One Life at a Time

Introduction

Many people believe in the idea of reincarnation. What wisdom can that philosophy teach us while we slow down and remember to only live one life at a time?

Sermon

Today we look at life as a continuum, from before we remember to well after.

Following our middle-age years, the next life stage deserves a respectful label, like elderhood instead of old age. Elderhood years present a gift of time when a person can grow spiritually as they acknowledge and connect with their deeper self. These years allow us to reflect on past experiences with understanding and earned wisdom. When we meditate, we connect with our inner self. I invite you now to join me in a guided meditation.

Guided Meditation

Breathe. Simply breathe. In and out, in and out. Notice the movement of the air as you breathe. Breathe in enough oxygen to feel movement in your body and allow your belly and then your chest to expand.

Exhale. Let go of everything that does not seem vital to your life at this moment.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Allow each inhale to be deeper, every exhale to fully release the breath. Feel energy move and shift in your body as your cells oxygenate. Continue with this breathing.

Try to imagine the air molecules traveling through your nervous system and veins to each part of your body. Feel the oxygen reach your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Your hips, knees, ankles, and toes.

Feel the oxygen waft up to your brain, your skull, your hair follicles. At the same time, waken your senses and be present to yourself and your surroundings. You can open your eyes a bit if you like. Feel the air in your nostrils and on your eyeballs. Notice what attracts your attention and stay with that for a moment and then let it go.

Let it go.

As you continue with the relaxed breathing, imagine you are moving along the pathway to one of your favorite outdoor places with its awe-inspiring view. Stop and take in what is around you. Notice that sitting on a bench is a young person. That person turns out to be you, the you of many years ago. Say hello and sit down next to your younger self. It is good to be there together. You, the older and wiser person, tell them that you remember a difficult time they endured.

Acknowledge the courage they had at the time. Realize that your younger self did as well as possible at the time for their age. Give them a warm, reassuring hug and let them know that things will be alright. Stay with them a moment longer while you experience the warmth of being with your younger self. Tell them you are always there for them and will reconnect.

Then turn and head back along the pathway. When you are ready, come back into this place and time.

Reflection

How was that for you?

Do you feel that your body and soul are in harmony? Do you feel that your life is connected to itself?

Why are we here? I ask you because for me, this has been both a beautiful and challenging time. We are trying to hold ourselves, our families, and our church together during a pandemic that has changed the way we live. So how is it with your bodies, your minds, and then our souls? People say to each other, “I’m here for you.” It’s a comforting feeling.

Now say it to yourself: “I’m here for you.” Hold your own hand.

Let’s take time to think about it. Close your eyes, or gaze at something pleasant here in the room. Take a deep breath, say a short prayer to yourself, or mentally sing a song, light your inner chalice, feel the force of gravity pulling us all toward the same center; whatever helps you feel more rooted and less alone. Now do it again. And again, and again throughout the day, and tomorrow, and the next days. Don’t stop.

And now, once you feel that rootedness and connection, here this: You are loved beyond belief. You are enough; you are precious; your work and your life matter, and you are not alone. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. You are part of a “we,” a great cloud of witnesses living and dead who have insisted that this beautiful, broken world of ours is a blessing worthy of both deep gratitude and fierce protection. We must continue our work here. We must show up for ourselves and our loved ones. Our ancestors and our descendants are beckoning us, compelling us onward toward greater connection, greater compassion, greater commitment to one another, and to the earth, and the universe, and the universes beyond.

Together, we are resilient and resourceful enough to say “yes” to that call, to make it our life’s work in a thousand different ways, knowing that we can do no other than bind ourselves more tightly together, and throw ourselves into the holy work of showing up, again and again; to be part of building that world of which we dream but which we have not yet seen.

Lives Before

I think we have been here before. This is not our first time around. This is why so much in our environment resonates with us. Maybe you are fascinated with snowflakes, or like to watch water droplets stream down a window. Maybe you crave garden work, and like to get soil under your fingernails. Or maybe you pick up seashells or pebbles. Maybe you watch clouds. We have lived in the mud and risen up from it with the lotus flower. We have lived in the clouds and rained down on the soil. We have traveled as a drop of water on the back of a swan; we have traveled as a wisp of air on the tip of a leaf.

I offer this for your consideration. A friend of mine, a vaguely Buddhist neo-Pagan, has a theory that the real difference between people is how many lives they have lived before this one, how many forms their lives have taken. The more lives we have lived and the more things we have experienced being, the more evolved we are in our current lives. The more experiences we have and wisdom we have gathered, the more empathy and kindness we can express now. Our lives evolve, adding layer upon layer, making us the complex people we are today. And there is no hierarchy of lives. A kind of queen’s life is as essential to our development as an ant’s life. They all have something to teach us. I’m comfortable with this theory. I like it, and I hope it’s true.

Most of us will never really know, but we can search.

Sources of Wisdom

Here are a couple of quotes from Edgar Cayce, and early 20th Century clairvoyant:

“Man’s origin was as a spirit, not a physical body. These souls projected themselves into matter, probably for their own diversion. Through the use of his creative powers, man became entangled in matter and materiality to such an extent that he never forgot his divine origin and nature.”

Edgar Cayce

And again, Edgar Cayce:

“Reincarnation is a concept found not only in Eastern thought, but also all of the major religions of the world. It’s a concept that can allow us to have more compassion for one another. It’s a way we can begin to look at all the facets of life purposefully. The reason for believing in reincarnation is not so that we can dwell upon the past, but that we might make better use of the present.”

Edgar Cayce

Interconnectedness

I believe we are one with nature. I believe we trade places with every birth and with every death. I also believe that we are one with god, that god lives within us, and lives in nature. We are connected, bound together. We are dots on a matrix, but we are also all the dots. God is the composite of all of us, throughout history, now, and in the future, and all sentient things and all other things. I believe that there is some truth in all religions, and that the truest religion is probably composed of bits from all. A little Christianity, a bit of Judaism, some Native American and Aboriginal beliefs, Eastern faiths, Celtic and Roman and Greek, Norse, they have all gotten something right. Just as we can’t get nourishment for our bodies from just one food, we can’t get nourishment for our souls from just one doctrine. It is the beauty of Unitarianism that we are open, searching people. All our ideas and beliefs are welcome here. We can express our faith or lack of faith, we don’t have to conform, we can question, we can try to answer. We can accept and we can challenge. We can be still and quiet; we can say anything or nothing.

The Story of the Frog

Some time ago, I was relaxing in a swimming pool with my friends, when I noticed a small green smudge on the pool wall, just above the water line. I waded over to it and found a baby tree frog. It wasn’t much bigger than my thumbnail. The three of us, my son Dave, friend Cynthia, and I, fell right into sync to capture and release this baby back to its natural environment. Of course as soon as I tried to cup it in my hands, it jumped away and kept jumping. I got a paper cup and lid from the coffee cart and gave it to Dave. Dave touched the frog and it jumped right into the cup. Cynthia got some fresh water to wash away any chlorine. Dave went outside to let the frog out on the lawn, but it started jumping toward the highway. Dave scooped out a marshy area where the baby was probably headed, recaptured the frog, walked it across the highway, and released it into the marsh.

Of course I can never know, but I wondered: might that frog ever have been an earth human in a former life? Or will it be in some future time? Was I ever a frog, or was Dave? Was Cynthia? We all worked so well together! I admired that little guy. He wandered away from the pond for an adventure, got lost, and then got help from some strangers. Some strange species. Not like him. He was like an immigrant, a simple traveler, or someone lost.

Many Lives All in One

Sometimes I feel like I have already lived several lives in just this one incarnation. I was once a devout Christian, now I am not. I once lived a wealthy life, now I do not. I once grew an organic garden, now I do not. I used to be a bit reckless and stupid, now I take care. I used to be a very lonely only little child, and now I am free and happy by myself, free from adult sibling rivalry.

What I mean is: the knowledge gained in our incarnations can be very rich, one by one. I may have something to learn in my life as a butterfly or a weasel. But I hope that in each life we don’t just learn one thing, improve one trait, lose one bad habit. Because even though, to me, it is very appealing that reincarnation can just go on and on for us, that we can have it all, live all the lives, do all the things, visit all the places, planets even, but maybe this is all there is. From the moment we were born until the moment we die, we have to pack it all in, get the bang for our buck.

Remember the young person you met on the bench in our meditation? Well, you are still that person. With a bit more experience, memory, and finesse. We are like a reed, still rooted in our origins, but ever growing, ever green, ever flexible, ever strong. Eternal from front to finish, wherever those markers may be. Live your life, live it fully, spare nothing.

So be it.

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Lammas

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