Do you make time to listen for that still small voice inside you? The voice that invites you to be make a change, to strive a little more; the voice that urges you to more authenticity, that invites you into transformation? I believe we all have such inner stirrings—that give voice to the seeds of change wanting to burst forth and grow in and through us. I asked you during the meditation to draw or write about that inner voice, considering when you hear it, how you hear it, how you respond to it. Is it a voice that calls you to an evolution, to a revolution of the way you live and move and have your being on this earth? Does it ask you to say “yes” to life, to truth, to love? What’s your response to that?
For the most part, for most of us, life can be very habitual, routine. And for some, perhaps many of us, this is a comfortable way to move through life. This routine can offer times of joy and happiness, not unlike the creature on the island of Habit that we learned about earlier in the service (The Creature of Habit by Jennifer E. Smith). I am certain that some of us didn’t see anything problematic with the creature’s life. Eating food he liked, going where he liked, talking to creatures and plants he knew and liked. A life with no changes or surprises. And no disturbances. Until a new creature wandered upon his island. At first, there was a little happiness as the creature of Habit got to know this new creature. Then, over time, this new creature disrupted things too much, causing the creature of Habit confusion, discomfort and distaste—he found he didn’t like oranges. And he really didn’t like a complete lack of routine. However, by the end of the story, the creature of Habit had found some joy in new-found ways of doing things with this new creature. What did you think about this story? Did it resonate with some feelings you might experience when seeds of change make themselves known to you? Did you empathize with the creature of Habit when the new creature entered the island? What value judgments can you make about life before the new creature’s arrival verses after its arrival?
I can tell you for much of my life, I loved habit, routine, knowing what to expect. Going back about 25 years, I had completed graduate school and was working as a psychotherapist in a practice in Houston. I had friends and family around me and I spent time with them on a routine basis. I could predict with a high degree of accuracy what was likely to happen almost every day of the week. I was happy as a crab under a rock.
Then came that pesky inner voice calling me to transformation. I was the chair of the Worship Committee at Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church in Clear Lade, Texas. One Friday night I received a call from the president of the congregation. He said that I would need to come up with something for Sunday’s service because the minister would not be preaching. I asked “Why?”. He said the minister had done something unethical and would no longer be serving our church effective immediately. In fact he would be stripped of his Ministerial Fellowship credentials by the Unitarian Universalist Association and his counseling credentials by the state of Texas. After the phone call, I reflected on what the president told me. That minister, who had been a friend of mine, would not longer be able to follow his vocation or his career. He had lost what had been most meaningful to him. A prompt, a question crossed my mind, “What if I suddenly lost everything. Have I left anything undone?” With that question, the voice within me roared to life, saying “Yes you have; you are called to ministry.”
Sometimes that inner voice comes unbidden, when taking a shower, cutting up cabbage or cleaning the windows. Sometimes that inner voice can come as a response when you are exposed to something or someone. Some thing that cracks you open--like a sunrise, a painting, a piece of music. Or someone who has a different worldview or who is radically authentic, loud, and proud and engaged with being the change they seek in the world, and suddenly it is hard for you to see the world the same way you used to. Hard for you to be in the world the same way you used to be. Sometimes that inner voice rises up when we set aside time, with an open heart, mind, spirit, and without expectations, by using meditation, prayer, ritual, or contemplative correspondence/writing.
Whether you believe that inner voice is your unconscious, your connection with the universe, spirit, soul, deepest self, god or goddess? What happens when you hear it? How do you respond or react? Are you surprised, scared, overwhelmed, dismissive? Do you tense up, pull back, clench your jaw? How is that inner voice embodied in you? Is it centered in your stomach, head, neck back?
When the seeds of change called me to ministry, I felt surprised, anxious, overwhelmed, resistant, as well as joyful, ready, and willing. I felt that call in my head, in my thoughts. I thought everything from “no, I can’t” to “yes, I must” all at the same time. With all the paradoxical feelings and thoughts, I was mentally and spiritually troubled and jumbled, less reflective and more reactive. I went through a dark night of the soul that I couldn’t control. My connection to my habitual life seemed far away. Was that good or bad? I was unable to make that judgement. To say I was surprised is a vast understatement.
Unitarian Universalist minister, Reverend Karen Hering, invites us to consider a surprise, such as one that might come when we hear that inner voice, in a particular way. She says: “If you notice constriction or repulsion or attraction to a surprise, it isn’t either bad or good. It’s just an observation. Imagine your observed response as if it were a package you’ve been given that you are setting aside for later. You can go back to opening it and actually feeling it later. But by pausing to observe without judgement for a few moments, you can experiment with curiosity and simply explore [the surprise] instead…[you might ask yourself] What does [this surprise] involve that you didn’t notice or know right away? What are some possible choices it offers, including some that might seem absurd? What do you learn by naming these options side by side? What might be your next response, one that perhaps has been lying in wait, ready to emerge given a chance?”
How do you evaluate the calling from the seeds of change within you? How do you decide whether to say yes or no to the invitation to break open the seed, grow, bloom and blossom? I can speak for myself and tell you that my call to ministry has been fulfilling in more ways than I can count. It hasn’t always been an easy path, nor has it been without cost—mostly costing my routine habitual life. But it has been worth it. I feel more authentically engaged with who I am, and who I am becoming. And I am more willing to listen, evaluate and respond to the inner voice within. I don’t always say yes to that inner voice, but I do listen when it rises up, knowing that it often offers wisdom, opportunities, and direction that can help me be radically myself, loud and proud as I embody the change I seek in the world. What it doesn’t offer is habit. And while I sometime miss being a creature of Habit, I wouldn’t change my transformed life with all of its novelty, intersections, diversity, and interesting different wonderful people. And so today and every day, I listen for the next seeds of change that will call me.
There are seeds of change within all of us. I invite you, no, I encourage you to listen for the seeds of possibility that your inner voice offers. Then invite them into your life with curiosity. Let yourself explore where they might take you. And be open to some surprises, even if they mean that things are going to change.