Monday, November 06, 2006

interacting as a spiritual act

Before I lose some of you simply with the title, let me say that I don't normally interact well. Although I write at great length about the importance of support networks in my "Choosing Single Motherhood" book, including discussion in the Conclusion of moments of interaction that had a profound effect on me, I'm still a relatively isolated person. I don't "walk the talk" as well as I would like.

Yes, I have a few close friends and family that I count on greatly. And yes, I've gotten very involved with my daughter's school. And yes, I joined a local Unitarian Universalist church in order to help my children grow in a spiritual community. But ultimately, I always find myself a little dense when it comes to the basic lesson that interacting with others can be good for the soul.

My latest reminder happened this way. I signed up for what sounded like an intellectual workshop at my church. We would be exploring how we define theology. At our church, social justice is intertwined with inspiration from everything from the Bible to the Koran to Buddhist teachings to Ralph Waldo Emerson. So this sounded like a proper "thinking" opportunity for me to learn from, as observer, as listener. Not necessarily as participant.

Yet the workshop wasn't for bystanders. At the first of three sessions, we were asked to speak for 5-10 minutes each about the moments in our lives that have led us to our particular theologies.

And what happened next was....magical. One by one, we heard moving, intense, honest revelations from the 15 ordinary men and women who signed up for intellectual conversation. One by one, we spontaneously started our conversations about faith and mystery and search-and-find by talking about low points that prompted us to rise above.

The elderly man whose father was an old school European who believed only in developing the body, contrasted with his intensely Catholic mother. The woman who was raised as a Communist, and felt uncomfortable about it, yet wanted to fulfill a social justice mission, and had found comfort as an adult at UU. The young woman who tended to carefully craft her life, until a moment of serendipity in Spain enabled her to discover that living in fear of the unknown was no real life.

One by one, we heard common yet unusual stories of everyone. And we began to be lifted by the realization that it was incredibly rare for any of us to take that step back, think about the defining moments of our lives, and then share it with others. And that, having shared, how enlightened we felt. Buoyant.

We connected simply by sharing our lives, in brief -- and the end result was to feel intimately lifted. Not like "sharing with your best girlfriend" lift. But the unique "sharing with a stranger" lift. Being vulnerable, and trusting, and deep in a way that gets beyond the general chit-chat of everyday life.

It's something I see on a regular basis in the online discussion board I moderate for Choice Moms. When we reveal parts of ourselves, it can be so liberating, and focusing, that it's like taking a big step on our personal journey, rather than a series of shuffle steps. We take that leap to say, "This is Me. This is where I've been. This is where I'm going. This is what I believe."

We develop confidence, in articulating ourselves to others. And we develop great power, in connecting to each additional point of energy in our universe.

So I encourage any of you reading this to do the same. Connect. Use the "comments" button to share something about how you have come to be the person you are now, and where you want to go.