Two pastors that I know are extraordinary. They both pastor homeless people. One lived as a homeless person for two weeks so he could understand what was going on. The other is homeless. She refuses to live in a home and sleeps on the streets every night of her life. She takes this so seriously that given the opportunity to sleep inside at a convocation, she made special arrangements to sleep in the doorstep-declining housing thousands of miles away from her people. She is the only one who would have known! And nobody would have judged her in error for sleeping inside at a conference she was attending.
I am amazed at the depth of commitment they both have.
In my context, that would be sleeping in a detention center. I am not sure I am prepared to be locked up in order to be one with the people that I am committed to walking with.
But maybe that is because I am not viewing all space as sacred. If I imagine that a jail cell is the Cathedral of Notre Dame with an air of mystery, sacrament, and holiness…does that change the context? Maybe. But could I put on the blue scrubs, white t-shirt, white socks, and orange plastic flip-flops? Using harsh soaps, eating questionable food, everything? Hmmm. I am not sure I could ever do that. I am also not sure that it is a requirement to do so. But, perhaps what is a requirement is the holy imagination it takes to think of what this walk would be.
That is the spiritual practice I’d like to invite you into today, holy imagination. I believe that we are all called to support the least among us. In other words, those who cannot take care of themselves. Those our societies often label “other.” People who are “other” than us—outside the norm—impoverished, imprisoned, hungry, sick, non-gender conforming—whoever is being “othered.”
Who is your other?
Could it be someone from a different faith tradition? A different political point-of-view? Or any of those I listed above? Generally, there is always someone we “other-ize.” Even though I am working with people every day that are affected by incarceration, I found myself in a spot today where I felt the person I was sitting with was totally “other” from me. She is telling me flat-out that when she returns to her community, she will return to drug use and gang involvement. Period. She sees no other way. No other hope. That is hard for me to fathom. She says, “I will probably be dead by 21” without blinking. Wow. And sheesh. I need to find a way to sit with her in a way that is hopeful and not descend into other-izing her even though her current ideas are so foreign to my mind and heart.
If I use holy imagination, maybe I can put myself into her life and feel where her self-imposed traps come from. And seeing where the traps are, maybe I can point out a way she can negotiate the traps and bring herself greater freedom. I don’t know. I will continue to work on it.
Today, using your own holy imagination, can you take five minutes (really, 20 minutes is more like it!) to do some visualization work?
First, relax as much as you can. Keep working at it until you have quieted the monkey mind (or brain chatter—but my inner chatter is more like a monkey!).
When you have fully relaxed, set your intention. Here, I am suggesting your intention should be a conversation with whoever you “other-ize.” (Could it be yourself?)
Next, focus on what you want. Today, our desire is closer understanding. How can you begin to understand the figurative foreigner across from you? What questions can you ask in order to bring you deeper understanding? I am always amazed at my own capacity to carry assumptions. How can we leave assumptions and expectations behind so that there is room for increased understanding?
As realizations and understandings grow, there may be a struggle. Give your struggle up. It is like the monkey-brain. Keep offering both of these things away. I usually visualize putting these on a cloud and whooshing them out of my space. Don’t struggle too hard. If it isn’t happening, it isn’t happening. Then, don’t be too hard on yourself. There will be another day, another try.
Finally, don’t get tangled in negative thoughts—whoosh them away on that cloud! Experience your highest self—the one that sits in loving kindness, compassion, and hope.
When your conversation is complete (and you may get horrible answers, let’s be honest), hold onto the highest self for a moment and see yourself. See the person who took a risk today of entering scary, sacred space. A person who was willing to love. Look at yourself and see the sacred space within.
Shalom and Amen,
© 2013, post , Terri Stewart, All rights reserved
Originally publishes, 2013, at IntoTheBardo.Wordpress.com