Monday, January 25, 2010

What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual?

Couples often come to me telling me that they're not religious but they're spiritual. And while many fear judgment, I say, 'Yay!' The 'Yay!' isn't a dis on religion. It's my pleasure that they consider the matters of the spirit important to how they define themselves.

The word 'spiritual' has a much broader definition than it did even twenty years ago. Then, the word spiritual was linked only to religious expression. Today that's not the case.

Our sense of spiritual aliveness can be found in religious ritual and at sacred sites .... and also all around, between and among us.

One writer I love defines our spirit as the 'non-negotiable core of aliveness that lies at the heart of who we are.' Our spirit is the vital animating part of us that sparks our loves, passions, and enthusiasms ('en theos' deriving from the Greek meaning 'with God.')

I encourage couples to express their enthusiasm, their spirit in their ceremony. I encourage them to put language to that part of who they are, to think of what's most important to each one of them, and to explore why these values touch them so deeply. This is what connects us to each other and to the larger life, the life beyond the self. Not only is it wonderful to express in a couple's wedding ceremony, but it provides wonderful opportunities for them to explore with each other these aspects of their lives.

We often love the passion for life that we find in our partner - it enhances and expands our world and through it we grow larger in experience and spirit. This is a lot to celebrate.

Some couples tell me that they most value family and friendship, others speak of nature and their desire to cherish and preserve it. Others speak of service to their community and the respect that they have for each other in the life choices they make. Other couples love cooking and entertaining with friends, creating beauty, traveling the world, or playing sports together. I love listening to couples speak of what they love about each other and the joy they find in life. It uplifts me and through each couple I learn more about how amazing we humans are as we grow and celebrate life with each other on this amazing planet.

This picture is of the Jurra Region of Switzerland, from which the word Jurrasic came. It was taken by a Swiss friend.

Our spirituality can show up in ways that we don't attribute to this sense of the larger life. Here are a few examples from my life. My daughter is a supervisor in a department that ensures that welfare recipients get fair treatment. She's a wonderful supervisor and she sees her work as a calling to serve those who are less fortunate. This is a connection of the heart and spirit.

My ex-husband, a good and loving man, used to experience his spirituality in umpiring softball games. Not the usual expression, but he brought his love of the game and the best of who he was to ensure fairness. On the ball field his world had purpose and made sense, and he could offer that with grace and clarity to others.

My Sweetheart of ten years, Ruben, is a 6th and 7th grade science teacher. He glows when he talks about his kids (his over 100 students) and his love for the planet. Put those two passions together and you see a man on a mission. His kids share his excitement and delight as he makes science come alive.

This picture is of the Goosenecks of the San Juan River in Utah.
I find this picture inspiring. My life hasn't been a straight line and these beautiful twists and turns affirm that my life, in its convolutions, has held beauty and strength that I don't often acknowledge. I bet this is true with your life, too.

What delights and inspires you?
What calls to your heart?
What parts of this amazing whole of Life want to live through you?

Sometimes all we need is a walk in the woods to bring us in touch with our spirits. Sometimes even a Youtube video can help our hearts expand to find the spaciousness within us that reminds us how good it is to be alive and connected to the mystery and wonder of all of life and Love.

Yesterday Ruben sent me this Youtube video called 'Suppose the Earth Got Saturn's Rings'. Enjoy it. It's not long. You've got time.

And this next Youtube is about as expansive as it gets. It's called 'A Small Glimpse of The Universe.' We are each only one person on a small planet in a small galaxy. But we are graced with the miracle of loving. For this we can only be grateful. And appreciation is the heart of the spirit.

And the heart of a good marriage!

Blessings to you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Wedding of Holly and Paul at the Aqueduct Center in Chapel Hill

I'm going back to the Fall of 2009 - November14, to be exact, to tell you about Holly and Paul's wedding because I want you to see their wonderful pictures and I wanted you to get to know them just a little. They are what make weddings fun for me.

And they seemed to be having fun at their wedding, too.
As you can see in the playful spirit of this 'American Gothic like' photo above.

Paul and Holly met through Holly's friend Nadine. Holly teaches yoga and Paul needed a yoga instructor. They immediately liked each other and have shared interests in vegan food, hiking, cooking together, biking and just enjoying life. And they have four cats.

In their wedding they wanted to honor both the public aspect of the ceremony - it is their public declaration of love to their family and friends - but they also wanted to keep the private side of their ceremony and their day. So they made very active choices to do just that.

They invited about forty people the Aqueduct Center in Chapel Hill to share their wedding day. It has this gorgeous view from the deck. We were all grateful for this radiantly beautiful Fall day.

This is the room off the deck where their ceremony was held in front of the fireplace.

High Strung Celtic (919-933-7624, Art and Sarah) were their wonderful musicians whose instruments included a hammered dulcimer and a fiddle.

Holly and Paul wanted their ceremony to be representative of their tastes and to have a participatory and community feel. And it did. Their attendants were their brothers, Scott and Kevin.

Their friend Albert read the poem 'Love' by Roy Croft. Then their friends Wes and Betsy read the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. It's a gentle and loving piece that begins: 'Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story....' Google it to read the whole thing. It's worth it and will gentle your spirit whatever mood you're in.

We all had a special treat when Holly's brother, Scott, played a gyil (pronounced geel). It's an African instrument (that he made himself!). The song he played was one he wrote especially for Holly and Paul called 'When Walking, We Walk Together.' It was absolutely captivating and had a purity of tone and musicality that was memorable. Holly told me afterward how special the piece was for her.

Paul and Holly's vows are ones I love. Each person's vow begins first with the following question:

'Holly will you love Paul when you are together and when you are apart, when life is peaceful and when it is disordered, when you are proud of him and when you are disappointed in him, in times of leisure and in times of work? Will you provide trust and respect, and gentle understanding, encourage his personal growth and place him above all others? Do you promise to keep an open heart and mind in time so change and growth and to find compromise in times of conflict. Will you honor Paul's dreams and help him fulfill them?'

I love being the minister at weddings because I am reminded every time of the daily art of loving deeply. Wonderful words like these have helped me grow my love for my Sweetheart, Ruben.

After Paul and Holly exchanged their vows and rings, and i pronounced them married, I got to say the wonderful blessing: 'Always remember that we can expect nothing from love except what love gives. We cannot choose what chances and changes may befall us, but we can shape the spirit with which we shall meet them. My prayer for you is that your love will grow stronger and richer as the years so by......'

Robin Lin of Robin Lin Photography took all these wonderful pictures. She always seems to find the shots that are perfect for each couple.

I loved leaving Paul and Holly in the loving hands of their friends and family. My final words in the blessing in the ceremony for them were: May the years deal gently with you, walking together, may you find life richer for journeying through it together.'

They're both people who live life with a twinkle in their eye. They fit well together. I have no doubt that they will continue to find life delightfully enriched in their journey together. Many blessings to them!