“We need souls that can take in the world in all its complexity and diversity, yet still maintain our integrity. And we need souls that can love and be in relationship with all of this complexity. Instead of fight or flight, we need a spiritual posture of embrace.”

—Rev. Rob Hardies, All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington, DC

For some crazy reason, when I read this quote about the need for a “spiritual posture of embrace,” what immediately came to mind was a  Katie Goodman song. You have to watch her performance. I promise you will laugh out loud at the skillful way she manages to turn the human condition into a piece of fun. I’ve considered using this video in a beloved community workshop but chickened out. See what you think. Personally, I find religious meaning in her hilarious message: every heart wants redemption. Instead of fight or flight, a state of grace.

The counter-cultural practices she and Rob are singing/writing about sound pretty risky given today’s hyper-contentious U.S. culture. And yet at the same time,  more and more people are asking for greater help in making religious sense of a complex, confusing, and often overwhelming world. Can I get a witness?  I see a deep yearning to learn about and practice a religiously grounded, spiritual posture of embrace.

A spiritual posture of embrace looks like and feels like what Meck spoke of  in her last post – embracing our shadow side. If we’re human, we all have a shadow side. As Terrance put it, nothing human is foreign to me unless I am foreign to myself.  Another recent and heartening example of a spiritual posture of embrace is President Obama publicly confessing the death of civilian hostages and the un-intended consequences of drone strikes. You don’t see that everyday. I don’t remember the last time a public official embraced failure and modeled leadership by vulnerability for the country and all the world to see.  If you have other examples, I invite you to share them in the comments section. Where do you see change? When have you experienced invitations to discard worn-out perspectives and attitudes?

I was just at our annual district gathering of congregations featuring Mark Ewert, a member of All Souls Washington D.C. and author of The Generosity Path.  He told a story on himself about an experience of feeling very annoyed and frustrated by another’s behavior. Ranting away, the person he was venting to on the other end of the phone stopped him and asked, “Mark, what is the most generous response you can make in this situation?”  He went on to say how grateful he is for that experience of learning a new spiritual practice.  Now he wears a green string around his wrist to remind himself to first look within and find the most generous response he can make to a situation.  He brought green string to share with us, too.  There was an audible sigh of release among us. For those in the room that evening, a green string now symbolizes a middle way between fight or flight and the freedom that comes from choosing a spiritual posture of embrace.

Peter Gabel in Another Way of Seeing also speaks to me about what a spiritual posture of embrace might look and feel like. He outlines how we have been socialized, through the workings of history, into fearing the other and living our lives as “withdrawn selves.” Too often we’re encouraged to see each other as threats rather than embracing each other as the source of our completion. It’s gone too far. We yearn for a more genuine human culture of deep connection, interdependence, vulnerability and trust – what he calls “mutual recognition.”

Ah…now I see why I associated a spiritual posture of embrace with Katie Goodman’s video about becoming an un-f**ker.

It is because of Judy Fjell, another singer-songwriter-activist. She was also  featured at our district annual meeting and sang a song she wrote at our closing worship: It Is Not Enough.  

It is not enough that we are wounded

It is not enough that we care.

We are called to practice loving with a skill we hardly knew was there.

Serving others with gratitude for the bounty of our lives,

We are called to practice loving with a skill we do not recognize.

Replenishing grace in this world, quietly we watch it grow

We are called to practice loving with a skill we do not yet know.

It it not enough that we are wounded, it it not enough that we care.

We are called to practice loving with a skill we hardly knew was there.