Small Steps
Talk given by Rich Hayes
Jan. 14th, 2018
Unitarian Universalist Gathering of South County
Housatonic, MA

“…Simply put, God reveals God’s self to us through what unfolds as our life, along with every visible thing around us. These ordinary revelations must be respected and deeply listened to—before we start reading Bibles, joining churches, and quoting dogmas. Life itself is the primary divine revelation.” -Richard Rohr

Every year there is a Dance Flurry over in Saratoga that Jane and I usually go to. Unlike my dear wife, I’m not so much a dancer but love the variety of music.

The last time we went the first event was for the “Lindy” and I figured this would be a great chance for us to get to dance together because this is one of the dances I do know and I’m pretty comfortable with it.

So Jane and I showed up at the ballroom. The dance instructor stepped out on the stage and I learned that we would all be lining up and then we’d be switching partners
(I didn’t want to switch partners-that's part of what I didn’t like about contras). He proceeded to give instructions that seemed a bit more involved than my basic Lindy abilities.

This had not been my expectation at all! I felt myself begin to tense up as he continued talking and giving instruction on what we were about to do. I found myself unable to concentrate on what he was saying-I began to feel afraid of not knowing what I was supposed to do, which quickly went to a fear of dancing with people I didn’t know and the certainty that I would annoy them because I didn't know how to do what I was supposed to do! and of course the ultimate: my fear of looking foolish.

As the instructor continued talking I went through a range of worst-case scenarios at the speed of light in my mind.
In the meantime, standing across from me is Jane; Jane who knows me
so well. Seeing the feelings that I think I’m concealing so well, she reaches out and takes my hand and smiles at me.
I look up at her and our eyes meet and I see complete love and kindness. I can only imagine what she’s seeing in my eyes!
But that doesn’t deter her.
She is calm, loving, accepting.
I’m more or less terrified.

But she has interrupted what’s been going on in my mind by the loving gaze and gentle touch. And in that interruption I realize what’s been happening to me, and I see I see it: FEAR- which in this case is absolutely False Evidence Appearing Real!

My emotion is not based in reality. These feelings are from long ago and very far away.

Few of us get out of childhood unscathed from some sort of awful incident (or incidents) and if we view the world through whatever that wound was we are blind to what “is”.

Until this “interruption” I was being blinded.
I was not in reality as
it was (people gathered together to enjoy themselves and have fun)-I was in reality AS I WAS (Fearful and miserable).
Fortunately Love saved me.
Love’s opposite is not hate, it’s fear: Hate is a byproduct of fear.
Think about it.

Why do people hate? If you go past the obvious reasons, such as wrongs done, or injustices or different politics, or whatever you can come up with, at some point you will come to fear. Fear of loss (as in control, power, prestige), fear of lack or not having enough, fear of “different”, “alien”, not like “Us” or maybe Fear that in some way “I” may not be good enough-or even worse, fear that I may actually not be
as good as I think I am or should be!

One of my favorite quotes ( I know I've used it here in the past many times)is: We Love to hate in the world what we Hate to love in our self
Now substitute the word “Fear” for hate.

Jesus tells us very clearly: Love your enemies.
In the Tao it’s written:
Love the world as your own self.
The Buddha says
“…Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an eternal rule.”

An eternal rule: rule as in law. As basic as the law of gravity, whose effects are also evident whether you chose to believe it or not.
What you put out comes back to you.

The other night the news comes on and I find myself talking to the TV, and by the way sometimes these are not kind words I’m saying.

Who is anxious, tense, angry… suffering??? Me!
What is being accomplished here? Very little, other than an amplification of fear disguised as anger. BUT that has an effect…and it does affect (infect) the world…certainly
my world.
Perhaps in the grand scheme of things it seems minute, but begin multiplying it by thousands and then millions of other people doing something similar and what have you got??
It's not pretty is it?

But if I am able to
see what’s happening as I start to engage in this, I can choose to remind myself of what I do know, even though I don’t “feel” it: that Jesus is right. That the Buddha is right, so is Lao Tzu and practically all the wisdom teachers( as were The Beatles): Love is the answer.

So, I can turn off the TV. I can turn my focus away from chaos and disagreement and offer blessings and peace to these people I disagree with. Do they know this?
Does that matter? No.
They don’t have to know it, but I do.

You see, here’s the thing: something shifts
in me. I’m better. And in my little corner of the world I take this “better-ness” (as opposed to bitterness) with me as I interact with people, who interact with other people, and so on and so on, and eventually it connects with “them”(the “others” who really aren’t, but only seem that way) because it connects in some form or way totally beyond my ability to imagine or know, but it does happen. And change starts- as it has from the outset and all along the way from that moment I changed what I was doing.
We are all connected-every last one of us-in ways that we cannot fully understand or know (at this time).

This is what is at the heart of this spiritual teaching and why every tradition speaks of it- and it is the answer to the troubles, suffering and dilemmas we continue to perpetuate when we fail to practice it.

The truth is that we’re all wounded birds. If there’s one thing I have learned in hospice work it’s that everyone struggles with something.
Financial successes, status, accomplishments, titles, roles- none of these relieves or exempts anyone.

Maybe that’s the true common ground we all stand on as human beings.

Pain is a part of life and suffering does happen to everybody at some point(or numerous points). It is said that where the wound is, is where the light can enter us.
It is in the broken places where the healing begins.

It is in the recognition of our own wounded-ness, our own imperfections and flaws that healing starts and transformation can begin. When we can face the hurt and darkness in our own self we will no longer project it out into the world and on to others.

It is said that the pain we do not transmute we will transmit.

Our tasks as human beings is to transmute our pain into something that can be of benefit to others, and in order to do this we must become willing to love what has been unlovable in our self.

But we must not get stuck in self-self absorption( or the small "s" self), because this is ultimately not about you but rather something so much bigger of which you are an integral part.
This is usually a process, not a onetime event.
It is the path to becoming fully human.
Then in you I can see me and in your suffering I can see my own, and visa-versa.
Until we do this we haven't yet made it to full humanbeing-ness.

We are all here to do this- to become
fully human. To be fully human requires full engagement of body and spirit.
This isn’t guaranteed. Not everyone makes it. Fear often blocks the way.
Fear always keeps a person disconnected from their heart, and without the heart there can be no life.

Coming fully into one’s own heart can be terrifying because it feels too vulnerable, as if you’re opening yourself up to something you cannot control, something bigger than you are.
This is true, because what you will come into contact with is the pain of the world, and that is enormous and scary.
But it is more than this too. And the only way to what I am speaking about is “through”. You will encounter this daunting place, but there is something on the other side of this too. Think of it as a doorway.

In the book, The Little Prince, the little Prince says: "It is only in the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye".
I am speaking of this, it is beyond all words. It is beyond what you understand as your mind and often think of as “you” because it is connected to the world and all hearts. And it’s where love shines through always and in All Ways.

I truly believe that Humanity is being called to this place at this time in our evolution, it’s our next step. Despite appearances of the darkness of this time. When we look at the past few thousand years we see that there has been great progress-the trajectory has been upward, even if at times we take a few steps back.
This is your journey because all change is local, in other words it starts with you.
It starts with a willingness to put one foot in front of the other and take that first small step…and then another.
In the Tao we’re reminded that a Journey of 10,000 miles begins with one step.
As Ram Dass reminds us: We’re all just walking each other home.
I'll meet you there….

*(Note: I do not mean to imply that all fear is bad. It is at times necessary and important to pay attention to. What I do suggest is that we be willing to look at it clearly for what it is telling us.)

~The Generosity of Greatness by HeavenLetters(TM)
God said:
There is no falling from Grace. Regardless of what the world says, regardless of what you say, you have love to reveal and love to extend. It is all within you. You don’t have to dally.
What if you are right on schedule now? When you grasp the Generosity of Greatness, when you recognize that Greatness is in your hands, you will give it gladly. See how it will bounce back to you. You ride on your own shoulders. There is no limit to the heights you can reach, little by little, or all at once. Giant steps are yours to take. Take them. Want to fly? Fly then. Your feet have lifted. You are reaching to Your Self.
I have appointed you My Self. I chose you well. You whom I appoint cannot disappoint. You not only follow My Will, you are My Will. I willed you Greatness. Accept. Go forth, and accept. Accept by giving. Accept by knowing that all you give, you give to Me. I uphold you. I hold you high. Well, what else do you think I would do? Let go of outmoded thinking. Perhaps even stop thinking, and simply be. Greatness surrounds you, and you are Greatness meeting Greatness. You are the Light, and you are the Energy of the Universe. You are not less. Widen your perception. Widen your heart. Widen your path through life.