Flower Communion: Community Presence

Flower Communion: Community Presence

Introduction

Flower communion celebrates the beautiful, impermanent, and ever-growing ties of our community. Join us as we deepen our roots and honor the beautiful garden of our church community.

Quieting

Beloved companions,
Each week we take a moment to pause from life,
to set down our cares and expectations,
to simply be in the stillness and peace together.

Today, I’m going to invite you to try something different,
Something slightly to the left of our weekly quiet.
Instead of cultivating our silence,
For one week, we’re going to cultivate our awareness.
For those of us who are a fan of superheroes,
Think of it like practicing your spidey-senses.

So start by breathing in.
What do you smell?
Flowers from outside?
Cleaning products?

What do you feel?
The seat underneath you?
The clothes on your body?

What do you hear?
The sound of fans?
The birds outside?

What do you see?
Friendly faces?
A hidden raven?

This is a time for noticing, not a time for judgement.
If you’re wishing you’d brushed your teeth this morning,
Or worried your creaky chair is disturbing other people,
Set that thought down and try to simply notice.

“I taste my breakfast”
“I hear my chair creak”
And practice that same approach when it’s someone else’s chair.

For some of us, it might be easier to focus on one sense.
What are all of the things you can hear?
Or all the different things you can see?

For some of us, it might feel more grounding to focus on all our senses in sequence.
Whatever you prefer,
This time is for you.
I invite you to be fully present in the space you are in.

Time for All Ages

Earlier, we practiced being present in the moment, being firmly rooted in the here and now.

For our Time for All Ages today, we’re going to practice being rooted within ourselves. You’d think this is very easy to do, after all, we always live inside our own bodies. But for most of us, this is rarely something we think about, so we’re going to practice it today.

Since this is Time for All Ages, I invite everyone who has an age to participate. This is going to be several minutes and can be done sitting, but I recommend if you’re able, to stand up.

Since this is about listening to our bodies, I invite you to do what your body calls you to. If your body wants to wiggle with joyful energy, feel free to do so. If you body calls for peace and stillness, answer it. There is no way to do this wrong. The only thing I ask is that you limit the noise you make so that everyone can participate in the way they wish.

We’re going to start by noticing our breathing.
You don’t need to try to breathe deeply, or slowly.
Just notice how your body breathes when you don’t give it instructions.
In and out.
In and out.

Now I want you to look at your feet.
How do they feel inside your shoes?
How do they feel against the floor?
Wiggle your toes like you’re waving to yourself.
Your feet carry you through your daily journeys.
Can they carry you on their own?

Try lifting one foot up.
How does your balance change?
Feel the muscles in your leg shift.
Is it hard to keep your body in this position?
Are your muscles tense or relaxed?
Can you wiggle the foot that’s in the air?

Now switch feet for me.
Feel how your body adjusts to keep you stable.
Can you wiggle the foot that’s in the air this time?
Can you tap the ground with your toes?

Let’s put both feet on the ground.
Feel how you’re balanced between them.
Now try pushing one of your feet into the ground.
Do you feel your muscles tense?
Do you feel like you could go run a race?
Let’s go back to standing like normal.
Do you still feel like you’re ready to run or jump or dance?

Try pushing the other foot into the ground.
Feel all your muscles tense
Like you’re a leopard who could jump to the rafters.
And then let your legs relax,
Going back to standing like normal.

Let’s sway from side to side a bit,
Letting all the tension from using our muscles fade away.
I want you to notice:
Does it make you feel embarrassed?
Does moving like this make you smile?

Now that we’re all loose, I want you to try to touch your toes.
If you can’t touch your fingers and toes together, no worries.
The important part is the reaching.
Do you feel your muscles stretch?
If you make all your muscles loose and gooey,
If you let your top half just hang in the air,
Does that change how the stretch feels?

Now I want you to shift your focus
From your feet to your hands as you straighten up.
Look at your fingers, all ten of them.
Wiggle them like tiny worms digging in the dirt.
Now shake your hands like they’re wet dogs, trying to dry off.
Good, now take your hands and stretch them out.
See how wide your fingers go,
And how it feels to spread them so far apart.

Now take those stretching fingers, and stretch them to the ceiling.
Reach, reach, reach as far as you can.
Feel your muscles stretch to let you reach higher.
Feel the way your breath changes as you move.
Now keep reaching…
Keep reaching…

And let your arms fall to your sides.
Release all that tension we just built up.
Shake your shoulders a bit to feel your arms all loose and floppy.

Notice how your breath moves through your body now.
Put your hands on your belly and see if you feel your breath there.
If you don’t, try putting a hand on your chest.

When you find it,
Take a moment to just feel your body move under your hands.
Feel your breath move in and out.
Your body might need more air now that we did some moving.
It might breathe easier now that we stretched.
See if you notice any changes from when we started.

And then I want everybody to take their hands,
And give their body a nice big hug.
Because we might not always get along,
But our bodies are always there for us,
And when we take the time to notice them so clearly,
It’s always good to say a thank you.

Now I invite you all to return to your seats, and see if you can keep that awareness of your body during the next interlude, whether that’s focusing on your breathing, or watching and feeling your hands, or wiggling your toes.

You have a minute or two to focus on your body, to see if it’s trying to tell you anything, and to see if you can truly listen.

Reading

Today’s reading is Garden Prayer, by Rev. David M. Horst.

Homily: Being Present in Community

When was the last time you found yourself in an environment where you noticed things could be improved, and instead of interjecting, you let it be?

Usually it’s “I don’t have time for this right now,” or “I have too much on my plate to make this a priority.” Those are healthy and reasonable judgement calls, and tend to be the closest we adults get to leaving something be. Most of us can empathize with the drive to get work done, to make things better, to get where we’re going. It is, after all, how our lives are structured. 

But what would happen if the dishes needed to be done, and instead of jumping up to do them (or dragging ourselves to do them), we paused for a moment. A moment to breathe, a moment to be. Finding moments to ourselves can be a struggle when there are so many things that pull at our time and attention. Building a routine of mindfulness or meditation can be extremely helpful, but for those of us who struggle to set aside the time for that, there can be a quiet power in choosing to take a moment for yourself even when there’s a to-do list clamoring for your attention. There is a power in saying “this moment is for me” and taking it without guilt or second-guessing, and we need those moments to check in with ourselves and discover what we need: be it rest, a good cry, or a joyful moment. 

Being Present for Ourselves

Children are great at taking time for themselves. Give them an option between something they’re “supposed” to do, and something fun to do, they almost always choose the latter. Kids are willing to relentlessly pursue joy in a way that most adults would feel too guilty to do themselves. Of course, we know this isn’t always a good thing. Rooms would stay messy and meals wouldn’t get cooked if we were always chasing down joyfulness, but there is something to be respected in simply pursuing what you need in the moment. Joy isn’t always the thing we’re lacking anyway. Sometimes what we’re missing is rest, or sometimes it’s the space to feel some of our less fun emotions, like sadness or anger.

Today, we’ve taken a couple of those moments together. So far, we’ve practiced being fully present in our space by noticing the small, simple things we tend to miss day-to-day. And we’ve practiced being fully present in our own bodies. In case you couldn’t tell, being present is sort of the theme for today. And there’s a difference between sitting in a room, and being present in that room, same as there’s a difference between existing in our body, and being present in our body. The room continues to exist whether we’re fully aware of everything happening in it or not, as does our body. But when we practice a mindful presence, our senses and our feelings come alive. And while we’re practicing that, we might notice things we hadn’t noticed before. 

Things like “my back has been sore, and this is the first time I’ve released that tension in who knows how long,” or “it feels ridiculous, but every time I wiggle my butt, I can’t stop smiling.” Things that could be really helpful to remember later, when the soreness returns, or we really need a laugh. And sometimes the things we notice aren’t as pleasant, when it’s something like “if I release the tension in my shoulders, there won’t be anything left to hold back my tears.” But that’s no less important to know. People have strange ways of directing their attention, glossing over important things, holding other things back, even from themselves. When we dare to be fully present, we risk noticing things we didn’t realize we were trying to hide from ourselves.

Being Present in Community

So my question is: what happens when we extend this idea beyond our own body, and into our community. What happens when we dare to exist with each other, not as we wish to be, but simply as we are? When we come to this community bringing our own agenda, our own to-do list, our own expectations, we have the chance to be productive and visionary, which is a powerful combination. But if we don’t take time to put all of that down every so often, to set aside our desires and dreams for a moment and simply see things as they are, we lose touch with why we’re here in the first place. We’re here because we like each other, because we’re searching for a place to be part of something larger than ourselves. We’re here because we’re trying something new, because we’re ready to be vulnerable to find true connection. We’re here because this is home, because we have family and history here, and we belong to this community just as much as it belongs to us.

To be fully present in our community, we have to ask ourselves some important questions, and be willing to hear the truthful answers. Have I practiced listening so I can hear the words of even my quietest companions? Have I practiced speaking, so my thoughts and needs can be heard? Have I practiced accepting people as they are, and made space for them to bring their whole selves here? Have I practiced trusting others, so I can be vulnerable and wholly myself? 

The truthful answers to those questions can be scary, not because of the truth, but because of our feelings about them. If we haven’t been listening as much as we could, or we haven’t been willing to be vulnerable, there’s guilt or disappointment or regret, and then anxiety about how to address the problem, and pressure improve. But today isn’t about fixing, today is about being present. We are only human, and can only move one step at a time, so today’s step is: be here, now. Being fully present is about knowing, first and foremost, and being fully honest with ourselves. Fixing is tomorrow’s problem! Today I’m giving us all permission to simply be, and to celebrate that being.

Flower Communion

Now, Flower communion started as a way to honor the diversity in a Unitarian community, and over time, UUS have only become more diverse. We have a wide range of thoughts, sexualities, gender identities, beliefs, skin colors, and ethnicities. The beauty of the Flower Communion comes from not only acknowledging, but celebrating our differences, because together we make one beautiful, interesting group.

The beauty of flowers is that they’re all different, and they’re all completely themselves. No one could ask a rose to be a dandelion, or a tomato plant to be a carrot. Similarly, we are called to extend that same grace to each other as we move in community. Each plant brings its own gifts and needs. Sometimes we know what we’re getting, and sometimes we don’t. Cursing a flower for needing sunlight won’t help it flourish, similarly, wishing a person were different does not make it so. To tend to our garden community, we can be mindful of the people who need sunlight, and those who need shade; those who require a lot of water, and those easily drowned; those who need careful tending, and those who flourish best when left alone. Every plant is beautiful, valuable, and loved in our garden, and none need to be anything except what they are.

Being present in our community means appreciating each other for who we are right now, in this moment. It means recognizing that while there’s always room for improvement, here and now is valuable and important, and worth being thankful for. We each bring something unique and special to this community, and today is about celebrating the beautiful bouquet that we make together.

A Bouquet of People

Let us give thanks for a bouquet of people.

We give thanks for children. Like tulips and iris, they multiply around us, making the world ever more filled with color, beauty, and new life. May we bless them as they replant themselves ever further from us, knowing that they need their own space to grow into.

We give thanks for generous friends, as constant in bloom as echinacea, and whose gifts lift up our body and spirit.

We give thanks for feisty friends as indomitable as geraniums, and for continuous friends who, like bittersweet ivy, hold on and never let go…and can never be gotten rid of.

For crotchety friends, as prickly as rosebushes; their beauty a secret that is only discovered through careful gardening.
For surprising friends, who at first glance seem dour and then blossom into joy as quickly as forsythia.

For funny friends, silly as snapdragons.
And serious friends, complex as chrysanthemums.

For comfortable friends, their gentle presence as soothing as the sweet smell of lilacs.
For stormy weather friends, who stand by us in hard times, like lily of the valley that cannot be deterred by shade or shadow.

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time
And young friends coming on fast as phlox.

For friends as unpretentious as dogwood,
as persistent as pachysandra,
as steadfast as azalea,
and who, like snowdrops, can be counted on to see you through the winter and remind you that spring always comes.

For loving friends, who wind around us like wisteria and embrace us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings,
And finally, for forget-me-not friends, gone but never forgotten. Their beauty lives on in our memories and hearts.

For this bouquet of people, who brighten our lives each in their own way, we give thanks.

Claire Feingold Thoryn

And so I invite you all, young, old, and in between, to come forward and choose a flower to bring home with you, as a reminder of the community we share regardless of whether we gather together. You’re invited to take a flower that can bring you what you’re lacking in life, or a flower you see yourself reflected in. Whether it’s flora you intend to plant in the dirt and nourish through the summer, or one that will bring temporary radiance inside your home, these flowers are here, brought by all of us, and given without expectation.

I invite you to partake in our Flower Communion.

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