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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Bond of Love

In her book, Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, which we are using for our fall small group book study at Unity Spiritual Center Denver, researcher and author Brene Brown, Ph.D. explores the power of what researchers Shira Gabriel, Jennifer Valenti, Kristin Naragon-Gainey and Ariana Young have termed collective assembly experiences. These are experiences of joy and pain shared by people who don’t know each other, but who connect through joyous or painful life experiences. She cites examples of shared joy, such as a sporting event, movie or concert. Her examples of shared pain include the shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986 and the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. These are times when the entire nation came together in shared pain and mourning. The 9/11 terrorist attacks are a potent example of this as well.

Dr. Brown says that these experiences of shared humanity strengthen our awareness of our inextricable connection to that which is greater than we are and to each other. Further, that these experiences contribute to our overall mental, emotional and physical well-being. Studies show that human connection and bonding improve physical health even more than quitting smoking, a healthy diet or taking beta-blocking drugs.

I propose that these collective assembly experiences of shared joy and pain are so powerful because they provide us with opportunities to connect with our essential spiritual nature and that of others. Joy as an aspect of our spiritual nature does not require an external experience, yet when we gather with other spiritual beings whose joy is ignited by their enthusiasm for a sports team or performer, it elicits the same within us. In those experiences, we are reminded of our connection with the divine joy that lives as us, and that connects us with each other. Our conscious connection with it is heightened as we share it with another. It is contagious.

While it may not be immediately apparent, our shared pain also connects with our essential nature. The pain to which Dr. Brown refers is born of love. Love is who and what we are as expressions of Divine Love. We experience that kind of pain because we love. Because we love, we grieve and mourn when we experience personal loss or a tear in the fabric of our human bond, such as we experienced in the wake of the tragedies mentioned above. We share the bond of love because we are one spirit, one life and one love. We feel the pain, even though we don’t personally know those directly affected by these events. We are all indirectly affected by them. The response to the recent shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh confirms this.

Dr. Brown asserts that as profoundly as these collective experiences affect us, not all of them serve to reconnect us. She says,

When a collective comes together at the expense of others - for example, to bond over the devaluation or debasing of another person or group of people, or to bond despite this – it does not heal the spiritual crisis of disconnection. In fact, it does quite the opposite by feeding it. It is not true collective joy if it is at the expense of others, and it is not true pain if it causes others pain.

These experiences do not truly connect us because they are based in fear, which is not an aspect of our divine nature. When we denigrate another so that we can experience pseudo connection with those who share our fear-based perspective, we are only contributing to the polarization and divisiveness we are currently witnessing. We cannot foster true connection when we are out of alignment with our spiritual truth – which is Love.

It is saddening that so much of what we hear from our elected officials and those who are seeking elected office is based in fear. The rhetoric of many political campaigns is based in what is “dangerous” about the opposing candidate. Rather than focusing on what they stand for, candidates often speak more about why we should not vote for their opponent. This tactic results from fear and is intended to insight fear in voters.

All too often today, we hear talk about how the media is the enemy of the people, Republicans are going to take away your Social Security and Medicare, Democrats are coming for your guns, or the “migrant caravan” is going to invade our country. Again, this is mostly rhetoric that is intended to stimulate fear and motivate voters to stand against something, rather than to stand for that which is in alignment with our spiritual and ethical values.

Unfortunately, church services which are intended to support us in having personal and shared experiences of the Divine, often become platforms for spouting political opinions, and endorsing candidates who purportedly support “family values.”  Of course, there are also church services that primarily focus on combating “right wing” political agendas. While touting God’s love, they often reflect what Dr. Brown refers to as “common enemy intimacy.” When groups join together motivated by the assertion that they are “right” or “good” and others are “bad” or “wrong” they are engaging in “common enemy intimacy” which is also based in fear and does not serve sincere and lasting connection.

Through all of this, we are called to “brave the wilderness” by courageously practicing vulnerability and authenticity. Our opportunity is to firmly ground ourselves in our spiritual Truth, to connect with our divine nature and to stand for all that aligns with who we know ourselves to be as expressions of divine love.

As Jesus taught us, ours is to “seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) which in our understanding means to see only the kin-dom of God everywhere and in all things, to know our unity in God and with all creation, and to think, speak and act in ways that reflect oneness consciousness.

We need not succumb to the energy of fear which is so prevalent today. Remember, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

I encourage us to cultivate and participate in collective assembly experiences of true joy every chance we get. Attend and participate in the Drum Circle every first Sunday of the month at 2:00 pm. Join in the devotional chanting at the Kirtan on Friday, November 9 and again on December 14. Join with others in experiences of shared pain, such as the event held this week at Temple Emanuel and others around the country in honor of those killed at the Tree of Life synagogue and in support of the Jewish community.¹ If at all possible, attend and be present for funerals of loved ones, and your friend’s loved ones.

These experiences connect us through our common humanity with our shared spirituality. They remind us of our inextricable connection to our Source and to each other. We are all healed by the power of love through our shared experiences of joy and pain.

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 for our service as we explore this idea further.

1 comment :

  1. Thinking about all the fear mongering in politics lately, surely it will come to an end eventually because it is not based on Love and Life, which are the truth of reality. It feels like all we can do is hold on until then, and do our best to embody the principles of Truth in our own lives. But honestly, I get discouraged when I see the news. They seem to keep the light shining on all the troubles in the world. I really need a community like USCD to remind me of the Truth.