A ritual for the new year

At my Unitarian Universalist congregation today, we had our annual ceremony to usher in the new year. Instead of a traditional service with a message (sermon), the worship leader guided us in thinking through what we most wanted to give up from the old year. We each wrote it on a slip of paper, and burned it in a burning bowl (a bowl of sand and our flaming papers). Then we considered what positive words to make our own for the new year.

These types of rituals never interested me in past years, but this year it seemed especially meaningful. I found myself really considering what I would like to discard from this year, and what traits I could be focusing on in the coming year.

To watch your fears and angers from the year past burn up is powerful. Release your fear, your anger, your despair. Burn it up. It is yours no longer.

Find your power, your love, your compassion, and hope. Find your courage, your mystery, your ability. Find them, and use them. Seize the moment and soar into the future, ready to succeed.

Happy New Year!

Sunday Service: Letting Go

Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.
– Eckhart Tolle

I’ve discovered there are only two modes of the heart. We can struggle, or we can surrender. Surrender is a frightening word for some people, because it might be interpreted as passivity, or timidity. Surrender means wisely accommodating ourselves to what is beyond our control.
– Sylvia Boorstein

Sunday Service: Time to Sit

English: Sanctuary of First Unitarian Church o...

English: Sanctuary of First Unitarian Church of Rochester during Sunday service 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We weren’t supposed to be in church today, but since our mini-vacation got canceled (too stressful to go with the emergency we had earlier in the week even though everything is fine now), we went to church. It was so nice to have a quiet space to sit, relax, and listen to a spiritual message.

I think sometimes in the hurry and bustle of everyday life, we forget what Sundays are really supposed to be about. A day to stop, and reflect. A day to pause, and think. A day of rest.

When was the last time you really stopped, let all your troubles go, and rested?

Sunday Service: Ecstasy

Tibetan endless knot

Image via Wikipedia

Ecstasy:
1a: a state of being beyond reason and self-control b archaic :swoon
2: a state of overwhelming emotion; especially : rapturous delight (from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary)

I’m going to try a new feature on Sundays, writing about spirituality and grace, usually based on the message from my church this morning. Today’s message was about the reason for religion — the relationship between reason and religion, and discussing the reasons humans find meaning in religion. Part of the sermon really resonated with me, that humans find ecstasy in many places, one of which is in religion.

In this context, ecstasy is anything that takes you out of yourself and connects you to a larger spiritual plane (see definition #2 above). Some people find ecstasy in music, art, or religion. Some people find it, yes, in sex. And some people find it in drugs.

That last one I wouldn’t recommend. I think the problem with drugs is that it is so easy to become addicted and be unable to live without that high — much safer to find ecstasy in something that won’t permanently rewire or fry your brain.

I find ecstasy in finding the perfect word or image for a poem, in reading poetry with those perfect words, in a well-written book, in singing in church with the congregation on a Sunday morning.

Ecstasy, for me, is a form of grace. Grace being the connection I feel to the larger spiritual forces that connect us all. That moment of perfection, of being taken out of myself, is a connection to humanity and the cosmos.

Do you find grace in your life? Where do you find ecstasy?

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