Are We As Good at Being as We Are at Talking?

Regardless of what the it is, it seems to me that we’re all-too-often better at talking it than being it.

We’re all-too-often better at talking diversity while surrounded by people who look like us, speak like us, worship like us.  We’re all-too-often better at talking diversity while surrounded by people who live where we live, shop where we shop, eat where we eat, drive what we drive, think what we think, even earn what we earn.

We’re all-too-often better at talking diversity from our comfortable thrones constructed of self-aggrandizement and self-righteousness, then being diversity by journeying beyond the borders of our predictable kingdoms, whether that predictable kingdom is a sanctuary or a symphony; a city or a street; a stance, story or a saga, a status, a stamp or a salary.

In truth, I don’t think the world needs more people standing in line at Whole Foods swiping their gold cards and exchanging concerned nods over those people over there before rounding up to the nearest dollar and returning home to their virtual reality technologies, so much as it needs more people willing to jump out of line, slide into their Audis and embark upon that courageous journey beyond the borders of their predictable kingdoms to meet those who don’t live as they live, shop where they shop, eat where they eat, drive what they drive, think what they think, even earn what they earn.

In diversity, the world needs more people willing to be grossly uncomfortable, wildly vulnerable and indescribably out-of-control, you see.

Regardless of what the it is, it seems to me that we’re all-too-often better at talking it than being it.

We’re certainly better at talking religion than being religion.

We’re certainly better at debating over whose brand of love is the superior love.  We’re certainly better at arguing over whose brand of truth is the higher truth.  We’re certainly better at squabbling over whose brand of peace is the sacred peace, all the while giving rise to a collective experience that is paradoxically lacking in love, often counter to truth, and usually devoid of peace.

Yet again, I don’t think the world needs more victors - victors from debates, victors from arguments, victors from squabbles.  In religion, I think the world needs more people willing to practice the brand of love they hold.  The world needs more people willing to live the brand of truth they know.  The world needs more people willing to be the brand of peace they envision.

We’re certainly better at talking prayer than being prayer.

We’re certainly better at kneeling at our bedsides and prattling off the details of our endless wish lists to Santa God, all the while continuing to cling to the same old comfortable fears, the same old limiting thoughts, the same old low expectations, the same old consciousness during the remaining 23 hours and 7 minutes of the same day.

We’re good at kneeling at the bedside and praying for supply, only to attend the family reunion and argue for lack.

We’re good at kneeling at the bedside and praying for love, only to meet a date and argue for inadequacy.

We’re good at kneeling at the bedside and praying for creative self-expression, only to drive to the office and argue for the stale status-quo.

One of the biggest issues with prayer as it’s traditionally understood and practiced, is that all-too-often, we want to change our outer worlds, without changing our inner worlds.

Or as I’ve said so many times before, we pray for what we perceive ourselves to want.  But we pray harder for what we perceive ourselves to be.

Perhaps that explains the words of the sage, “Nothing changes, if nothing changes.”

In prayer, the world needs more people willing to get used to ample supply, get snuggly with soulful love, get comfortable with creative self-expression.

And God knows, we’ve all known people who were far better at talking kindness than being kindness.

We’ve all known people who were far better at talking principle than being principle.

We’ve all known people who were far better at talking integrity than being integrity.

We’ve all known people who were far better at talking love, “You are the most cherished thing in my world, I love you more than life itself, I would travel to the ends of the earth for you, my luscious Thanksgiving cherub,” only to be something radically not that.

I think about our welcome initiative here at Unity in Lynnwood.  You’ve heard me say for over six years, “Unity in Lynnwood is a community of intentional welcome.”  But I’m keenly aware that were these words to remain talk alone, meaning had those words never found receptivity in human hearts, had those words never awakened  possibility in human minds, had those words never inspired action in human hands, I would be using them as just another example of the same hypotheses: we’re all-too-often better at talking it than being it.

Now, let me say that this isn’t true of you.  There isn’t a week that passes without word of your willingness to be it (word of your willingness to be intentional welcome) reaching my grateful ears.

And I find myself thinking about the Thanksgiving holiday.  Because baby, just like diversity, religion and prayer, just like kindness, integrity principle and love, just like welcome and the countless other easy-to-identify talking points, I think we’re all-too-often better at talking gratitude than being gratitude.

And I think this is important because if we accept this practice of gratitude – not as something of a reactive human emotion that happens to us when all of the people and all of the circumstances of earthly life read the scripts of endless sensory pleasure we’ve written for them - but as something of a proactive discipline we can cultivate even when (especially when) all of the people and all of the circumstances of earthly life toss our scripts aside, then whatever its benefits might be (be they spiritual, relational, psychological, even physiological, and of course I believe its benefits are all of these) whatever its benefits might be, it seems self-evident that they are maximized when we make the leap from talking gratitude to being gratitude.

Mary and Martha were distraught with grief when the rabbi lifted up his eyes, in other words he lifted up his consciousness and said, “I thank you that you hear me always.”  He wasn’t giving thanks from the sense-identified consciousness that perceived Lazarus as dead.  How rude would that be?  He was giving thanks from the spirit-identified consciousness that perceived Lazarus as life.  And from that spirit-identified consciousness he cried out, “Lazarus, hop on up, now,” and Lazarus hopped up and walked out - free and whole.

And yet again, in seeking beyond, beneath or behind the factuality or non-factuality of this tale to something of its truth, how important might it be to grasp that it wasn’t life that brought gratitude to Lazarus?  It was gratitude that brought Lazarus to life?

How important might it be to grasp that if Jesus can lift up his consciousness and say, “Thank you,” amidst the grand spectacle of death itself, we can lift up our consciousness and say, “Thank you,” amidst the common circumstances of daily life?

To paraphrase Eric Butterworth, Jesus understood that the first key to possibility is acknowledging the availability of possibility.  And that the first key to acknowledging the availability of possibility is gratitude.

I like to think that this is a deeper story embedded within that first Thanksgiving.  For what they didn’t tell you in elementary school is that it was amidst the throes of death and disease and dire disappointment that that awkward gathering of whatever immigrants remained with the indigenous people felt compelled to pause, even as the bitter cold swirled and circled about them, for gratitude.

We’re all-too-often better at talking it than being it.

It’s really quite obvious.  After all, we dedicate one day each year to cultivating a spirit-identified consciousness of possibility and tacitly dedicate the other 364 to enabling a sense-identified consciousness of limitation when we would do better to dedicate one day each year to matters such as mercury in retrograde and customer service agents and avocado prices and cantankerous relatives and Facebook arguments – one day each year to yesterday’s hurts and tomorrow’s fears – one day just to moan and groan and spew our finite humanity all over each other; and tacitly dedicate the other 364 to cultivating that spirit-identified consciousness that recognizes the infinite givingness we call God and makes its miraculous activity welcome through the discipline that is gratitude.

“Dear God, I give thanks in every apparent ending, knowing that from your noble perspective, such merely disguises a new beginning. I give thanks in every apparent discord, knowing that in your perfect balance, such simply veneers a new harmony. I give thanks in every seeming failure, knowing that in your grand equity, such only masks a new triumph.

“Dear God, I give thanks even in my shortcomings, for it is through these shortcomings that something of your strength must appear. I give thanks even in my mistakes for it is through these mistakes that something of your wisdom must arise. I give thanks even in my challenges for it is through these challenges that something of your faith must emerge.

“Dear God, I give thanks even in that which I don’t understand. I give thanks even in that which is incomplete. I give thanks even in that which is unreconciled, knowing that each ultimately returns me to you, as the only source of lasting satisfaction.

“Dear God, I give thanks in the very fullness of the human experience (such as it is and such as it is not), knowing that each moment, that each encounter, that each juncture is a window through which your light might somehow shine.”