that doesn’t seem authentic to me. And my world gets muddy, frantic, so time to focus on the spirit, on God’s will for me in the world, is a good thing.

So with the grit of mortality on my forehead, I entered the next forty days (not counting Sundays).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lenten Promises/Gifts

This year, my Lenten promise is no unnecessary purchases of things. Movies ok. Food ok. Clothing, accessories, books, music -- not ok. (This isn't a judgement against consumerism, it's just something that feels right for me to do right now. I'm having money anxiety, and I tend to shop as a way of avoiding feelings.) I understand Lent as a time to come closer to God, and the thing/thoughts/etc. that you "give up" are in the spirit of making more room for contemplation, quiet, etc. Not to give up things that are "bad" for you.

So this evening I'll go get ashes smudges on my forehead. Since I didn't grow up as a Christian, the meaning of such rituals (and this includes communion -- which is an intense and moving ceremony for me) don't necessarily make sense in an intellectual way (Not that I don't get the ashes to ashes thing). Sometimes, like this evening, I'll show up open to the experience, and see what happens.

I receive daily emails from "The Upper Room," with Bible passages and pithy reflections from various sources). Here's today's scripture reading...

Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts, and not your clothing.
- Joel 2:12-13 (NRSV)

"Rend your hearts, but not your CLOTHING."

So smart. It's Lent and all, but why wreck a perfectly good outfit?