Rev. William Levwood
Pouring Out The Cup
January 2022: Living with Intention
This month’s Soul Matters theme is Living with Intention. Our friends at Soul Matters make a distinction between goal setting and living in alignment with our deepest intentions. They tell us that living with intention isn’t about making a new year’s resolution. It isn’t about “finally becoming a better me.” It’s about “making room,” “creating a quiet space that allows us to connect with who we already are.” How do we create this quiet space?
Many years ago, during a period of profound grieving, I had the sense that my grief was ever present in the background of my life. It felt as though drops of grief were slowly falling into a vessel. I imagined this vessel like a vase. I didn’t like the feeling when the vessel would overflow, overwhelming me with grief, so I made a practice of taking time periodically to be with my grief. In this way, I was able to pour out the grief so that it didn’t overflow and overwhelm me.
Recently, I’ve returned to this practice. Only right now, it isn’t only grief that is filling and overflowing from the vessel. The vessel, the vase or chalice or cup, is full and overflowing from the effects of the pandemic. The continued uncertainty of never knowing when a new variant will appear and cases skyrocket. The deprivation from so many months of social distancing. The constant low buzz of fear of a deadly disease inhabiting the very air we breathe. All of this keeps the cup full to overflowing. It often feels like there is no room for anything else.
So I’ve returned to the practice of pouring out the vessel, to taking time, daily, to pour out the cup. Sometimes it’s giving my attention to my morning cup of coffee while I sit on the porch. Sometimes it’s taking a walk with my family around the lake near our house. Sometimes it’s doing some easy chore around the house that calms and centers me. Sometimes it’s taking deep breaths, not meditating exactly, often I don’t have the bandwidth for that, but just taking a few deep breaths and observing my torso expand and release. Sometimes pausing and feeling my hands, taking a moment to rub them together, simply focusing on that sensation.
These days I often need to do more than one of these things. Many days I find I need to keep checking in on how full the cup is and if it’s full again, even if I poured it out only an hour ago, to take a moment to pour it out again. With the cup poured out, I’m able to inhabit my life again, living with intention, showing up as my full self, in my marriage, in my parenting, in my work.
I invite you into this exploration of living with intention. In these challenging times, may we let go of trying to be a better version of ourselves. May we choose to pour out the pain and stress that’s filling our bodies. Pouring out the pain and stress, may we open to wisdom and love and let them flow freely through us. May it be so.
December 2021: Opening to Joy
This month’s theme is Opening to Joy. I must admit, it’s a difficult time to be focusing on joy. I’m not feeling particularly joyful these days. I’m worn out. This pandemic has me worn out. The uncertainty has me worn out. This nation, with its deadly inequalities, has me worn out. On a day to day basis, I don’t feel particularly hopeful. I don’t feel filled with joy.
Hmmm, maybe now is the perfect time to focus on joy. Or as our theme offers, to practice opening to joy. Because, right now, I need joy. I need joy more than ever before! And I can practice opening to joy.
Each month our Soul Matters small groups are offered a list of possible spiritual practices to choose from. This month one of those practices is joyspotting. Joyspotting is the practice of noticing the joy that’s around us, of noticing the joy that arises within us, of noticing and celebrating joy when it flows between us. I invite you into that practice.
Today, for me, it’s noticing the playful interchange between my spouse and our child this morning. A playfulness that I also found irritating because it happened when I was feeling stressed. But the practice of joyspotting invites me out of my annoyance and into the joy of that moment, invites me to practice opening to joy. And then I’m able to celebrate that joy, to enter into it, to feel it in my body.
Today, for me, it’s also noticing the leaves and the trees. Some of the leaves are still on the trees, showing their rich browns or bright yellows. Some of the trees are bare. And that’s beautiful, too. Some of those leaves are scattered or pooled upon the ground. When I really pay attention, sometimes I can catch them falling to the ground, can follow the particular swirl or twirl or float of their symphonic journey through the air. It’s a joy that, at this time of year, I know is fading fast. Soon all the trees will be bare, the colors gone. So now, now, is the time to open to that joy, made all the more poignant, the taste of it sharper in my mouth, because I know it’s here now, not always.
Where does joyspotting lead you? Where are you opening to joy? To beauty?
I know there is pain, too. I know I’m still worn out. But that doesn’t have to take away the joy. The joy is still there. It’s still real. Still true.
Opening to Joy is a practice. It’s a practice we can continually recommit, too. It isn’t going to be available to us in every moment, even though the joy is abundant all around us. Things will get in the way of our opening to joy. But the practice is there for us. And the joy is there, waiting.
I invite you to practice opening to joy and to share that practice with others. Write it down. Take a photo. A video. Text it to someone.
Open to joy. And spread joy, as it swirls and twirls and floats around us in rich browns and bright yellows, deep reds and flamboyant oranges. Open to joy and share it with others.
Rev. William Levwood