About a week and a half ago, I was finally able to move into a space of being present with some of my grief and mourning. Not all of it, and not all at once -- too overwhelming! -- but a space where I could begin to be present with bits and pieces of it at a time.
Today, worship was good. But I had a hard time settling in. I was slightly chilly but reasonably comfortable physically, and I had a very comfortable seat. But quieting my mind, the spiritual settling in, centering... those were not coming easily. Paying attention to my breathing sometimes helps; it helped some today, but didn't bring me to that centered sense. It's been quite a while since I did a formal grounding-and-centering meditation in Meeting; I thought that might help, so I tried; but I got nowhere. As often happens, I had music running through my mind; and music often helps center my worship... nope. And there was nothing bringing me much mental or spritual comfort, either, nothing helping to put me back in that mind-set where there's rough stuff going on but it's okay and Meeting gives me space separate from my worry so I can come back to it refreshed... not today.
Finally, I reached a place where I decided I would just be there in my distraction. There's an exercise in meditation, and sometimes worship, where if you get distracted, you notice your distraction, then put it aside. Nope. Since I couldn't do that, I just decided my distraction would be front and center.
And this actually brought me some peace.
One of the things I've been fretting about is my ministry. What came to me in Meeting today was, "My ministry right now is to be in the hard place -- the narrow place: be faithful to that."
Why did the words "the narrow place" come to me?
When I first sat down in worship today, the song in my head was "Lo Yisa Goy":
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev
Lo ilmadu od milchama
Both versions I know were running through my head in the medley we sang one year in SpiralSong: the version I learned from Libana, and the perhaps better-known version by Jaffa and Minkhoff (which appears in the Friends' hymnal, Worship in Song, #300).
And everyone 'neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And into plowshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more
The words in the Hebrew and English versions are from the the books of Micah and Isaiah in the Hebrew scriptures. I have often sung this song at Passover. This year, Passover starts tomorrow (Monday) at sunset, and I am in the midst of preparing for a Seder tomorrow night in blessed community.
At Passover, we are instructed to tell the story of the Exodus as if it had happened to us. Some of the language that describes our experience of slavery in Mitrayim is "the narrow place." In Passover Seders based on the haggadah by Elliott batTzedek which I usually use, we talk about our experiences of Mitrayim: our experience, as women and as lesbians, of the "narrow places" and of the different kinds of slavery forced on us by sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, racism, and other related oppressions (because they are all related).
Exodus is a story of deliverance into freedom from slavery and from oppression, and about how hard it can be to throw off the mind-set of oppression -- our mental chains -- as well.
The Hebrews' G-d led them to the narrow place and back out of it. While they (we) were there, perhaps that was their (our) witness to the world.
It has been hard for me to embrace "the narrow places" in my life. I know I have leftover messages from childhood lurking in my head that still insist silence is much safer when I'm going through a hard time. Even more so when it's a hard time that involves conflict with other people, or the loss of relationships other people don't fully understand. Shhhhh, those old messages say.
There have been other times in worship when I've had messages similar to the one that came to me in Meeting today. If it was true today, then it's important -- for me, for my ministry, for my sense of community, and for my relationship with the Goddess, and for reasons I don't know and may never know -- for me to be open and honest about being not just in a hard place, but being in a narrow place, now.
Maybe this time I can embrace being in a narrow place -- be fully present with it, and not try to hide from other people that this is where I am.
I don't expect it will be very comfortable.