Greetings from Lifelong Learning and WUUC
This month our congregation will explore the Soul Matters theme Presence. As a contemplative, this is one of my favorite topics. In the Buddhist context, presence speaks to our ability to hold attention to our state of mind in every moment. This attention was the hallmark of the historical Buddha’s teachings. Ideas of mindfulness and contemplation have become part of our Western culture and we are learning the benefits of attention to the present moment. Why was this teaching so important to Shakyamuni Buddha?
Shakyamuni’s gift to the world was not simply about mindfulness, it was his realization that the nature of reality was fundamentally compassionate, that we were born good and could relieve ourselves from suffering by waking up to this goodness. In Unitarian Universalist language, we all have inherent worth and dignity, we are all sacred and worthy. Attention to each moment of our mind, body, and thoughts was a skillful method for us to realize this. Shakyamuni believed if we could turn inward, remain present with ourselves, then we would naturally find our inherent compassionate nature.
My colleagues at University Unitarian Church in Seattle speak of lifespan religious education or lifelong learning in terms of “vocation.” They believe that each of us has a sacred calling, a calling to do something compassionate and creative in this world. In this line of thinking, lifelong learning in the Unitarian Universalist context is about helping our congregants realize and bravely accept their call to work compassionately in the world.
Thomas Merton, the Catholic/Zen contemplative, speaks of this path of discovery with the following words, “Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”
Presence is that tool that helps us turn introspectively inward in order to discover the voice that is calling us back to our inherently compassionate nature. Let us all take a few moments to speak and listen to that still small voice inside that is the holder of our truth and that is calling us to dream big and reach higher with our lives. Let us encourage our children, youth, adults, and elders to hold this moment of our minds very gently. Let us dream big.