Our exploration of the sacred continues this month with the journey toward Sacred Community. It was a thrill for me this August to co-facilitate a workshop with my beloved partner, Clarissa Crowe, at Albuquerque Center for Spiritual Living (ABQ CSL). The workshop was based on Mark Nepo’s latest book, More Together Than Alone - Discovering the Power and Spirit of Community in Our Lives and in the World.
It was quite an adventure navigating our way through the book via a lively mix of games, music, videos and meditations. If you know me and Clarissa, you can surmise that it was not ‘your father’s workshop’ for sure! By the end, we’d done exactly what the book intended. There was a deepened sense of community among our group, a palpable feeling of Oneness. It is in that spirit that I share my perspectives. Much like our beloved ABQ CSL Labyrinth, this blog may seem like a twisting path of seemingly unending turns, yet I promise in the end you’ll know you’ve arrived at your destination. I bring my love for words, and cooking, and building to this conversation, in the hopes that you’ll see the value of Sacred Community as I have on my path.
In previous months, we’ve learned about the TENDERNESS of being a part of Sacred Family, and the INTIMACY required to truly know Sacred Relationship. I offer to you that being in Sacred Community is all about the SCHMALTZ! Yes, I said SCHMALTZ. Great word, right? It is in the etymology of the word, and its double meaning that you may begin to get on board with my ‘drift.’
excessive sentimentality, especially in music or movies. "at the end of the film the audience are drowned in a sea of schmaltz"
rendered chicken or goose fat used for frying or as a spread on bread in Central European cuisine, and in the United States, particularly identified with Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Rendered waterfowl fat is also used in the cuisine of Southwestern France. Origin 1930s: from Yiddish shmaltz, from German Schmalz ‘dripping, lard’.
It is the first definition that will take us into the Labyrinth of Sacred Community. The second will bring us together at the very center – I promise!
I am a huge fan of the work of Eckart Tolle. I love his writing style and how he not only gives his readers permission, but actually implores them to stop reading and perform a task or ritual that brings them a deeper understanding of the teaching at hand. Borrowing this technique from him, as we begin to contemplate SCHMALTZ, I beg you to pause reading this blog and immediately do the following:
Open a new window in your web browser and Google these two words: Goulet people.
Robert Goulet is without question the King of Schmaltz, and “People” is its anthem! Click on the picture of his amazing face and enjoy the video. I’ll be here when you return all euphoric!…
Welcome back, grasshopper. The Sacred Community dojo is back in session!
“People” was written in 1964 by Bob Merrill and Julie Styne for the musical Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand. Her original version is beautiful and moving, but it wasn’t until Goulet put his ‘pipes’ to it that it achieved its lard dripping excessive sentimentality. He takes it from the relational to the communal, from a private love song to a public lounge song. His delivery of this lyric plants our feet solidly on the threshold of creating Sacred Community:
“We’re children, needing other children
And yet letting grown-up pride hide all the need inside
Acting more like children than children”
In our workshop, Clarissa and I introduced Mark Nepo’s concept of “repairing.” I suggested that he meant less that there was something broken in need of “repair,” and more that it was an invitation to intentionally join again, or “re-pair” with a community, not out of obligation, but out of CHOICE. As children, we were at times placed, or even forced into certain communities, often to the deep detriment of our soul’s longing. The idea here is to identify what is really sacred to each of us. The Oxford dictionary definition of sacred is “regarded with great respect and reverence by a particular religion, group, or individual.” The first leg of our journey involves taking responsibility for our need to belong. As a builder, I’ve learned that it is wise to define key steps on the critical path to a successful build. And so we begin our ‘critical path’ to building Sacred Community…
STEP ONE: CHOOSE – Reverend Amani referenced this in her talk “Being A-Part” when she reminded us that “when we choose to join consciously with life, we are practicing oneness…which means we can’t see ourselves as separate from anyone or any circumstance.” As Merrill and Styne wrote in their song “People” – “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” It may be schmaltzy, but it is true. The end of separation opens the door to Sacred Community!
The next turn on the path involves a commitment. Once we’ve decided to belong to a community, we must develop a set of working agreements that foster trust. Coretta Scott King said “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” That compassion is nurtured by practicing Ahimsa, the Sanskrit word that translates to the concept “do no harm.” Beyond the literal translation is the intention to live with a “generous heart.” It requires us to drop our individual agendas and be aware of what is being called forth. Once we commit to showing up, and pledge to trust each other, the Spirit of our belonging and the true purpose of community can be revealed. Let’s add another touchstone…
STEP TWO: COMMIT – Last week in her talk “Genesis of Love,” Reverend Amani shared with us a quote from Leandra Fernandez: “Empathy needs to be not just a step in the process but a personal relationship that truly changes everyone involved.” Our commitment to non-violence, empathy, and compassion allows us to be fully present for one another.
Naturally, our journey toward Sacred Community takes us deeper now, and as the 42nd Psalm instructs, “deep calls unto deep.” What is being asked of us next is to bring our true selves to the communal table. How do we do this? As I mentioned, I have a love for creating and building. As I was recruiting people to help me with the Howard Thurman Kitchen Project at ABQ CSL, one volunteer expressed interest in being of service, yet also hesitancy in having to work as part of a group. She had always been a bit of a lone wolf. As we talked more deeply, it became clear what she really wanted was to give her unique self to the project and not get caught up in doing things she really wasn’t good at or interested in. I listed tasks that needed to be done and let her ‘own’ those tasks that ‘lit her up.’ When it came time to get the work done, she enthusiastically joined in with others who I also let self-select their duties. It was transformational to watch someone get great value from extending out of their comfort zone while still bringing their unique gifts to the collective. We all became closer and more present as a result of being willing to go deeper. As Mark Nepo puts it:
“It takes a particular kind of effort to slow down and sink into the waters that matter, to center and drop into the heart of any moment. When we can, that moment becomes the teacher.” When we follow our instinct for the deep, we discover our common song, which brings us alive.” And so, remember…
STEP THREE: DEEPEN – As Reverend Amani encouraged us again in “Genesis of Love,” we must be willing to get close to life, let it touch us, grow us, deepen our connection to it. So that we can allow our embodiment of love, who and what we love, to grow.” And so it is!
Having chosen community, committed to non-violence and generosity, and deepened into finding our common song, a little tending is required to make the pathway sustainable. Nepo refers to it as “clearing our acequias.” He teaches that “keeping the acequia clear and flowing is a useful metaphor for interdependence and cooperation. When we can let the common good flow freely between us, we can feel the presence of all those who have come before us, as well as those will follow.” What are the clogs, brambles, and boulders in your experience of community? What might you do to clear them in order to keep the river of Oneness flowing? And so, our next challenge…
STEP FOUR: CARE – In her talk “Genesis of Love,” Reverend Amani shared this insight from Equal Justice Initiative’s Founder Bryan Stevenson. “You cannot be an effective problem solver from a distance…if you are willing to get close to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world.” Amani added, “if we are busy trying to stay safe, comfortable, unaffected, we limit the Love that is possible for us and through us.” It is vital that we tend to the acequia that is our community, keeping it free from misunderstanding, fear, or anything that keep us from knowing the truth of who we are together.
And so, as promised we reach the Center of our Labyrinth, the manifestation of Sacred Community. So far, we have re-paired through choice, committed to compassion, deepened our knowing of Oneness, and removed anything that keeps us from Love. Our next frontier is to discover who we are together. Our mission is:
Love in Action --> Transforming Lives --> Transforming Communities
What do you bring to this mission? What are your dreams for creating a more diverse and welcoming world?
I told you that the second definition of SCHMALTZ would bring us home to Sacred Community. It is no coincidence that stews, soups and casseroles are the most brought dishes to potlucks and community dinners. They always contain a form of schmaltz. The key concept is that schmaltz is “rendered.” In the case of goose, or turkey, or chicken- it is the fat that gets rendered, releasing its inherent yumminess. But you could make a case for the ‘essence’ of vegetables like lentils or cabbage being rendered as well. The word render is from the French word rendre, meaning to give back, or melt down. Whatever is rendered gives back its full flavor to that with which is it combined. It is also no coincidence that the root meaning of ‘render’ is contained in our last step on this journey…
STEP FIVE: SURRENDER – Its etymology is also from the French. When ‘sur’ which means ‘over’ is added to ‘render’ which we know to mean ‘give back,’ you get ‘surrender’- ‘to give back over.’ Spiritually speaking, surrender is akin to “returning to source,” or “becoming one with Spirit.” When speaking specifically of community, it means to give yourself fully to the Spirit of Oneness. This becomes the Divine magic of creativity! As Reverend Amani reminded us in her talk ‘On A Mission,’ “whatever we may be inspired to do from that centered place that knows the truth of who we are, will be Love in Action. There is no other possibility.” Love is the heat that renders the knowing. When we create together in this way, we realize our mission. Margaret J. Wheatley said it best. "There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about." We have arrived! Ashe, aho, y asi es, and so it is!