I just had to sit in the stillness this morning before launching into a long day of activities. It was one of the good days when the perpetual urges to get up and start doing did not snag me. It was one of the mornings when my true need to first be – overruled the call to start reading or writing, or taking a shower and dressing, or eating breakfast. There is no end to the compulsive inner voices telling me to start doing something from the time I awaken. There is only one Voice gently inviting me to come into Presence. Today I listened and followed down the quiet path to that place of stillness.
The stillness is in all of us beneath the mind’s busy ramblings. You might not believe that. You might be so used to hearing the constant chatter of the ever-busy thoughts that you think inner stillness is in everyone else but you. Sometimes I believe that too. That is why I need daily practice, on my own and in groups, to remind me there is a stillness beneath every thought, feeling, and impulse, just waiting for me.
This way of beginning the morning in oneness gives me the chance to be present when my wife awakens and wants to talk, to be vulnerable in revealing my true self with my friends, and to be willing to go deeper into suffering with those I will care for today. Oneness opens my heart wide and sets Spirit free to flow through me today.
Morning oneness begins my transformation for the day. Transformation is what I am seeking. This does not mean I am trying to fix myself, change myself, or make myself into someone else. Transformation is the daily process by which God converts the raw energy of my being into a vessel who radiates loving-kindness. This is God’s sacred work. This is my ongoing conversion into a being integrating his darkness and Light. That happens a little each day as I enter the stillness and open for the transformation.
As you can imagine, when I do not begin with morning oneness, or I turn away from the Presence a million times during the day, the transformation lessens for that time. This does not mean I prevent God from working on me, in me, or through me. It does mean my own conversion is lessened when I am not in sinc with Spirit.
The attitude of seeking transformation is well captured in the Christian hymn “Spirit of the Living God.” The hardest and best lines say: “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.” This is the prayer we want to avoid at all costs. We would much rather pray, “Lord, change Bill’s heart,” than “melt me.” It’s a paradox of the spiritual journey: one part of us wants to grow and the other part resists change at all costs. I guess that’s why we need songs to call forth the better part of us, the part which seeks to grow in becoming our truest selves.
When I practice morning oneness it is like I am singing “melt me, mold me,” as I surrender each rising thought into God’s care, one after the other.There is this perpetual process of thoughts capturing my attention and my decisions to release them. That’s on the good days. On the worst days there is just the ramble of thoughts jumbling together and my tendency to get lost in them. On those days you could say I am practicing lostness of being.
So in my human condition there is the ego, king of the universe, wanting to rule this day. There is also the Source of All who is breathing my life in and out from the place where God and I are one in my center. My morning oneness is the beginning of turning my being away from the rule of ego and toward the rule of my Source.
Years ago my friend Emilie Griffin wrote a book whose theme expresses what happens in my morning oneness. That book is Turning. Contemplatives practice this turning, as best we can, over and over throughout our days. Turning works better for me if I start my day with this practice. Once I start into tasks I can fall back into practicing lostness. And once I go lost I can stay there for much of a day. So a lot depends on whether I begin the day with morning oneness or practicing lostness.
One of the destructive parts of living in my lostness is that my lost world is often ruled by shame – the fundamental sense that I am not worthy of love and belonging, (a definition I draw from the work of Dr. Brene’ Brown). The unworthy feeling is strong in me at times. From Dr. Brown’s work it seems clear that such hidden unworthiness is epidemic in the American culture. So if I live in that lostness it means I am living out of touch with my fundamental wholeness.
When I practice morning oneness I experience the opposite: my inner wholeness emerges with the message, “I am worthy of love and belonging.” So whether I enter the day with a sense of worthiness or unworthiness depends in part on whether I begin the day in oneness. When I go down to the depths in the morning, beneath any temporary feelings like unworthiness, I am heading for the country where my Inner Teacher tells me my true name: worthy.
Here is an example from a friend’s life. Last night I was walking alongside Lucy Warren. Lucy is officially retiring from her service as a deacon in the United Methodist Church. We were walking away from a fun evening highlighting some of the diverse ministries in United Methodist Churches around Louisiana. Lucy is a quiet saint. Her invisible ministry with nursing home patients was not on any big screens at the conference.
Yet I learned a lot about living from worthiness in her story sharing. Her quiet humility flowed forth as she spoke of her fulfillment from many years of sharing favorite scriptures, hymns, and readings from childhood books with those patients. The focus of her sharing was all about what pleased the many people with dementias, and what helped them experience a spiritual connection despite their conditions.
Listening to Lucy talk about her love of these people was like wading in a stream of worthiness and loving-kindness. She is a living textbook for worthiness, an example of what happens when someone lives in the practice of their oneness with God every day. There is no need for self-glory in Lucy. She is not seeking the bright lights of fame. She has dedicated her life to quietly going about the invisible business of delivering loving-kindness into the lives of people who probably won’t remember her name or her visit after she leaves the room. But her worthiness is in no way diminished by that reality because she is there for them in that moment, and that moment of love-sharing is all that matters to her.
God help me remember to practice my morning oneness with you so that I have half a chance to begin to become a being like Lucy.