World Peace Starts Here
As I write this I am preparing for my vacation. My followers should know that I will not be blogging for the next two weeks. I will miss it. I hope you will miss it! I promise to come back with lots of great photos and material for future blogs.
Yesterday in church the gospel was “Come unto me all you who labor and feel heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28) I am feeling it. When we work excessive hours, and do not get our usual time off, our lives begin to slowly slip out of balance. I have a simple test I use that tips me off when this is starting to happen: when I get home at the end of a day, and find myself trying to insert my office key in the door of my home, that means I have been spending too much time at work!
Every faith tradition I know speaks about the necessity for moderation or balance in our lives. In the Jewish and Christian traditions the Sabbath is of extreme importance. We think of Sabbath as a holy day, as the commandment reminds us to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” We think of this as a reminder to go to church, temple, mosque or synagogue. But the word Sabbath literally means “rest.” In the first chapter of the first book of the bible, in the first story of creation, we read that on the seventh day God rested. I always remind the work-a-holics, “If God needed to rest, who are we to think that we do not need to rest?
The word Sabbath is related to “Sabbatical.” In some professions (most commonly professors and clergy), a sabbatical is advised at least once every seven years. In the Torah farmers are also commanded to let their fields rest every seven years. The earth itself needs a rest! Why? Because without a Sabbath rest it is depleted of nutrients, and will not be able to produce a healthy and abundant harvest. It needs a year off to be replenished and restored.
Yet so many professionals pride themselves on never taking any time off. You are kidding yourself. I worked with one colleague who took pride in never taking a day off. Yet every time I went into his office, he was playing games on his computer. He looked busy, but was far from productive. He would have been better off staying home, being with his family, getting replenished and restored. Frankly, his life and ministry would be more healthy and fruitful that way.
In Eastern religions balance is also essential. So many in the US practice yoga as a form of physical exercise. Ironically yoga is actually a spiritual practice. The physical asanas (poses) developed as a way of creating a suppleness in the body to allow the body to sit for hours in prayer and meditation. The word yoga literally means “yoke.” Yoga is all about the need for a healthy balance in our lives, “yoking” together in Hatha yoga, the the opposites of sun (Ha) and moon (Tha), masculine and feminine, heat (hot , strength building yoga practices) and coolness (gentle, restorative yoga practices). Yoga is about balancing our bodies, minds and spirits. How ironic that in the US we have turned it into something that is primarily a rigorous physical workout, and forget that it is essentially a spiritual practice.
The older I get, however, the religious symbol that has become the most important for me is the yin and yang symbol of Buddhism. As with Hatha yoga, it signifies a balance between masculine and feminine: yin stands for the feminine, gentle, restful, restorative side of ourselves, and yang for the masculine, hard, strength building aspect of ourselves. To live a healthy life, we need to keep both aspects in balance. This is parallel to what psychologist Carl Jung teaches about balancing our animus and anima (masculine and feminine).
We all, men and women alike, have masculine and feminine, animus and anima, Ha and Tha, Yin and Yang, within. In our American culture, however, in fact in most cultures, the masculine is revered so much more than the feminine: work valued more than rest; strength revered more than gentleness, war valued more than peace. One of my spiritual mentors, Sister Jose Hobday (Lakota, as well as a Franciscan nun) said that in most Native American tribes, it is the women who give the final vote as to whether a tribe should go to war. This is because the women are the life-bearers. They know what it takes to create human life, and realize that it can never be squandered or treated dismissively. This lack of balance between the feminine and the masculine is also why our planet, our great Mother Earth, is slipping out of balance: because we honor the masculine more than the feminine.
The answer is awareness. When I automatically take out the key to my office, my life is out of balance. I need to reel in the work hours. When I do nothing but intense physical workouts, my body will eventually become worn out and depleted. Extreme Sports never make it into middle age or older stages of life. For the long haul, moderation is essential.
The thing I like most about the yin and yang symbol is that it is about wholeness: the two halves are held together in one circle. Two equals one equals three (the two plus the one whole). It is simultaneously a trinity and a unity of opposites.
The band U2 sings, “I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.” Start here. Start with yourself. Notice when you are out of balance. Rest. Restore. Rejuvinate. Only when we have peace in our own hearts, will there ever be peace in the world.
May you see the God in all you encounter,
and may you reflect God to all you encounter.
Pastor Linda Forsberg, Copyright July 7, 2014