Monthly Spiritual Exercises
Each month you can deepen your experience of our worship theme by engaging in the monthly spiritual exercise. If you are not part of the Soul Matters Circle, share your experience of the spiritual exercise with others on the “Friends of UCM” Facebook group, at coffee hour on Sundays, or even with your family and friends in your day-to-day life.
April Spiritual Exercises
Option A: Name Your Names
Israeli poet, Zelda, speaks powerfully to this month’s theme with her poem, Each of Us Has A Name. With it, she reminds us that our wholeness is not so much a matter of holding tight to your one true name, but embracing the many names given to us by the experiences of our lives. The full poem can be found at this link, but here’s a taste:
Each of us has a name given by God
and given by our parents…
Each of us has a name given by the mountains
and given by our walls…
Each of us has a name given by our sins
and given by our longing…
So, this month, you are invited to reflect on how these universal experiences have “named you.” Spend a few hours or a few days going through Zelda’s poem line by line, stopping after each one to think about how that experience imprinted itself on your and added a dimension to your wholeness, for better or worse.
It helps to think of each of these experiences as completing the sentence, “You are…” So here’s an example of what you might ask yourself as you work with each line:
- What name was I given by “God”(or Love)? How did my first God experience complete the sentence, “You are …”
- What name was I given by my parents? How has my relationship with them completed the sentence, “You are …”
- What name was I given by the mountains? How has my experience with nature completed the sentence, “You are …”
- What name was I given by my “sins”? How has my experience with my shadow side or mistakes completed the sentence, “You are …”
After answering the questions, consider assembling all of your names into a list that functions as a poem of sorts. Read your many names aloud one by one, or ask someone close to your to read them as you listen.
Alternative Approach: You can streamline and focus this exercise by reading through the poem multiple times until a single line pops out for you. In other words, don’t engage each line but instead find the one line that engages you.
Option B: The Wholeness of Another
This exercise invites you to explore your experience of wholeness by learning about the wholeness of others. Hearing how others talk about their lives clarifies our own. So pick 2-4 people to interview this month about wholeness. We suggest that you use the following five questions:
- When was the first time you thought to yourself “I’m complete”?
- In what space or place do you feel most whole? How often do you spend time there?
- How has your understanding of wholeness changed with age?
- What was your proudest moment of maintaining and standing up for your wholeness?
- What part of yourself hasn’t been let out in a while?
If these five questions are too many or not quite right, then alter the list any way you like. The Your Question section below contains additional ideas. The important part is to ask each person the same question or questions. The contrasting answers and differing perspectives enable new insights to emerge.
Who you pick is also a value part of the exercise so pay attention to the feelings and motives that arise. Are you nervous or excited? Are you only picking people you are comfortable with? Do you see the topic of wholeness as a chance to go deep with someone or impolite because it is too intimate of a topic? Are you surprised that you you’ve never talked with these people about this before?
Option C: Strong at the Broken Places*
The cover image this month [see above] represents a practice in Japanese pottery called Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, in which broken ceramic pieces are repaired with lacquer containing gold dust, producing works that are even more beautiful than when they first emerged from the kiln. How do you experience this (or might you experience this) in your own life? Take some time to sit with the image and let it touch your own difficult experiences. Perhaps you’d like to take out paints or crayons and create your own images. Perhaps this image might find its way into your dreams this month.
*“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” (Ernest Hemingway, entirely out of context. Also the title of an excellent book by Linda Sanford on trauma and resilience.)