Holy friends, as you know on the Jewish calendar we have just celebrated the Feast of Weeks, which Jewish tradition identifies with the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. It is a time for deep contemplation of the “Torah” of our lives – not only the literal Five Books of Moses, one of the roots of Unitarian Universalism, but the Torah or wisdom that is unique to each of us as individuals.
It has been my practice for some years to go to a special place in the woods, at Bahle Park in Suttons Bay, in solitude and take up my place near a favorite old maple tree and simply sit and receive. I listen for the wisdom of the wind, the trees and the earth and I asked to blessed with something to carry back into my life that I will live as “my” Torah (wisdom, skillful means, unfolding narrative).
This year there are two lessons I would like to share with you. One came from another elderly maple whose branches reached in all directions: open yourself up, do not be closed off, reach out, and all the sunlight, warmth and rain you need will come in their right time.
The second lesson – and our Buddhist cousins will know this well – was how amazing busy my mind was! It took a good deal of time to become fully present to the forest, to the present moment. So much of my thinking is future imagining or worry about things past. The second lesson is about quieting the inner conversation, breathing in, breathing out and simply being present to moment.
For us as a congregation, these lessons might apply as well. As a community, we are indeed opening, spreading of arms wide to welcome new friends and members, trying new things, and letting ourselves grow. Like that old maple, though, it is vital that we care for the trunk and roots: our history, traditions and ways of being.
The model of Appreciative Inquiry calls upon the second lesson I received. Sometimes we are quick to react, to create a narrative about people or communities. Deep listening, being fully present without preparing our next statement, staying open to the people and needs that are before us is how we will make sure that the larger we get, the smaller we will become.
So friends, I bless you to stay open and nimble and at the same time to stay present with each where you are planted moment as it unfolds. Thank you for allowing me share the forest/Feast of Weeks wisdom. May you blossom.
In love and blessing –
Rabbi Chava Bahle
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The Common Heart: Spiritual Paradigm Shift; Rabbi Chava Bahle at TEDxTraverseCity 2014
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse
6726 Center Rd.
Traverse City, MI 49686
231-947-3117 (office) 231-947-0726 (fax)