By the time you read this, the “peaceful transition of power,” one of the hallmarks of our democracy, will be in process or will have occurred. New leaders bring new ideas and policies which elicit both hope and fear. William Bridges defines a time of transition as an ending followed by a period of “lostness and emptiness” before life resumes an intelligible pattern and direction. Transitions bring out the best and worst in humans. Like the old worry stone you could carry around in your pocket to rub to soothe your concerns, I would offer a few “pebbles” worth carrying in your pocket during this transition.
Christina Baldwin’s book, The Seven Whispers, is a collection of spiritual practices for our time focusing on seven meditative phrases. In this article, I pass along three of these as invitations to your spirit and points of orientation for you and the faith community you belong to, if the way ahead is not clear.
- Move at the Pace of Guidance.
In a fast-moving world, awash with distractions, living at the pace of guidance invites us to combine the practices of “measured movement and listening.” When we move at the pace of guidance we take time to listen and question before moving on. Moving at this pace slows us long enough to wonder where God is and what God may have for us contrasted against what we have decided for ourselves. Moving fast can cancel out guidance which can smother spirit. When spirit is starved for oxygen our ego takes over. Today’s news is a running commentary on when ego is in the driver’s seat.
- Surrender to Surprise.
There is always a gap between what we think will happen and what actually happens. This gap is surprise. Surrendering to surprise means making room for interruptions and leaving enough space for something you have not considered. It is the practice of “balancing structure and openness.” Openness to surprise might go a long way toward reducing the rage and anxiety that seems to be escalating in our culture. Remember, surprise is a “donation to our growth.”
- Love the Folks in Front of You.
This third pebble challenges how lazy we can become about love. Loving who is in front of you invites us to relinquish our judgements and move beyond our tendency to see people based on what they can do for us rather than becoming genuinely curious about them. Christina Baldwin recounts in her book a story about one person making a difference; “If you don’t think one individual can make a difference, you’ve never spent the night in a tent with a mosquito.”
Who we are and how we behave has a tremendous impact on the quality of life we create around ourselves. As we become people who no longer live in the place we came from, we need to replace the sense of place with a willingness to know the stories of who is in front of us. Perhaps this accounts for the renewed interest in personal story. Knowing a person’s story can soften our reactiveness and judgment of each other. Loving who is in front of us is the practice of putting the reins on stereotype and judgment while taking interest in the story of the person in front of you.
These three “whispers” are gentle invitations or pebbles to place in your pocket. They can be medicine for these days of transition and guides as we reorient from the lostness and emptiness that is a normal stage of transition. As Rumi said:
“My boat strikes something deep.
At first sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened.
And I am sitting in my new life.”